The Postal Museum, 15-20 Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DA – Nearest tube station is Farringdon
Open daily from 10am-5pm, excluding 24-26th December.
Cafe and gift shop on site.
Quite a low key but interesting museum, in an area close to wonderful restaurants and independent shops. Enjoy hands on activities and ride the underground Mail Rail through dark tunnels while learning about the history of the postal system…
Postal Museum and Mail Rail
Admission costs £17.05 which includes a 15 minute ride on the Mail Rail underground train. For the exhibits only, an adult ticket costs £11.
About the Museum
The Postal Heritage Trust is the charity behind the Postal Museum, which relies on donations. When visiting, it is recommended to allow 2-3 hours to fully appreciate the exhibits spread over two buildings, on opposite sides of the road. A time slot for the train ride is allocated at the time of booking.
The Mail Rail Ride
This is an exciting journey through dark tunnels on a miniature train. Stories about the history of the postal system are told, accompanied by images and videos being projected onto the tunnel walls. Along the way, you can spot the train graveyard and the sandbags used to stop runaway trains.
Note, there are some mobility restrictions that apply before boarding as the railway was used for carrying mail rather than people. For details, check the website. While on the train I was aware it became quite warm and I felt a bit claustrophobic at times due to the small carriages with restricted head height. There are also some areas of pitch darkness and some flashing lights.
How it all began
More than 500 years ago, King Henry VIII decided he wanted a postal service for his court. He ensured that each town had 3 horses to deliver his letters and return the news. The exhibits at this museum help you to learn how the postal system has evolved over the years including the development of the Mail Train.
Before mail rail, in 1863, the Victorians used an underground network to transport mail. Metal cars transported the post along the rail, propelled by air pressure from a steam powered fan. Eventually these were no longer used.
The Mail Train
In 1914, underground tunnels were dug out by hand in readiness for the Mail Train. In 1927 it was ready to use and proved to be a much faster way to transport mail across London. A network of automated, electric, driverless trains made their way between sorting offices and stations under the streets of London by day and night.
The Post Museum is full of interesting facts and fun, interactive exhibits suitable for all ages. Some of my personal favourites included:
Pick up the phone and listen to morse code and then try to decipher the message using the morse code alphabet on the wall.
2. The Postal Bike
3. First stamps
Learn about the Penny Black – the world’s first stamp which cost 1p to send a letter weighing up to just over 14g.
4. Travelling Post Office Worker
Step onto a moving travelling post office and try your hand at sorting post. Dress up as a travelling post office worker too if you like!
5. Post Office Cats
Read about the cats who were resident at the Postal Headquarters to keep rodents down. Tibs was a huge 23lb cat who worked there for 14 years.
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