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Regardless of Whether It Opens to the Public, This London 'Secret Tube' is a Historical Treat

March 18, 2014 at 3:27 PM | by | Comments (0)

News has surfaced in the past few days that London is trying to open its old underground Post Office Railway, or Mail Rail, to tourists. The city still needs to raise quite a bit of money and pass public approval, but it hopes to knock the dust off this once vital mail-carrying route. If everything goes according to plan, the Mail Rail will be ready to roll by 2020.

That's a far way off, so there's no reason to get ahead of ourselves. Yet regardless of the eventual outcome, this contributor has enjoyed the historic glimpse into a previously unknown world. It may not look like much beyond a dirty, dusty subway system, but the circumstances surrounding its use and construction bring about an appreciation that goes well beyond the novelty of 1920s mechanical equipment.

About a century ago, an Act of Parliament approved the system of 70 driverless trains as a way of delivering mail to different points throughout the city. In its prime, the system carried 12 million items a day. That's amazing in itself -- truly the peak of paper mail -- and the rational upon which it was built adds even more color.

The BBC writes that "a report looking at the case for building the railway concluded London's traffic speeds would never surpass 6mph, convincing MPs to approve plans to build the railway, which could run at 40mph."

That prediction obviously turned out to be incredibly wrong, however the system still ran through the end of the 20th century, closing in 2003 when it was finally deemed too expensive to operate.

We'll keep on an eye on any news regarding its future. For now, go ahead and peruse the photos. If the tunnel begins to look familiar, it might be because you've seen it before as the set for Bruce Willis' film, Hudson Hawk.

[Photos: Telegraph/BBC]

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