Welcome to the Lickey Incline blog devoted to the celebration of the railway and in particular the great days of steam trains both standard and narrow gauge, on the railways of Britain.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Russell Restoration

Russell Appeal
Russell at Beddgelert in the 1930s
RUSSELL is the only surviving steam locomotive from the original Welsh Highland Railway. In April 2012 the Board of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Porthmadog decided to send RUSSELL’s rolling chassis , boiler and fabricated components to Alan Keef Ltd, Ross-on-Wye to continue the restoration work.

In June 2012 they made an appeal for £125,000 to complete the work. There was a terrific response from Russell donors, WHHR members, Welsh Highland Railway Society members and readers of Heritage Railway and Narrow Gauge World magazines.

To complete the work and have RUSSELL back in steam on the WHHR at the beginning of next season they still needed £65,000 at the end of January. In mid-February the WHHR received a single donation of £25,000 from one of their longstanding donors. The donor wishes to remain anonymous.
However, the donor has offered to match other donations they receive before the end of May 2013 £ for £ up to another £25,000.
To get Russell steaming go to the appeal page here

Saturday, March 09, 2013

London's Best Kept Secret - The Post Office Railway

Mail Rail
The Post Office Railway. Photographs copyright BPMA
British Postal Museum & Archive
The British Postal Museum and Archive is assessing the viability of opening a section of the former Post Office underground railway, 'Mail Rail', as a heritage railway and visitor attraction. Development funding of £250,000 was awarded from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2012.

The opening of the Post Office Railway in 1927 in London, the world's first driverless electric railway, revolutionised the delivery of mail in the UK. Mail Rail was a solution to carrying mail quickly and efficiently across London, as congested and polluted streets meant road transport was slow and very unpredictable. A two foot gauge railway was built, which transported mail underground.

The railway consisted of six and a half miles of tunnels, dug by hand, which ran at an average of 70 feet below ground. It connected the West and East ends of London and followed part of the existing London Underground route.

There were eight stations in total, situated at
  • Paddington District Office;
  • Western Parcels Office (Baker Street);
  • Western District Office (Rathbone Place);
  • Western Central Central
  • District Office (High Holborn);
  • Mount Pleasant; King
  • Edward Building (St Paul's);
  • Liverpool Street railway station
  • and Eastern District Office (Whitechapel Road).
1930 and 1931 were key milestones when 51 trains were built, each 27-foot long; and at its peak, 34 trains ran 22 hours a day along 23 miles of track. In 1951 the railway was handling over 12 million bags of letters and parcels.  

Progressing to the 1980s, trains travelled at an average speed of 35 mph and the time taken to run trains from Whitechapel to Paddington was around 30 minutes. By the late 1990s more than six million bags of mail were carried below ground each year - four million letters every day! The network closed in 2003 after almost 80 years' service and still remains the world's only dedicated underground mail transport system in existence.

Mail Rail Boris Johnson "The BPMA is a national treasure of global importance" Mayor Boris Johnson

 Opening Up Access for All

Few people have had access to this unique part of our heritage. However more and more people are learning of its significance and place in world history. Michael Portillo, for example, popularised Mail Rail in his TV programme, Great British Railway Journeys, and BPMA focus group research revealed that the majority of people questioned would love to take a ride on a train.

 Having a visitor attraction would be a major means of encouraging people to come to both the new postal museum and Mail Rail; however to achieve this the BPMA will need to raise the majority of funds by November 2013 to make it a reality by 2016.

The vision is for a first-class attraction which would creatively convert the Mail Rail depot at Mount Pleasant into a museum exhibition space and introduce a fascinating 15 minute ride on the Mail Rail network. Newly designed battery-operated trains will journey through the existing tunnels under the mail centre - an unforgettable experience. The fully narrated tour will describe the construction of the system from 1915, its opening in 1927 and operation until 2003.

Post Office Railway re-born
The Vision

The old car depot will be transformed into a lively exhibition, tracing the history of moving the mail both above and below ground. Vehicles will include pneumatic rail cars from the 1860s, which were once propelled by air through specially designed tunnels. Video projections, objects and interactive displays will offer personal insights into the daily lives of the Post Office engineers who kept the system running - a service that shaped the modern world and touched the lives of countless generations.

Further details about the railway heritage attraction will be developed over time and posted on the BPMA website www.postalheritage.org.uk or sign up to the e-newsletter to receive regular updates and news on activities www.postalheritage.org.uk/mailing.

BPMA Post Office railway
Post Office Railway Depot Mount Pleasant - Photograph copyright BPMA