Riding the underground Mail Rail in London

Two postal adventures were experienced by us last week, the new Postal Museum in London, and its associated Mail Rail newly opened to the general public having been closed for many years.

The underground Mail Rail was in use from the early 1920’s to its closure in 2003 to carry mail and parcels between mail sorting offices and mainline railway stations, being quicker to transport than by road.

Unknown by almost everyone, there are 6½ miles Mail Rail tunnels. A small part of the tunnel system, involving a circular stretch of track from the Mount Pleasant sorting office, is now open for the public to ride on. When in use the electric trains transporting the mail were unmanned, apart from when maintenance was required.

Riding the Mail Rail, and seeing its museum exhibits, is an engaging visitor attraction, and is fun. Recommended by us.

Enjoying two London postal adventures

Two postal adventures enjoyed by us yesterday. Both were in London, the new Postal Museum and the Mail Rail.

Riding on the Mail Rail was the main attraction of our London visit with a group from the Camberley and District Probus Club. Our visit included a guide from the Museum of London, who was helpful in describing the parts of London with a strong postal heritage. Our guide directed us to a replica Penfold post pillar box located on the west side of St Martin’s Le Grand at the junction with Angel Street in the City [See photo on right]. The green box was unveiled by HRH The Prince of Wales and commemorates 500 years since the first Master of Posts in 1516.

Here are my photos of the Postal Museum – should note that it has an excellent cafe, which is a must for museums, don’t you think.

The Rail Rail was fun. I’m compiling my video clips of our mail rail ride and associated history, which I’ll post later. Unfortunately, combining video clips into a meaningful story takes longer than I wished it would. Never mind that, here are a few images of the mail rail.

Mark Williams’ On The Rails Episode 10: Diesel Generation

Continuing with my Friday episodes from Mark Williams Discovery TV channel programme, On The Rails, where he looks at the 200 years of Railways.

In episode 10 Mark examines the development of diesel-electric systems in 1953, in which he drives a Class 31 diesel-electric with a cab that has a hot plate, windshield wipers and an ashtray.

This is the last of the ten of Mark Williams On The Rails videos. You can review them all HERE.

The register of the UK’s national historic ships

As we’re a maritime nation it’s surely right that we value our maritime heritage. We all know of some of our historic ships,  HMS Victory, Cutty Sark, HMS Belfast, and the SS Great Britain.

National Historic Ships UK is the organisation that oversees our maritime heritage. It’s a government funded, independent organisation that gives objective advice to UK governments, local authorities, funding bodies, and the historic ships sector on all matters relating to historic vessels in the UK.

Part of National Historic Ships UK is the National Register of Historic Vessels, which is a database of over 1300 significant vessels. Within the database is a list of some 200 or more vessels on the National Historic Fleet.

The prompt for this short article was our visit, earlier this year, to the Isle of Grain in the Thames estuary, and the surrounding area. We stopped for lunch at the excellent Ship and Trades in Chatham Maritime, and afterwards saw the partially restored Medway Queen paddle steamer moored at Gillingham Quay. She’s in the National Historic Fleet.

Mark Williams’ On The Rails Episode 9: Going Underground

Continuing with my episodes from Mark Williams Discovery TV channel programme, On The Rails, where he looks at the 200 years of Railways.

In episode 9 Mark examines London’s Underground and takes a ride through one of the first tunnels built under the Thames.

Talk on iron age archaeology in West End

West End Parish Council is hosting a talk on archaeological excavations in West End on Monday 4th June in the Sports Pavilion, Benner Lane, West End, commencing at 8.0 pm.

Cotswold Archaeology have completed their analysis of last summer’s excavations at land off Benner Lane, where remains of Iron Age roundhouses, granary store, and iron smelting were discovered, among other things. The archaeologists will be coming to West End on Monday 4 June to tell us about their findings. The public meeting will be held at the Sports Pavilion, Benner Lane at 8.00 pm, hosted by the Parish Council.

The talk will be given by Sam Wilson, Project Supervisor at Cotswold Archaeology. Sam will discuss the different phases of archaeological work undertaken at Benner Lane and the excavated evidence for multiple periods of occupation, dating from as early as the Late Bronze Age and with notable Iron Age settlement. The presence of iron smelting evidence in particular puts the site among a handful of important sites within the region. The finds and environmental evidence from the site will also be discussed along with the wider landscape context and any potential for future research.

West End has a proven heritage of 4,000 or more years of human occupation. Come and hear about the earliest of those times on 4 June. Tea and coffee will be served after discussion time, for a social end to the evening.

Mark Williams’ On The Rails Episode 8: Speed and Power

Continuing with my Friday episodes from Mark Williams Discovery TV channel programme, On The Rails, where he looks at the 200 years of Railways.

In episode 8 Mark looks back at the golden age of the railways in the 1920s and ’30s; the race for speed, which led to locomotives setting records.