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London's Secret Tunnels, Used to Hide Art During WWI, Open for Ride-Throughs

London's Postal Museum opens to the public July 28th.

by Nathaniel Ainley
Jun 29 2017, 3:05pm

Mail Rail at The Postal Museum. Picture by Miles Willis. Images courtesy The Postal Museum

During the First World War, in order protect art treasures from German attack, English museum administrators worked with the country's national postal service to store precious artworks in a network of subway tunnels 70' below street level. Now, you can take a ride through the historic Mail Rail when you buy tickets to London's Postal Museum opening July 28th.

Roughly 100 years ago, the Post Office in London started utilizing a secret labyrinth of narrow tunnels, 6.5 miles long, to safely transport letters, parcels, and postcards through the city. At its peak, the Mail Rail system operated 22 hours a day and employed 220 staff that moved more than four million letters daily. The network of tunnels criss-crossed tube lines and linked six sorting offices with mainline stations at Liverpool Street and Paddington. The underground Mail Rail operation was so covert that museums like the Tate, British Museum and National Portrait Gallery deemed it safe enough to store their most precious artworks. According to representatives for the Postal Museum, the British Museum once even used the tunnels to store the Rosetta Stone.

Visitors to the new Postal Museum will be able to ride through the abandoned tunnels aboard trains modeled after those used by the Post Office in 1987. The ride is supplemented by an audiovisual presentation that delivers a brief history about the service and its legacy. Above ground, guests walk through a number of creative exhibits that highlight the history of communication in Britain and around the world.

Photo by Miles Willis

Learn more about the museum here.

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trains
London
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tunnels
Rosetta Stone
british museum
National Portrait Gallery
the postal museum
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