Every Friday we’re inviting our experts and guests to share a letter to something they love linked to the post.

Chris Taft after removing the 1927 Rail Car prior to conservation work

Dear Mail Rail

I know right now with everything going on lots of people will be missing you, people seem to be really wanting to engage with culture at the moment. Built heritage – something really tangible and with a proper sense of the past, is top of the list for me. Your link to heritage and also industry but with a social connection makes you rather special, the chance to visit the actual network where it once all happened, where millions of items of post were carried and narrow-gauge trains linked up London hidden from the world above. Of course, people will also be missing the ride and The Postal Museum’s own little trains.

I wanted to take the opportunity to just thank you for the interest you have provided me with over the years, because of course we go way back! 2002 in fact, even before your network closed to mail traffic. I think I first met you in July 2002 when I paid a visit on a more general tour of Mount Pleasant whilst working for Royal Mail Heritage Services. Our real connection of course goes back to about a year after this, in July 2003 when I was asked to work on a project to help develop a heritage inventory of all the equipment and rolling stock that was left with you when you were moth-balled earlier that year. I was so grateful for this opportunity as it really helped me understand so much about you. Over the course of the next few months I visited you lots and went through the whole tunnel network making a record of all the major pieces of infrastructure that might be of use or relevance in future years. A real archaeology project to document you at a moment in time. How little did I realise then just how much more time I would spend with you in the years to follow.

I was fortunate to begin to get to know your history properly in 2006 when I was asked to catalogue a whole series of records the Archive held about you, POST 20 as it is known. When I started there were only about 55 records of yours catalogued, by the time we finished, hundreds, in fact there were 155 files and 244 plans. The plans were the real challenge of course as some of them were very large and rolled. We had to review and catalogue each and every one. Of course, that is what really helped me learn so much about your history and how you worked. From that I developed a talk about your history which has since been delivered to so many groups around the country – literally hundreds of people have now heard your story. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to learn so much about your past and your operation, it’s played a big part in my life since.

This background of course resulted in me getting involved in the project to allow more people the chance to see you and learn your story. As The Postal Museum launched the project to create the new Museum and open up your car depot and station at Mount Pleasant we spent more time together than ever. The longest days for sure being when we were installing and testing the trains people journey on to tour your network. Oh and of course installing the exhibition. The day I will never forget getting all the old rolling stock into the gallery, that was tough work, lowering trains into the depot and trying to manoeuvre them into the right places! They did not always co-operate!

Thanks for all the opportunities, and the challenges you have set me over the years as well, even if I didn’t appreciate all of them at the time! It was all fun in its own way, and it is only a matter of time before lots of people will once more have chance again to explore the hidden history of Mail Rail.

See you soon

Chris Taft,
Head of Collections, The Postal Museum

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