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Head Post Office (Sorting Office) Birmingham

coerl21

master brummie
The I worked at the Head Post Office Hill St. from 1970 until 1972. My job was to maintain the small electric vehicles that towed the wheeled cages of mail down to New St Station.

I was wondering what happened to the tunnel that led from Hill St to the station? If it is still there it must resemble something from a horror film!

Subsequently I was transferred to, what is now The Mail Box, the PLSO (Parcel and letter sorting office) in Severn St.. Here there was a much more sophisticated tunnel to New St.

It's construction cost one third of the budget of the building of what was the largest mechanised sorting office in Europe. I presume that tunnel is still in existence?

It's sad that Royal Mail had to abandon the trains in favour of road haulage as the trains (BR) didn't provide a reliable service.

I remember an old timer telling me there was a pneumatic tube made from lead from old Head Post Office to Hockley (Jewellery Quarter?). Does anyone know any more about this?
 

ellbrown

ell brown on Flickr
This is The Mailbox now - as seen from Suffolk Street Queensway - was redeveloped into an entertainment, shopping complex with restaurants, the BBC, Network Rail etc in the early 2000s.



Victoria Square House occupies the site behind the old Head Post Office, built 1991



Don't know about your tunnel.

The whole area is being redeveloped (the new New Street Station).

The main sorting office is now here Aston Royal Mail Delivery Office on St Stephens Street, Aston. But you can usually see it from the car on New Town Row.
 

horsencart

master brummie
As far as I am aware the tunnel is still there?, having said that they are in the process of buggering about with New Street (for the second or is it the third time in my lifetime) the access to the tunnel was from each of the platforms and I would love to walk that tunnel (assuming it is still there? )

The I worked at the Head Post Office Hill St. from 1970 until 1972. My job was to maintain the small electric vehicles that towed the wheeled cages of mail down to New St Station.

I was wondering what happened to the tunnel that led from Hill St to the station? If it is still there it must resemble something from a horror film!

Subsequently I was transferred to, what is now The Mail Box, the PLSO (Parcel and letter sorting office) in Severn St.. Here there was a much more sophisticated tunnel to New St.

It's construction cost one third of the budget of the building of what was the largest mechanised sorting office in Europe. I presume that tunnel is still in existence?

It's sad that Royal Mail had to abandon the trains in favour of road haulage as the trains (BR) didn't provide a reliable service.

I remember an old timer telling me there was a pneumatic tube made from lead from old Head Post Office to Hockley (Jewellery Quarter?). Does anyone know any more about this?
 

coerl21

master brummie
Morturn - thanks for those pictures - it certainly brings back memories. The "new" tunnel is soundproofed (I think the technical term is anechoic) and is quite eerie. The "old" tunnel was tiled - so when there were a couple of dozen BRUTES (the wheeled cages) being towed the noise was absolutely deafening.

The sub-basement of the PLSO was where the workshop for the electric tractors was situated. I was reading a post recently about Paternoster lifts. We had similar devices for moving POTUs (Post Office Trailer Units). The platforms moved up and down in a horizontal inclination - but at top and bottom folded into a vertical position. They did have doors at each floor. Of course it was a bit of a problem at the bottom if the platform wanted to fold when there was still a POTU on it! Happy Days!

p.s. The secondary purpose of these tunnels was to sneak to the Market for a quick half.
 

DavidGrain

master brummie
As a result of something I posted on another thred I was contacted by Network Rail about a bricked up tunnel that they had found at New Street and I told them that I thought they were refering to the tunnel to the old postal sorting office.
 

wam

master brummie
Those pictures are 6 years old now. Does anyone remember if those old tunnels were tall enough for someone to walk through? I got the impression that they weren't at some point. It could have been that everything destined for New St had to go in the BRUTEs rather than the taller wooden things (what were they called?) or that someone told me that the trains that went down the tunnels were automated and unmanned.
 

derekw

master brummie
According to a relative,the tunnels are tall enough to walk through and the transportation they used were Brough vehicals.
 

coerl21

master brummie
Both the tunnels were wide enough to allow 2 BRUTES to pass side by side, and there was lots of head room. All BRUTES were towed by electric tractors. There was a limit of 6 BRUTES per tractor but I have seen twice that amount being towed. The original tractors were painted red and were purely electro-mechanical. They employed a regenerative emergency braking system (which sometimes worked) and a "switched" seat which would cut the power if the seat was not occupied (falling off if too many trips to the Market Hotel). This fleet was replaced with yellow electronically controlled tractors in the new tunnel. There would have been little advantage in automating this journey as the mail had to be towed to any of 12 platforms.

The postman who drove the tractors had a mess room on platform 12. The most important was a cat who was officially on Royal Mail's payroll as a mouse catcher and received his wages in the form of board and lodgings.

I have a photo of me as a young man (I think it is in sepia) posing next to a tractor in the battery charging room. If I can find it I'll publish it here.
 

