It was my birthday this weekend (thanks for the best wishes, cards and cake!) and as a special treat to myself I arranged to go up to London to ride the Mail Rail.
Mail Rail is the name of the narrow gauge railway that ran underneath London and was, until 2003, how Royal Mail transferred post across the city.
This probably wasn’t the best day to choose to go by train leaving Reading as the festival finished last night and we ran the chance of being held up by the revellers making their way home. However, we had a cunning plan which was to leave Reading before the muddy millenials had left their tents. This turned out to be an effective strategy as there was hardly anyone there when we left. Lazy sods!
It has to be said that the irony of travelling through London on a train that goes underground to get to a train that goes underground wasn’t lost on me. Nevertheless it was something that I wanted to do so we went anyway.
You ride for about 15 minutes in a converted truck that would originally have carried bags of mail. At various points you stop and videos are projected onto the walls of the tunnels telling the story of the mail rail. It was mothballed in 2003 and kept in running order for a while just in case it was needed again but it was by then cheaper to transport post by road.
There were a number of suggestions as to how to use the tunnels including one I remember which was to create a cycle path on it which would have been a great use but clearly came to nothing. Then part was reopened in 2017 as a museum.
After your ride you come to a small museum housing old trains and other related items but that doesn’t add much more than another 10 minutes to the total time – unless you are some kind of keen trainspotter type.
So you don’t spend much time down there, or we didn’t at least, but it was still well worth a visit.