This topic is now closed to further replies.
This was another one of those what the fuck just happened moments in my life.
So I was on my way back from (not so) sunny South Wales with @The_Raw @extreme_ironing and @sentinel after visiting @Lenston when I got a call from a very excited @Frosty. "Mail Rail is doable." I know by now if he says something is possible then he's normally right. We had looked at ways into the network on many many occasions, each time being thwarted at the 11th hour by something so this was high on our list and deserved all our attention.
Initially like a fool I passed on this trip. Well I was supposed to be at work early the next day and I was, for want of a better word, fucked. An enthusiastic night out drinking the night before had definitely taken it's toll. However on my home to sunny(er) Kent after dropping some people off in London, I realised what an immense idiot I was being and 4 hours later found myself back where I had just been with the people I had just been with (minus @sentinel who was sleeping off his weekend) emerging into the gloomy depths of the abandoned tunnels. It was an insane day.
The Post office Railway (or Mail rail as it became known) is for many considered the 'holy grail' of exploration, especially in London. I can understand why, you've got an entire abandoned miniature underground railway complete with stations, rolling stock, miles of tunnel and the powers still on. It's pretty cool. You can walk for miles under London's streets and not really know where you are and it's also not that easy to access.
It was constructed in the early part of the 20th century to link together some of the main London sorting offices and alleviate delays that occurred in moving mail around London on the surface. Construction started in 1915, but was suspended just over a year later due to labour shortages. The line was eventually completed and became available for use during 1927 and was in service from February 1928 onward.
I could go into the detailed history of the railway and it's design, but I'd be writing for ages and there's plenty online about it if you want to do some research. Needless to say that by the early 2000's the system was in need of major investment to keep it working efficiently and now only had 3 stations out of the original 7 due to relocation of the sorting offices above. In 2003 the railway was officially mothballed, but has more-or-less been totally abandoned. It would take a significant injection of cash to even think about bringing it back into service and there wouldn't be much point as there's now only 2 live sorting offices located on the route, pity.
In October 2013 the British postal museum announced plans to open part of the network to the public and indeed this is pressing ahead. In the coming years it will be possible to visit the station and workshops at Mount Pleasant and (apparently) go on a short train ride round one of the loops. I'm actually pleased at least part of the system is being preserved because it is a unique place and deserves it's place in history. I just hope they do a good job and don't make it too gimmicky.
What you see here is only a small section of the line from Rathbone place to Mount Pleasant. I needed to get home so I left after we reached Mount Pleasant. Regretted it ever since because try thou we might we've not managed to get back in, but we have got oh so close (oh you have no idea!)
So on with some photos. It won't be anything you've not seen before, but here is my take on the Post Office Railway.
Rathbone station is now a tad damp because of the building work going on above it.
Typical tunnel section twin tracks
Before the stations, the twin tracks break into two smaller tunnels and split apart to go either side of the platform.
This was actually an abandoned tunnel to the original western district office which was re-located in 1958. The abandoned tunnel was used as a siding to store locomotives and wagons in.
Trains in tunnels
Just before Mount Pleasant station, you have these massive doors, which I'm lead to believe are for flood protection.
Coming up to Mount Pleasant
And that's as far as I went.
Thanks for Looking!
My Visit -
This one was quite fun, although there is not many items left to see, its a great walk under Liverpool, with some nice stone and brickwork to see. We arrived quite early, and had absolutely no trouble finding and getting into the tunnel, the rest is best seen in pictures!
Another local one that I've been wanting to do for ages, but never got round to it until now.
It's filled full of asbestos, so I made sure to bring my good PP3 mask, but even that wasn't enough probably.
During World War 2, the Southern Railway took over the Deepdene Hotel near Dorking in Surrey for its wartime emergency headquarters. In the grounds they excavated an underground control centre taking advantage of a network of existing natural caves that had been acknowledged 300 years before in the diaries of John Evelyn. Because of the natural protection afforded by the location of the caves they were eminently suitable for the development of a bunker to house both the headquarters' telephone exchange and Traffic Control who also had their underground control centre there with underground divisional controls at Woking (South West Division), Southampton (Western Division), Orpington (South Eastern Division) and Redhill (Central Division)
I got a message in the morning saying it's doable and to go soon. So a few hours later I was there and inside.
