World Stamps

Taking the tunnel walk tour of London’s Mail Rail

Jul 19, 2023, 8 AM
This Mail Rail car was painted yellow by a film crew for a 1991 movie and is now an artifact seen in the tourist attraction at the Postal Museum in London. Photograph by Jay Bigalke.

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

In July, I had the opportunity to explore even further than I had before London’s railway system developed 100 years ago solely for mail transit. The railway consists of tunnels beneath the streets of London.

The railway opened in December 1927 after a delay of many years caused by World War I; construction had started in 1914. Mail Rail operated until 2003, when economics resulted in its closure.

I have written multiple times before about Mail Rail’s resurrection as a tourist attraction, and my ride was the subject of the Philatelic Foreword column in the April 2, 2018, Linn’s.

And that brings me to this July when I took the special tunnel walk tour of Mail Rail. The walk was approximately an hour and 15 minutes and traversed the ¾-mile loop track that starts at one of two of the Postal Museum buildings at 15-20 Phoenix Place in London.

One of the interesting items from the tour is the railcar painted yellow. It stands out because the rest of the cars are Royal Mail’s iconic red.

Scenes for the 1991 film Hudson Hawk starring Bruce Willis were filmed in the Mail Rail system. But instead of being in London, the movie’s underground railway was part of a similar Vatican system. The film studio had one of the railcars painted yellow to match the color used by the Vatican City post office. There is more to this story, but you will have to go on the tour to learn those details.

The Mail Rail is only open Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tickets are £60 (approximately $75 in mid-July) per person and are only for ages 12 and up.

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