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Post Office Mailbag Car No. 803

PO Car in Buffer Depot

Tim Cook - PO Car in Buffer Depot

Bogie Electric Car No. 803 was built in the 1930s by English Electric Co. for the Post Office Railway, London. This railway, with a gauge of only 2', was one of the most interesting railways in the world, because it carried no passengers and was worked without drivers, guards or signals. The system is underground for the whole of its 6½ miles between Paddington District Post Office and Eastern District Post Office in Whitechapel Road. It linked five sorting offices and carried 25 million letters a week (30% of London mail).

Although construction of the railway started in 1914, World War One delayed completion and the tunnels were used for storage of such things as art treasures. It was not until December 1927 that the railway was opened to carry mail, a job it continued to carry out until May 2003, reducing traffic problems above ground.

The tunnels are only 9' diameter, reducing to 7' at the station approaches, where the tunnel divides into two. There were eight stations between Paddington District Post Office and the Eastern District Post Office in Whitechapel Road, though some were closed in latter years. The most important station was at Mount Pleasant, about half way along the line. Here there is the large postal depot, car sheds and extensive repair shops for the railway. At each station there are eastbound and westbound platforms, lengths varying according to the station, and the platform tracks usually have an outer line of rails to form a passing loop for non-stop trains. The railway operated 22 hours every day.

The original ninety units of rolling stock were four wheeled cars, built by English Electric, and one of these is preserved by the Post Office Railway, No. 602, built in 1925. These early cars had a capacity of ¾ ton of mail, but were soon found to be unequal to the demands made on them. So in the 1930's a replacement program was carried out and fifty new cars were obtained from English Electric. No. 803 is one of these. A similar car, No. 808, has been acquired for the West Somerset Railway and is displayed at Minehead.

In the 1980's the rolling stock was again renewed with new deliveries of more bogie units of an improved design by Greenwood & Batley Ltd., thereby making most of the 1930's cars redundant, hence the Society's acquisition of 803.

On the 1st June 2003 sadly the whole system was mothballed, with the Royal Mail being carried by road instead. So ended 76 years of postal history. For further information see L C Stanway (2000) "Mails Under London: The story of the carriage of the mails on London's underground railway", published by the Association of Essex Philatelic Societies (AEPS), Basildon, Essex.

Origin :- Post Office Date Built :- 1930s Number :- 803
Type :- Mailbag Car Builder :- English Electric Co. Owner :- QRS
Status :- In Store Location :- Buffer Depot Museum Accession No.:- W/0091
Arrival Date :- 1982        

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 24 September 2017