Hitchin

Tuesday 14th May 2019

'Mail Rail'

Chris Taft

Chris Taft (Head of Collections) from the London Post Office Museum gave us a very well-structured and clear presentation on “Mail Rail”, The History of the Post Office Railway. Opened fairly recently following a move to its present site in Phoenix Place during 2017, the entrance to the railway is directly opposite the museum.

An experimental pneumatic system was originally proposed and partly sold to the Post Office, but they lost interest in 1874. Work on testing a driverless electric railway to transport mail started following an Act of Parliament in 1913.This was 6.5 miles long and to run from Whitechapel to Paddington, via Liverpool Street, Kings Cross and major post office distribution points including Mount Pleasant.

The tunnel was dug by hand, from the surface but work stopped in 1917 and did not restart until 1924. During this period the completed tunnel was used to store works of art from galleries and museums during the war.

The railway was completed in 1928, and comprised of 90 purpose built vehicles with two axles and coupled in threes. These were quickly superseded by longer bogied vehicles to prevent the excessive wear being found on the wheels and the track, caused by the inflexible two axles.

The depot and workshop were based at Mount Pleasant and the railway operated 22 hours a day until its closure in 2003, when the whole mail system became very automated, with many sorting offices becoming redundant, along with the rail companies not wishing to operate the trains from the connected stations.

A fascinating evening and a real insight into this unique railway.

Tuesday 12th March 2019

'Branch AGM and Member's Presentations'

This month we held our AGM, following the co-option to the committee of one member. the committee were re-elected for another year.

The remainder of the meeting was taken up with a presentation by Norman Hill, a Hitchin member who was promoting his new book that had just been published, “Kings Cross, Second man”.

Many of Norman’s photographs from the book were shown, obviously this was of great interest to the members as they were all within our area, including many shots of Kings Cross and “Top Shed” plus those sheds at Finsbury Park, Hornsey, Hatfield and Hitchin.

Norman had also recorded the upgrading of the track on the approach to Kings Cross in 1977.

Also, we saw many views taken from the cabs of whichever loco Norman was in; these days it is called “Drivers Eye”.

This was followed by George Howe, who posed the question “Mystery Junction”. George was given a photograph of a railway junction some time ago with the words Woolmer Green on the reverse, which obviously was not. We went on to hear how George carried out hours of research with the aid of a friends in the right places, and he finished up with a whole series of pictures showing the complete junction before, all through the relaying and repositioning of all lines, and after, when the running speed across the junction was lifted from 15 mph. to 55 mph, A fascinating insight to how the work and design was carried out some 50 years ago.

I am not mentioning which junction George was referring to as he talks to many groups in the area and I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone else to whom he might pose the question.

Last updated: 17th May 2019




Hitchin Tuesday 9th July
'By the Midland to Cambridge'
Robin Cullup

Welwyn Garden City Tuesday 30th July
'Swindon Works 1880-1922 The Golden Years'
Brian Arman, RCTS President