Mail by Rail
The first public railways commenced in the early nineteenth century. It wasn't long before the Post Office made the most of this new mode of transport. Our collections hold material mostly relating to Travelling Post Offices (TPOs) and transport underground.
TPOs went into operation in 1838. Their clever time-saving methods of sorting and transporting mail at the same time remained in service until 2004.
Despite the relative failure of its precursor, the pneumatic railway, the Post Office proudly opened its own railway in December 1927. This linked all the major London railway stations to the major sorting offices. This enabled mail to cross London swiftly regardless of road congestion above.
Our rail-related material includes badges, handstamps, sorting frames and lots of other equipment as well as an actual TPO railway carriage. We also have many objects linked to rail transport underground. These include signs, labels and two vehicles, one propelled by air, the other by electricity. Most of the material dates from the 20th century.
Examples from our Collection
Here are some examples of items relating to mail by rail in our collections:
Lists the rules apparatus officers had to follow.
This is the contents and first page of a book of rules for TPO officers.
Used to control all train movements in and out of the station.
Facts about the railway in 1941, including the number of air raid warnings.