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In the basement of London, aboard the postal train

Ⓒ AFP – Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS – | The London postal train, which was abandoned in 2003 and put back into service to make the underground public discovered on 26 July 2017 during a press visit

He has traveled the bowels of the British capital for decades, not even interrupted by the bombing of the Second World War. The London postal train, which was abandoned in 2003, is back in service to let the public know about its underground.

At a speed of 6.4 kilometers per hour, this train, which is only 70 centimeters wide, takes visitors in its rusty tunnels, observes a railway cemetery or old sorting platforms which are now disused.

“This railway has always been dedicated to the postal service,” said Adrian Steel, director of the Postal Museum.

Ⓒ AFP – Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS – | The London postal train, which was abandoned in 2003 and put back into service to make the underground public discovered on 26 July 2017 during a press visit

“This is the first time that the general public will be able to go through these galleries, examine some machines and learn the history of the railway,” he said.

From September 4, a one-kilometer loop will restore a page of the capital’s history, aboard what was the world’s first electrically-driven electric train.

Throughout the twentieth century, millions of letters passed through the ten kilometers of tunnels dug under their feet, unknown to Londoners. The postal train then connected the main London railway stations and the underground mail sorting facilities.

– Technical prowess –

The construction of the line began in 1914, and mobilized the best engineers of the time, who realized what Adrian Steel calls “technical prowess”.

The site had to be interrupted a year later, due to the shortage of materials and workers due to the First World War.

Ⓒ AFP – Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS – | One of the underground galleries connected to the railway line of the London Postpass on July 26, 2017, during a press visit of the new Postal Museum

During the conflict, the tunnels were used to protect some airborne raids, including the Rosetta Stone, a fragment of an ancient stele of ancient Egyptians, which allowed the deciphering of hieroglyphics in the British Museum.

It was not until 1927 that the miniature train entered service. It makes it possible to reduce the time of delivery of the mail to the sorting stations to thirty minutes, against several hours before.

For 76 years, it circulates 22 hours a day, carrying daily 4 million letters on average. Even the Blitz, the intensive bombing campaign carried out by the German Air Force during the Second World War, does not stop its progress.

But the closure of the sorting centers, which move out of the capital, finally causes the train stop, which ceases to function in 2003.

Its discovery is one of the main attractions of the new Postal Museum, which opens its doors on July 28th. It traces the major role played by the British Post in 500 years of existence.

Ⓒ AFP – Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS – | A wagon from the London Post, 1980, at the Post Office in London, July 26, 2017

Among the stories of wars and piracy that have punctuated its history, visitors will also be able to measure the heroism of the agents embarked on the Titanic, and their desperate attempt to save 3,000 sacks of mail.

The museum also presents a more recent experiment: the delivery of rocket mail to some remote Scottish islands, which has never been successful.

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