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Abandoned mail railway under London draws historical comparison ahead of opening

Passengers will travel on a section of the 6.5-mile network 70ft below London’s streets when services resume on September 4.

The Post Office’s abandoned underground railway has a “Mary Celeste quality” ahead of its reopening, according to one of the attraction’s bosses.

Passengers will travel on a section of the 6.5-mile network 70ft below London’s streets when services resume on September 4, some 14 years after the last letter was carried by the railway.

The Mail Rail will be part of the new Postal Museum which opens its doors on Friday to provide an insight into the history of the postal service.

Visitors will descend into the railway’s former central London engineering depot and board a miniature train for a 20-minute journey through narrow tunnels.

Trains will stop at original Mount Pleasant sorting office station platforms, where audio-visual displays will show what it was like to work on the network.

The Postal Museum’s deputy director, Tim Ellison, told the Press Association: “It has that slight Mary Celeste quality, as everybody walked out in 2003 and only now are people walking back in.”

The railway was built in 1927 and stretched from Whitechapel in the east to Paddington in the west.

Between four and 12 million items of mail were conveyed through the tunnels each year.

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A selection of Post Office designs through the ages (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Ellison added: “The network was driverless and completely electrified, which was way ahead of its time. There’s no other system quite like it in the world.”

Exhibits at the Postal Museum include the sculpture of the Queen used to produce the image replicated more than 220 billion times on stamps, one of the few remaining sheets of the world’s first stamps – the Penny Black – and a gold Olympic post box.

Fifteen thousand tickets for the attraction have been sold in the first week since they became available.

The UK’s postal service is “close to people’s hearts”, Mr Ellison said, adding: “It’s a vital service. We call it the world’s first social network.”

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