You’ve Got Mail! – Visiting the Postal Museum, London with Kids

I'm old enough to remember friends and boyfriends sending me letters at university (I know, I'm a dinosaur) so I've got a definite soft spot for the traditional art of letter writing. I also like a train journey, and the new Postal Museum in London has the coolest little train that kids adore. Signed, sealed, delivered, it's very family friendly.

It’s the time of year when we’re all excited by the pitter patter of the postman’s feet, and an excellent opportunity to review the new Postal Museum in London.

Any visitor attraction in London faces stiff competition so every new site needs a quality USP to draw the punters, and the Postal Museum has a really cool one – the Mail Rail. Opened in September 2017, this tiny train chugs its way under the streets of London, with video projections on the walls telling passengers the story of the world’s first social media i.e. the post.

The wee trains were used to carry London’s post, as many as eighteen trains could be whizzing about at any one time, carrying four million letters a day! Two hundred people worked in shifts to keep this running smoothly – it’s amazing what can be happening literally under our feet. But when the line ceased operations in 2003 the rail system was maintained by engineer Ray Middlesworth and his team. I think it’s very James Bond that the line was maintained, just in case, because we never really know when we’ll need a little train track under London. Now it’s a very novel, curious, exciting visitor attraction.

The train is hugely popular so do, do book ahead, and it’s also tiny so not for the very claustrophobic. I saw a picture of the empty train and totally misjudged the sense of scale, so I’m featuring a video with my family in it to show what a snug little jaunt it is. En route the kids were transfixed, there are dark sections of the tunnel, followed by brilliantly illuminated, animated films, and the ‘trick’ when the lights went out and a ‘pretend’ break down occurred – hilarious, I was starting to feel mildly uncomfortable! The return journey takes about 15-20 minutes but we were all transfixed. Once you disembark there’s a small display area, which reveals a range of curious factoids. The one that stood out to me was the fact that commercial liners, such as Cunard ships, carried mail across the Atlantic. When the Titanic sank it had over 3000 mail sacks onboard; in the big picture the mail sacks don’t matter a jot next to the human cost, but think of all those letters, messages of love, homesickness and business, lost to the ocean. The postal workers onboard attempted to move the sacks to the upper decks when the mail room began to flood. They didn’t leave their posts. It’s a heartbreaking detail.

Sorted! A fab new play area for tots.

Next to the Mail Rail is ‘Sorted!’, a play area for tots. Forty-five minute slots can be booked here and we met some local nannies taking their mini clients out to play. It’s a very cool area, very immersive, not some grubby soft play, but a sparkling white postal heaven, with uniforms, parcels, sorting areas, pigeon holes, post boxes, post wagons, I could go on. My tots moved post, from pillar to post, ad nauseam, with the most serious looks of concentration on their faces. Kids are hilarious, you’d think the entire festive season of successful post delivery rested on their tiny shoulders, they kept moving letters back and forth in their wee red uniforms till we were dizzy, a comedy hive of activity.

After every Sorted! household had received its mail about four times over we opted for some chill out time in the reading corner, with gems such as Postman Bear, The Jolly Postman and The Jolly Pocket Postman. Sorted! is a really different play experience for kids and wonderfully done.

Then we headed to the museum itself, stopping at the café for coffee and a cake. The museum itself is naturally full of factoids about the postal service. The post first served one man, and one man only, King Henry VIII. I also got to watch the short film Night Mail, a fantastic Grierson documentary charting the mail’s journey from London to Aberdeen (a bit like us on the Caledonian Sleeper!). Featuring verse commentary by W H Auden, and a score by Benjamin Britten, it’s an archive gem that I hadn’t seen since I was a student in Glasgow. In terms of the kids, they were busy dressing up as mini postal staff and marching around the museum’s mail vans, they put their hand in a secret hole to look for tigers (it made sense at the time) and they sat at a letter-writing station penning notes to various relatives.

