Post Office Railway, underground train, No 809

1930 in Leeds

Underground train, Post Office Railway, No 809, two electric power units and one carriage from Mount Pleasant, London.

This 1930s rail car is from the world’s first driverless electric railway. The Post Office Railway, or Mail Rail, was a solution to carrying mail quickly across London, avoiding the congested streets. During its life, the railway carried up to four million letters a day along the two-foot gauge underground track. The route, with eight stations, served sorting offices between the west and east ends of London from Paddington to Whitechapel.

Electric power was supplied to the trains through a central conductor rail which was positioned between the rails. Battery-powered locomotives were stationed at regular intervals along the line in case any of the trains failed and needed to be towed clear.

This Post Office Underground Railway unit was donated to the National Railway Museum in 1985. Car No. 809 and two powered bogies Nos. 215 and 216 were manufactured at the Dick Kerr Works in Preston in 1930 and entered service on the Post Office Railway on 4 May 1931, being withdrawn on 3 October 1977. The unit ran a total of 1,184,549 miles.

The units are driverless and ran at speeds of up to 35mph in the tunnel sections, being brought automatically to a stop in the stations where the containers for mailbags were exchanged.

Mail Rail ran from 1927 until 2003, when it became uneconomic to operate.

On display

National Railway Museum: Great Hall

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Related people


Locomotives and Rolling Stock
Object Number:
brass (copper, zinc alloy), cast iron, rubber (unidentified), steel (metal) and textile
canvas top to mail hopper: 960 mm x 1350 mm x 900 mm,
motor unit: 1540 mm x 2230 mm x 980 mm,
carriage: 720 mm x 4587 mm x 990 mm,
powered unit
  • railway types
  • railway
  • underground railway
Post Office Railway

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