London Drum

Postal Museum – Underground mail train ride

Postal Museum
Where? Postal Museum, 15-20 Phoenix Place, Farringdon · Web: postalmuseum.org Opening times? 10 AM to 5 PM (Wed-Sun, plus Tue from 26 Jul to 30 Aug); Note: The last train ride leaves at 4.35 PM Visiting hours may change Price? Adults £17.00; Children £10.00 (3-15); Infants free entry (under-3) Entry charges may change Time required? A typical visit is 30-45 mins for museum, plus 15-30 mins for the train Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 17, 19, 38, 45, 46, 55, 63, 341 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Russell Square Piccadilly Train fares

Craig’s review… My dad used to be a postman and he liked to tell us that he delivered a letter that didn’t have an address on it, it was just a name – that’s how good he was. And he delivered another letter that didn’t have a name or an address on it. It didn’t even have a letter inside it. It was just an empty envelope. That’s how bloody good he was.

But unless you happen to deliver letters for a living then I’m guessing that a visit to the Postal Museum isn’t exactly at the top of your list of fun things to do in London. But keep reading because there’s something inside here that will definitely make it worth your while… a kilometre-long stretch of underground train track that once carried their clattering mail trains.

Royal Mail exhibition

Before you get to ride the main attraction you have to wander through their exhibition, but fortunately it’s a lot more interesting than you might imagine. (Note: they give you a time slot for the mail train when you enter, so you might end up having to do that first and the exhibition after.)

The story starts off in the days when postmen carried muskets and guns on horse-drawn carriages and did battle with highwaymen and pirates on the sea – not what you were expecting in a postal museum! They’ve also got displays about bi-planes, Penny Farthing post bikes and Penny Black stamps. Then it moves onto WW2 and how the Home Guard kept the post going during the Blitz. They even showcase a few salvaged mailbags from the shipwreck SS Gairsoppa.

The underground mail rail ride

As interesting as the exhibition is, if that was all the museum contained then I wouldn’t recommend it – it’s the underground mail train that makes the place worth visiting. Whilst you’re waiting for your time slot you can take a few photos of the carriages lined up in front of the tunnel and you’ll be surprised at their tiny size – they look like toy trains, like a funfair ride, the kind of ride that trundles around the perimeter of a zoo. You’ve got to remember that they were built to carry mailbags, not people, so they’re not exactly roomy inside.

The sides of the carriage are just six inches from your skin and the tunnel walls are barely six inches from the train. You practically have to sit with a stoop to stop your head bumping against the roof. I hope you don’t suffer from claustrophobia!

Then the driver descends into the turning tunnel and pick up some speed. This is when it starts to sound a lot like the London Underground – you get all the same roars and metallic screeches and flickering lights that you get on the tube, but now you’re screaming past sandbags, wires and pipes just inches from the window.

After a few minutes he stops at an abandoned platform and projects a movie onto the wall so you can learn a little of its history. Then he’s off again into the next tunnel where he slows up and stops for a pretend power-cut. It reminded me of that mine ride in Indiana Jones.

So is it worth a visit? Well it’s certainly quite pricey, but they’re charging you for the mail train ride which is a lot of fun. If you’re too claustrophobic to do that then don’t bother with the rest.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… . If you enjoy riding around on trains then check out my review of the Docklands Light Railway

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

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Your comments and questions

PWeah We loved it! Who would have imagined that a museum about the postal service would be so much fun! Our nine year old loved the train and thought it was the highlight of our holiday

Fi Museum was boring and mail train was too short. Not worth the high price, the museum should be free and they should charge only for the ride

Pete @Fi the museum interesting but not everybody will be interested in the post, I guess. But how can you not enjoy the train ride? What an atmospheric thrill ride. Because the trains are so small and the tunnels are so narrow it is a thrill ride

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