I'd been meaning to do this one for a long time now, especially as its pretty local, so now was a good a time as any.
It's actually not a very large bunker, but its nice for its modest size. The infamous 100 steps lived up to its reputation as terrifying. I only went up a few steps, but that's enough.
I actually bumped into another explorer here who got the fright of his life as I turned the corner and shown my light at him in a moment of confusion and panic. Turned out to be someone else who got the memo and took a trip down to see it from a little further afield.
A nice little bunker, rich full of history.
W. T. Henley was a cable/wire company that was founded in a small London-based workshop in 1837. William Thomas Henley is famous for having converted his old lathe into a wiring covering machine which was used to cover wire with silk and cotton as this was in high demand at the time for electromagnetic apparatus. It is reported that Henley’s company progressed at an impressive rate and that he pioneered the submarine cable field (laying cables on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean).It was Henley’s dream that all of civilisation would eventually be linked together telegraphically.
As WT Henley’s Telegraph Works continued to prosper, Henley decided to purchase a factory at North Woolwich beside the Thames in 1859 for £8,000. It is said that this development led to the laying of the Persian Gulf telegraph cable which is 1615 miles long, for the Indian Government. As a result, by the end of 1873 Henley’s Woolwich site had spread to cover some sixteen acres and his company also included three cable laying ships and a four-hundred-foot wharf to allow five-hundred-ton ships to load and unload their cargo. Sadly, Henley died in 1882; however, his company continued to grow in his absence and went on to form branches across the country.
By 1906 work on a new factory in Gravesend was completed. The new factory is said to have been an impressive development and it included extensive, purpose-built, laboratories and a modern reinforced concrete air-raid shelter under London Road that could hold approximately two-thousand people. The tunnels were built into old caves within the Rosherville Gardens – an area of land located between the cable works and the cliff face. It is likely that the air-raid shelter was factory-owned but also open to the public as Henley’s company did not actually own Rosherville Gardens at the time and it featured a number of amenities and six entrances. Henley’s company continued to thrive as the Victorian era ended; however, its success can be linked directly to the Great War as it was a catalyst for technological and industrial development and change. By the Second World War, Henley’s company was publicly praised for its contribution towards King and Country – particularly its contribution to ‘Operation Pluto’ (the construction of petrol pipelines across the English Channel). Despite this success, a decision was made to close the main Henley factory at Woolwich due to the repeated damaged it suffered during the war years. A new factory was subsequently built at Birtley in the North East due to its reputation for being a ‘misty valley’ that made it difficult for the Luftwaffe to target factories, and this was completed in 1950.
Sadly, a change of events occurred in 1958 when AEI acquired Henley’s company, having already taken over Siemens Bros in 1953. However, AEI is now the world’s oldest cable company and recently celebrated its one-hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary. Unfortunately, Henley’s Gravesend site was closed in 2008, though, due to it being ‘no longer viable to operate because of strong European competition’.
Our Version of Events
Not much by way of events for this one. It’s been a very busy few months and we ended up here to take a break after doing a spot of house viewing. Since we’d spent all day and most of the evening looking at damp, shitty rental properties that all looked as though they ought to be photographed and placed as reports on here, we arrived outside AEI in the early hours of the morning. Armed only with the essentials, our tripods, cameras and cans of Stella Artois, we made our way over the epic bog that you have to cross to find the entrance to the old shelter. We really underestimated how muddy this bit of wasteland was going to be to be honest and very nearly ended up taking a cold midnight mud bath several times. Nevertheless, we eventually made it across, with all our beers intact you’ll be happy to know. From this point onwards, getting into the old shelter was pretty straightforward.
Once inside, we immediately set about taking our snaps. There was a shared feeling among us that the heavy feeling of tiredness was impending so we wanted to get the hard bit of the explore out of the way quickly. It didn’t really take long to photograph the place in the end though, once we’d worked out the general layout of the structure which is a grid-like setup. This left us with plenty of time to each pull up a chemical toilet and enjoy a few bevvies. And that’s how it ended. The tins were cracked and we sat wondering what it would have felt like to hear explosions outside and the thunder of guns shaking the paint and dirt from the ceiling. In reality, all we could really hear was a superb silence and the odd drip coming from a room to our left. What better way to finish an explore, with beers in hand and an abundance of chemical toilets at the ready.
Explored with Ford Mayhem.