The whole set up is excellent, but the prices are quite high for a family to access all three (and the pricing structure is a little bit complicated), but on the plus side you can pick and choose between the three attractions as you wish. It’s a unique day out and a strong addition to London’s child-friendly scene.

IN THE AREA – For lunch we nipped to Leon at the Brunswick Centre, for healthy fast food. Then we had a play at the famous Coram’s Fields. Adults can only enter this seven acre play area if they are accompanied by a child, which was strangely reassuring.  Coram’s Fields are free, and a mix of playgrounds are available.

OUR STORY – For a list of activities to try in London with tots click here. We travelled from Aberdeen to London aboard the Caledonian Sleeper (read our review here) so we had a bit of ‘rail’ theme going on. We stayed with relatives near the Elephant & Castle, before hopping on a bus to reach the Postal Museum. To be fair I don’t understand the London bus service but my husband does, and it’s far easier with a buggy than attempting to use the tube.

If you like what you read then don’t miss a post, enter your email address in the follow box and You’re In, or join the conversation on Facebook. For any queries or opportunities please email scots2travel@hotmail.com. We received complimentary tickets for the Postal Museum experiences for review purposes. I hope the postman delivers good tidings to you this festive season.

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14 Comments

  1. Reply

    Josh🎄

    December 9, 2017

    Enjoyed reading it, Thanks **Dino**Janice for sharing 🙂

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      December 9, 2017

      Life before mobiles!

  2. Reply

    MummyTravels

    December 10, 2017

    Everything I’ve heard about this makes me want to visit and fantastic to get a look inside – I rather fancy sorting the mail myself.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      December 12, 2017

      There’s something so satisfying about posting things. Very strange! 🙂

      • Reply

        MummyTravels

        December 13, 2017

        And thanks for linking up to #citytripping

  3. Reply

    Tanja

    December 12, 2017

    what a fun experience:) #citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      December 12, 2017

      Yes.

  4. Reply

    Hilary

    December 13, 2017

    This looks very cool, and I know I would love the train part, but my boys are 9 and 15, do you think they would enjoy this? #citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      December 14, 2017

      I think the boys would enjoy the train, it’s so unusual, and it somehow works for all ages. They are far too old for Sorted!, and I’m on the fence about the museum. If they are the kind of kids who generally enjoy museums and always take something away from them, then it’s a good offering, but if museums generally aren’t there bag then the kids that distracted my tots (dressing up and colouring in) won’t work for your lads. I hope that helps.

      • Reply

        Hilary

        December 15, 2017

        Thank you for the advice! We all love museums, so many we will give it a shot!

  5. Reply

    Elizabeth (Wander Mum)

    December 14, 2017

    Ok! I really have to go! You’ve totally sold it to me and I think both my daughters would love it too. A great mix of things for adults and children. The youngest is obsessed with paper and pen at the mo so that will keep her amused while I learn about all these incredible facts about the postal service!#citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      December 14, 2017

      The train and Sorted are complete winners for little ones, but my pair were equally happy dressing up in the museum, colouring in and watching about one minute of the NightMail film, so all three areas worked for wee ones. The postal service is pretty incredible when you stop and actually think about it for a few moments!

  6. Reply

    Kathleen (Kat) (@katpegimana)

    December 14, 2017

    You’re not the only dinosaur for I used to receive letters and aerogrammes from family and friends at university too 🙂 I do miss the thrill of waiting for the postman or checking the postbox for letters when I was much younger. I used to write to pen-pals when I was in school – it was so much fun! Nowadays I check my postbox for bills only 🙁 I like the fact that this Postal Museum is quite interactive, makes the experience interesting and fun. It’s fantastic for children to experience this because not many of them will know a lot about post offices when everything is online in this day and age. #Citytripping

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      December 14, 2017

      You’re so right. I’m still thankful the postal service comes into its own at Christmas and birthdays. I love knowing the postman is actually bringing something nice! I used to receive such lovely letters and parcels in the past.

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