Our home mailbox has been filled for weeks with mailers for candidates at the national, state, and local level. What have I learned from all of these mailers? Very little.
However, the one use they may have is for candidates’ names to catch my attention. I consider myself a fairly informed voter yet I cannot keep up with all of the local races. In a state with so many taxing bodies, there are numerous races for the Forest Preserve, County Board, municipal positions, and more. Who has the time to look at all of the positions of those candidates? I will enter the voting booth today with limited knowledge about dozens of names for positions that the average suburbanite has little knowledge about.
Thus, a mailer might catch my eye with a name in a way that another medium might not. All those texts from candidates in recent weeks? Most were automatically marked as spam by my phone and the others I did not look at. Political ads on television or radio? Easy to avoid by switching stations or using streaming services. News broadcasts about candidates? Can click past or avoid reading.
At the least, I took each of those mailers out of the mailbox, looked at them quickly, and then recycled them. Could they have planted a name or idea in my head? Perhaps.
Yet, my experience with it is not that fun. I get to see the pieces of mail I do not like – bills and junk mail – ahead of them arriving in my mailbox. Thus far, I have not seen an exciting piece of mail ahead of time. I can look forward to the latest politician who wants to send me a glossy flyer
This is not the fault of the USPS. I need to get involved in streams of more exciting mail. But, it also hints at what the mail is used for now: personal letters and cards can go via email, packages largely go through deliveries to doors rather than mailboxes, and what is left is largely less interesting.
The Post Office Underground Railway—AKA the Mail Rail—was the world’s first driverless electric railway. It launched in 1927 and was used to transport tons of post from one side of London to another, with stops at large railway hubs such as Liverpool Street and Paddington Station, where post could be collected and offloaded for transportation around the rest of the country…
The idea is to create special battery-powered passenger carriages to take people from the car depot and some of the tunnels in a one-kilometer loop. Visitors will be taken 70-feet underground, through Mount Pleasant Station, and will stop to view audiovisual displays recounting the history of the network and what it was like to work down there…
The railways have a 61cm gauge (the width of the track), on top of which small carriages traveled without drivers thanks to electric live rails. In the stations there are two tracks, with carriages going in each direction.
The service continued to operate until 2003, when it was closed down—it had become much cheaper to transport mail by road.
Such lines underneath cities may not be all that unusual. Chicago had an underground delivery system as well since it was far more efficient to move some items underground away from the street-level traffic. This was also the impetus behind creating Lower Wacker Drive. How many major cities have such tunnels underground, how many of them are well secured (free from ne’er-do-wells or flooding issues), and are these all tourist opportunities waiting to be opened?
Construction of the tunnels began on February 1915 from a series of shaft located along the route. The tunnels were primarily dug in clay using the Greathead shield system, although the connecting tunnels in and around the stations were mined by hand…
It wasn’t until June 1924 that workers began laying the track using 1000 tons of running rail and 160 tons of conductor rail…The line was eventually finished in 1927 with the first letter through the system running on February 1928…
Although initially the system was a success, in its last years of service the line was continually losing money. On the 7th November 2002, Royal Mail announced the line had become uneconomical with losses of £1.2M a day and that they planned to close it should no alternate uses be found. This was to be the death of the Mail Rail with the line from Mount Pleasant to the Eastern Delivery Office closing on the 21st March 2003, the remaining section from the Western District Office to Mount Pleasant following on the 29th. Now it just sits there buried where light cannot reach, rusting away, the trains sleeping silently in and around the stations wanting to be used again. Sadly a dream which we all know will never come true.
I had not known that these sorts of mail systems were in use until so recently. Such systems were not completely unknown in big cities: Chicago had a much more complex system that delivered mail as well as other kinds of freight. In big yet dense cities, these delivery systems could make a lot of sense as it would keep some traffic off the roads and goods could be delivered with little interruption.
I do wonder at times whether current city officials are very knowledgeable about what is underneath their cities. The pictures regarding London’s “mail rail” are quite good and I wonder if they caught anyone off-guard.
With such interesting things underneath so many big cities, it seems that movie and TV writers would have an endless supply of interesting settings where odd things could occur and creatures could roam…