London’s Lost Pneumatic Railway

In Get Them on the Blower we looked at the fascinating history of London’s forgotten Pneumatic tubes, which carried messages throughout the capital.

Now, over on our London-transport-focused sister site London Reconnections you can read what is effectively a companion piece – a complete history of the London Pneumatic Despatch Railway.

Built in the 1860s, the network was intended to shuttle larger packages (and even people) between Post Offices throughout the Capital. As Long Branch Mike writes over there:

Whilst the Post Office dropped the pneumatic parcel tube idea, two men didn’t – engineers Thomas Webster Rammell and the same Latimer Clark. Both were part of the group that incorporated the Pneumatic Despatch Company Ltd. in June 1859 to build an underground pneumatic tube railway of an even larger diameter. This was a step up in scale, and would use air to propel small railcars (as the cylinders) in tunnels to carry standard mail bags and small parcels between main railway termini and post offices. A stationary steam engine turning a reversible fan would blow or suck the cars along.

Today this particular (and peculiar) piece of London’s railway history is nearly forgotten, but you can read the complete history of its brief rise and fall here.


  1. Incredible story! Wow! I am a Southwest Airlines Pilot currently, and I cannot imagine flying a story like that–thank you for sharing it and preserving such a neat part of our heritage.

  2. My comment above is for the story about the Pan Am Clipper flying in 1941.

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