DavidGrain

master brummie
I used to know what BRUTE stood for. Something like British Railways Utility..... The yellow ones were BR and the red ones PO but I expect they were swopped around.
 

ed smith

master brummie
Those pictures are 6 years old now. Does anyone remember if those old tunnels were tall enough for someone to walk through? I got the impression that they weren't at some point. It could have been that everything destined for New St had to go in the BRUTEs rather than the taller wooden things (what were they called?) or that someone told me that the trains that went down the tunnels were automated and unmanned.
If i can remember the wooden ones were strictly sorting office use only and were called "POTUS", and had their own lift which was off limits to postal staff as the mechanism flattened the potu at the top floor and returned and if any membert of staff wete in the lift well...not a very good outcome.
Spent a few good years at the sorting office ,working in the sub basement sorting mail off the trains into various destinations,Town 1st Class,Town 2nd class, Dis,Blacks (Black Country) and forward,Later spen couple of years working down the station ,remember platform 12 very well,called the bunk,then in 1983 came a reserve on the T.P.Os,then travelled full time on the Derby- Bristol ,and then th Derby-Penzance T.P.O,Until their demise in 1993,went back into the sorting office until i took T.C.M in 2004.HAPPY DAYS
 

wam

master brummie
I used to know what BRUTE stood for. Something like British Railways Utility..... The yellow ones were BR and the red ones PO but I expect they were swopped around.
According to a couple of places on the internet "British Railways Utility Trolley Equipment" . There used to be a different name for the wooden ones that was just as much an acronym as that (not POTU) but I can't remember what it was. I only worked for the Post Office for a fortnight one Christmas so it's not surprising I don't remember. I never got to see the tunnel but I did get to ride out to Curzon St to throw sacks onto a freight train. Not surprising that a lot of christmas parcels arrive damaged.
 

coerl21

master brummie
Here's a picture of a red tractor with a cool dude behind the wheel.

https://www.2c2no.com/truck.htm

POTUs (at least after 1972) were all aluminium trailers. BRUTEs were a British Rail acronym. The lift you refer to was a GOSS elevator (George Orton Spooner and Son who designed them) a la Paternoster lift. An interesting feature of the drive mechanism was that the motor was wound up to full speed then the clutch was activated - not to be recommended for your Ford Mondeo!
 

chrissied8

New Member
Hi everyone, I'm trying to trace anyone who worked here in the 1970’s who would remember my husbands Aunt. Dorothy Bailey, she held the highest position for a woman at the time.
 

wam

master brummie
British Railways Universal Traction Engine I think it was.
BRUTEs were those large blue wire-sided trolleys that you'd see on station platforms sometimes. You fill them up with sacks of letters/parcels (I did two weeks on parcels one Christmas) and they'd go down to the train. "British Railways Utility" is more likely to be correct this time.
 
I was at college in 1968 and, along with two fellow students, got a 6 week holiday job as a labourer working on the construction of the Hill Street Sorting Office. Bryants were the Main Contractors. My cousin had just left the Merchant Navy and he also got a 6 week temporary job there. I remember a funny incident.

At one end of the enormous rectangular concrete basement was a corridor running the width of the basement. This was at the end farthest from the tunnel. At this time the upper stories were almost complete but the roof construction hadn't been started. Consequently the corridor end of the basement was covered in 6 inches of murky brown water. The corridor was full of dismantled plywood formwork, props and scaffolding etc . My cousin and I were tasked with clearing it out. I led the way down the corridor followed by my cousin. I picked up a sheet of partly submerged plywood and walked on a few paces. Suddenly there was a splashing sound followed by a string of loud expletives. I turned round and there was my cousin up to his neck in water. The plywood sheet I'd picked up was covering a manhole which had no manhole cover fitted!!. He left the Merchant Navy but ended up falling overboard in Hill Street.......That's Brum for you......lol
 

Maureen2984

New Member
The I worked at the Head Post Office Hill St. from 1970 until 1972. My job was to maintain the small electric vehicles that towed the wheeled cages of mail down to New St Station.

I was wondering what happened to the tunnel that led from Hill St to the station? If it is still there it must resemble something from a horror film!

Subsequently I was transferred to, what is now The Mail Box, the PLSO (Parcel and letter sorting office) in Severn St.. Here there was a much more sophisticated tunnel to New St.

It's construction cost one third of the budget of the building of what was the largest mechanised sorting office in Europe. I presume that tunnel is still in existence?

It's sad that Royal Mail had to abandon the trains in favour of road haulage as the trains (BR) didn't provide a reliable service.

I remember an old timer telling me there was a pneumatic tube made from lead from old Head Post Office to Hockley (Jewellery Quarter?). Does anyone know any more about this?
Hi my hubby worked as a Bev driver from Hill Street to New Street Station in the 70's I wonder if anyone remember's him Dennis Holtham sadly he passed away 2015, he used to tell me stories and what a great bunch of Lads they were to work with. Thank's for the memories
 

Maureen2984

New Member
The I worked at the Head Post Office Hill St. from 1970 until 1972. My job was to maintain the small electric vehicles that towed the wheeled cages of mail down to New St Station.

I was wondering what happened to the tunnel that led from Hill St to the station? If it is still there it must resemble something from a horror film!

Subsequently I was transferred to, what is now The Mail Box, the PLSO (Parcel and letter sorting office) in Severn St.. Here there was a much more sophisticated tunnel to New St.

It's construction cost one third of the budget of the building of what was the largest mechanised sorting office in Europe. I presume that tunnel is still in existence?

It's sad that Royal Mail had to abandon the trains in favour of road haulage as the trains (BR) didn't provide a reliable service.

I remember an old timer telling me there was a pneumatic tube made from lead from old Head Post Office to Hockley (Jewellery Quarter?). Does anyone know any more about this?
 

Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
hello maureen and welcome....do hope someone remembers your hubby...enjoy the forum

lyn
 
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