The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) is today issuing the publication Mail Trains, telling the interesting story of the development and history of carrying mail by rail, from the 1800s until today. The book is written by Julian Stray, Assistant Curator at the BPMA and published by Shire Publications.
Central to the prompt delivery of the nation’s mail is its efficient and speedy transit the length and breadth of the country. From 1830, the Post Office relied ever more heavily on the overland rail network to provide what was for decades the ideal form of transport. Railway Post Offices, Sunday Sorting Tenders and District Sorting Carriages were amongst the services introduced.
Railway Post Offices, carriages dedicated to sorting mail in transit, became known as Travelling Post Offices (TPOs). TPOs received mail at the start of their journey and at stations or bag exchange points en route. Mail bags were opened by travelling postal staff and the contents sorted and included in new mail bags made up en route and despatched at the appropriate station. One of the most remarkable aspects of TPOS was the bag exchange apparatus. This enabled mail trains to pass stations of minor importance yet still exchange mail bags without halting.
During the Second World War mail volumes carried by rail increased. Letters were essential for maintaining morale and connecting families separated by wartime. The rail network carried immense quantities of mail; in 1943 British railways carried 25 million mail bags and over 90 million parcels.
The final TPO service ran in 2004 and. although the volume of mail carried is considerably diminished, mail trains continue to form an important part of the United Kingdom’s postal service to this day.
Julian Stray, author of Mail Trains, commented:
“Throughout history, trains have been a speedy and efficient way to transport mail. This book provides a fascinating history of the overland carriage of mail by rail. From draughty and poorly lit sorting carriages in 1838 through to the purposeful ‘Ladies in Red’ of the late 20th century”.
Details: Mail Trains
Author: Julian Stray
Publisher: Shire Publications
Price: £6.99 (+ £3.50 postage and packaging)
Pages: 61. Illustrated throughout
How to order:
Phone: 020 7239 5125
Images and review copies available on request.