Live like a local.
There are few things in England that are inspired from something from the United States. Typically, it is the other way around. However, it is worth noting that in 1903 Chicago allowed the use of their narrow gauge railroad to be used for mail service. These some odd 16 miles of tunnels underneath the city of Chicago were initially meant to serve as utility tunnels to carry a network of telephone cables, for various reasons this plan was scrapped, and they changed the plans to include rails. They were able to incorporate, George B. Armstrong’s concept of sorting mail en route to reach their destination and this increased speed and efficiency.
Here in London, there were unacceptable delays in getting mail delivered using above ground transportation. The city was too large and too congested. In 1911, the planning board decided to primarily use Chicago’s system as an example. Construction of underground tunnels began (using much of the same system that was used for the Brunnel tunneling – previous blog post). They designed these tunnels to use unmanned electric trains to go to different underground sorting stations throughout London and use these stations to drop off and pick up mail from various points. You will see some photos of examples of how they hooked mail pouches over the rails so when a train would come by the train automatically unhooks the bag and it drops down onto the train without using manpower or the need to slow down at these points in the tunnels. They employed approx. 250 employees 24/6 as engineers and mail sorters that worked in these underground tunnels for the Royal Mail.
These unmanned electric mail trains underneath London were in use from 1927 through 2003 when they were closed due to a decrease in snail mail and an increase demand moving large parcels where the train tunnels, sadly, weren’t cost effective to continue.
As with all these interesting tad bits of history, with enough digging, you can find interesting tours. We took a walking tour through the tunnels which is now underneath the Postal Museum. Overall, I found it interesting, but it was overpriced. If you choose to go, you must recognize your "donation" is keeping history alive.
Fun fact, the railway appears in the Bruce Willis film called Hudson Hawk. It is thought to be a horrible film, I have never seen it, so I cannot give an opinion. The “movie money” was used to put on some moral events for the families of the workers for a few years. At one point they painted the 12 days of Christmas on the walls of the tunnels for their children to see. Hum. But the more interesting fact to me was when they closed the tunnels and the Royal rail needed to sell off what they could. One area they sold went to a bank, but the bank couldn’t have a tunnel underneath the bank – making it a perfect making for a heist. They had to fill in the area below the bank with cement. And so the tunnels are definitively closed for any future usage ideas.
Don't take life so seriously.
I'm Jody. I love to travel. I love to take pictures. I love to meet people and find interesting places. I also love to write about and post pix of what I've found. But, I've been told that I write like I talk - in streams of consciousness. So, if proper grammar and well composed sentences are a must for you - my posts will make you crazy. If you want to follow my journey as I learn about really cool places and offer some great tips about living abroad, read on!