London Post Office Railway

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The Post Office Railway, also known as Mail Rail, was a narrow-gauge driverless private underground railway in London built by the Post Office to move mail between sorting offices. Inspired by the Chicago Tunnel Company,[1] it was in operation from 3 December 1927 [2] until 31 May 2003.[3]



It ran east–west from Paddington Head District Sorting Office in the west to the Eastern Head District Sorting Office at Whitechapel in the east, a distance of 6.5 miles (10.5 km). It had eight stations, the largest of which was located underneath Mount Pleasant, but by 2003 only three stations remained in use because the sorting offices above the other stations had been relocated.


In 1911 a plan evolved to build an underground railway 6½ miles long[4] from Whitechapel to Paddington serving the main sorting offices along the route. The contract to build the tunnels was won by John Mowlem and Company. Construction of the tunnels started in February 1915 from a series of shafts dug along the route. Most of the line was constructed using the Greathead shield system, with limited amounts of hand mining for connecting tunnels at stations.

The main line has a single tube of 9 ft diameter. Tunnels diverge just before stations, into two single line 7 ft diameter tunnels. These then connect to 2 parallel station tunnels of 25 ft diameter. The main tube is underground at a depth of around 70 ft.[5] Stations are at a much shallower depth, with a 1 in 20 gradient into the stations. The gradients assist in slowing the trains approaching stations, and accelerating them away. There is also less distance to lift mail from the stations to the surface.

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