SPECIAL DELIVERY – Mail Rail at the Postal Museum
The Postal Museum, located near to the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre in central London, is now open to the public. As part of this exciting new exhibition, visitors will be able to ride through underground tunnels in purpose-built trains and uncover the rich history of the Mail Rail. The immersive ride uses onboard audio commentary and large-scale projections, bringing the London Postal Railway to life in glorious, panoramic colour.
The Postal Railway, known as Mail Rail, is a six-and-a-half mile long network that runs under the capital’s streets from Paddington in the West to Whitechapel in the East. It opened in 1927 and, at its peak, carried some four million letters a day. In 2003, though, Mail Rail’s narrow-gauge electric trains pulled into the sidings for the last time, and the railway went dark… until now.
As part of an exhibition that includes the cavernous engineering depot, a replica Travelling Post Office train and stories of real-life Mail Rail staff, visitors can take an immersive ride, deep beneath the Mount Pleasant sorting office. Key to this ride are two giant, panoramic projections: part of a suite of audiovisual pieces created by Centre Screen during an 18-month collaboration with The Postal Museum.
“Platform One” takes visitors back through the railway’s history to its 1930s heyday. Along the way, passengers witness not just postal history like the introduction of postcodes and the bombing of the sorting office in WWII, but the development of modern society. It also includes the 1966 World Cup and Bruce Willis filming Hudson Hawk on the Railway. Authenticity was the watchword; for instance, the locker room backgrounds were shot on location to ensure accuracy. Blending archive, motion graphics and character voice performance to create a truly immersive journey, this 18-metre projection captures Mail Rail’s unique sense of place and personality as well as its story.
“Platform Two” integrates newly shot characters into 1930s backdrops. It follows three letters from writer through the postal service to recipient, bringing to life the Mail Rail platform at its peak. Filmed over four days against a green screen backdrop 18m square, it called for hundreds of authentic period props, a cast of over twenty people, a genuine 1930s Austin car and a cat (modeled on the Post Office’s own Tibs, making his cinematic debut). The result is a 22-metre, life-size, projection-mapped extravaganza, filmed at twice the resolution of an IMAX movie and occupying over 300GB of data storage.
For the team at The Postal Museum and exhibition designers Haley Sharpe, this marks the exciting and successful end of a long journey to reveal a fascinating part of London’s rich history. We have been proud to part of the team that has made this a reality.
The Mail Rail exhibition is now open, and tickets can be bought online at https://www.postalmuseum.org/d