July 23 2014 Latest news:
by Rory Brigstock-Barron
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
An underground “Mail Rail” that was the set of a Bruce Willis film could be opened to the public by 2019.
Passengers will be able to board the rail as part of a £22million scheme to create a new national postal museum, providing an insight into 400 years of communication, at Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site in Pheonix Place, Clerkenwell.
The rail line, which carried four million letters a day across London at its peak, closed in 2003 after silently running under the capital for more than three quarters of a century.
The tunnels that run from Paddington to Whitechapel were used to store precious arts and treasures during the First World War and to portray the Vatican’s underground postal railway in 1991 Bruce Willis film Hudson Hawk.
In its heyday the world’s first unmanned underground railway saw trains travelling at speeds of up to 35mph but, unfortunately for thrill seekers, the speedo is unlikely to breach double figures when the attraction opens.
Chris Taft, head of collections at the British Postal Museum & Archive, said: “It’s never going to be a fairground ride but it’s an opportunity for people to look at a unique piece of industrial heritage.
“There is the potential that it would be used as a ghost train at Halloween though.”
Currently the rail and depot, where engineers used to fix faulty trains on the network, remain pretty much as they were when workers downed tools 10 years ago.
Stray boots, overalls, newspapers, an old cigarette packet and even bars of soap branded with the Queen’s insignia are just a few of the items still in the workshop, some of which may be kept to maintain character.
The depot will be used as a venue for events and functions as well as a platform for boarding the mail rail experience.
Mr Taft said: “We’re hoping to start on the actual work at the end of this year.
“We’ve still got about half a million pounds to raise, but we’re getting there.
“The new postal museum will be a massive benefit to the local community and somewhere that can be used for events programmes – we have a big community around us and we‘re hoping to engage with local schools in Camden and Islington.”