Review of 'Tunnel Walk'

When I first learned of the opening of the underground “Mail Rail” in London to the public I was incredibly intrigued. “Mail Rail” was a railway that transported mail quickly between mail facilities in London for 76 years only closing in 2003. After being moth-balled for years the nearby “Postal Museum” opened a section of the railway running small, custom, passenger trains around a short local loop of the extension tunnel network. The rail network runs for 6.5 miles under the streets of London though I learned there are more than 20 miles of tunnels if you include the various sidings and maintenance tunnels. With the driverless mail trains running at more than 50 miles/hour and leaving every four minutes it was a gruelling job loading and unloading the trains for the postal employees.

Preparing for the Walk

Soon after opening “Mail Rail” the “Postal Museum” began operating “Tunnel Walks” where you are able to walk through the tunnels with a guide. At £55 per person, the walks are not cheap and the tickets selling very quickly for such an unusual experience. I debated going for some time due to this but eventually decided to go for it…life is to short! Of course, along came COVID and my walk kept getting delayed and now, more than a year later, I was finally able to go for my walk.


The walks take place after hours with mine the last one of the evening at 6:30 pm on a Wednesday. The entrance to the Mail Rail is just across from the Postal Museum with a small gift shop on the ground floor. I was directed to the basement where there is not only the ride but also a tunnel containing exhibits. As I was a bit early I was encouraged to wander around the exhibit before the tour which was nice without anyone around, and I noted a few changes since I last visited. The whole starting area with the exhibit tunnel and tour tunnel was originally a maintenance facility for the Mail Rail where you can still see the old tracks through transparent windows in the elevated flooring at your feet.

Guide Talk

We were given high-vis jackets and hard hats for our walk along the small, tight tunnels. My group was about 10 people with 3 staff members - A guide, another guide bringing up the rear along with a safety engineer. Our guide started off with a short talk on safety followed by a history of the Mail Rail before encouraging us to step onto the tracks following him into the tunnel. The trains used for the normal tours run on battery so there is no electrical rail (the later trains that actually transported mail used overhead wires) so no danger walking on the tracks other than them being a bit slippery from being regularly greased. The sleepers on which the narrow tracks are fastened are quite tightly spaced so it is quite easy to walk along though you do have to keep an eye where you walk particularly with a number of junctions with tracks all over the place. Of course, taking pictures all the time, I did stumble a few times.

Walking the Tunnel

We were allowed to wander pretty much wherever we wanted when stopping at each of the two platforms. The platforms were pretty much as they were left by the Royal Mail after the service stopped so it was interesting to see the way things were just left where they were and the signs of habitation such as dart boards and graffiti the employees left on the walls. During the ride there is a really well done multimedia display but it was great seeing what is really there.


Throughout the walk the guide gave us a lot of information about the rail service including details on what it was like to work on it. He is a driver of the trains but had a wealth of information, freely answering any questions we had for him. One of the stories he related was the fact the Bruce Willis film “Hudson Hawk” was filmed in the tunnels which were dressed to look like the Vatican mail railway (which does not exist). The service benefited financially from the filming so they were able to do a “Santa's Grotto” for children including painting images from “the twelve days of Christmas” on the walls of one of the tunnels which we were able to see.

Picture from the 12 Days of Christmas

Additional surprises were a good view of the “train graveyard” about half way through our talk which is in a lower tunnel and contains several abandoned trains.

Train Graveyard

Interestingly, we were told that much of the system is still owned by the Royal Mail and is their property so we were told not to trespass. On the platform the tunnel looks like only a semi-circle but actually is a full circle leaving a large amount of space below the tracks and platform that we were able to take a quick peek in but not allowed to enter as it still contains Royal Mail property.

Maintenance Area

The last part of the trip we took a slight detour to where they maintain the trains used on the ride. This was one section that was, at great expense, created specifically for the Postal Museum. The two trains, painted in Royal Mail colours, one red and one green, are also quite expensive and custom built. The green train was on the elevated section of track ready for service with the cab open so we could look in at the controls – Our guide assured us that although it looked complicated with all the buttons, you really only use the joystick for acceleration and braking (with a “dead man's switch”, of course). The trains they operate only travel at a maximum of something like 3 miles/hour so the sand bags occasionally lining the walls in case a train is runaway, are not really needed for the new trains.

Train Controls

The entire walk took about an hour and 15 minutes but was not tiresome in any way. We were given loads of time to look around as much as we liked.

Yes, a bit expensive, but really interesting, not at all strenuous, and well worth the money for a bit of a geek like me…Certainly an unusual experience.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2021-06-30

The Postal Museum

Location: London (England)

Address: 15-20 Phoenix Place London WC1X 0DA ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Russel Square TUBE Farringdon TUBE Chancery Lane

Telephone: +44 (0) 300 030 0700


A small but interesting museum about the history of the postal service including frequent exhibitions and events. The museum is child friendly but there are exhibits here that will be of interest to all. There is an on-site café and shop.

See my detailed information at Postal Museum.