London's 'secret tube line' is to open as a visitor attraction. The British Postal Museum & Archive yesterday gained permission from Islington Council to convert the mothballed 'Mail Rail' line into something we can all go and ride. It will form the centrepiece of a new Postal Museum, set to open in 2016.
Mail Rail is a disused underground rail line with tunnels stretching from Paddington to Whitechapel. From 1927 to 2003, it served as a private tube line for Royal Mail, carrying millions of letters and parcels beneath the capital. Visitors to the proposed museum will not only be able to see the subterranean platforms, they'll also get to ride along a kilometre of original tunnel. Given the popularity of other subterranean spaces — such as Aldwych ghost station and the Kingsway tram tunnel — this is sure to be popular.
The new museum will be centred on Mount Pleasant, an old sorting office due for (controversial) redevelopment in the coming years. As well as Mail Rail, the venue will tell the wider story of the postal service, and will feature "curious items including a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, original evidence from the Great Train Robbery trial, a Victoria Cross and flintlock pistols used to defend Mail Coaches in the 19th Century".
The museum already has much of its funding in place, but is also seeking a Heritage Lottery Grant and will launch a public fundraising appeal later this year.
We're hoping to take our video camera down into the tunnels in the next few weeks. Watch this space.