The Earliest T.P.O,s
When the world's first public railway was opened in 1825 between Stockton and Darlington the mail coach era was at it's height - mails being carried remarkably quickly and securely over all the principal roads of the United Kingdom.
A variation of the idea of utilising the marvelous new form of transport offered by the railway was first put to the Post Office in 1827, when Thomas Richardson of London, drawing attention to the speed of carriage on the Stockton and Darlington line "going as fast any mail in the Kingdom" suggested that similar rails be laid on each side of the turnpike roads, to enable just one horse to draw the present load of a coach far more quickly, humanely and safely, all without any inconvenience to other traffic on the road.
Three years passed, and by October 1830 the frequency and speed over that of ordinary road transport offered to travellers by the newly-opened rail-road linking the twin commercial cities of Manchester and Liverpool was beginning to have a damaging effect on mail coach services. And so, feeling "bound to keep pace with the wonderful improvements with which the present age bounds", the Post Office looked at speeding the Royal Mail by rail.
So, on 2nd November 1830 the Royal Mail was entrusted to the railway for the first time, beginning a new era in the history of mail transport. By the spring of 1846 the railway age had arrived and the last of the London-based mail coaches had been taken off the road.
These early mail trains were called Railway Post Offices (R.P.O,s) and in 1928 The Post Office renamed them Travelling Post Offices (T.P.O,s).
- Mail trains from as early as 1852 had used mail exchange on the move.This speeded up travelling time, as the train did not have to stop to dispatch or receive mail.
- The apparatus was used by the Post Office for over 100 years and made the exchange of mails easy. Mail that had to be transferred was packed into leather pouches which, when filled would weigh between 20lb and 60lb.The T.P.O carriage was equipped with an extendable net, fitted to the body side, with an opening into the carriage behind it to catch incoming pouches. An outgoing pouch was attached to an arm which would suspend it 5ft above the ground and 3ft away from the carriage side; there could be as many as four of these arms on a single carriage, each mounted to the side of a door opening, with a safety bar to prevent staff from falling out whilst rigging the pouch.
- On the 3rd October 1971 AT Penrith in Cumbria the Up Special T.P.O and the North West Night Down T.P.O were the last T.P.O,s to use the apparatus. There were probably a lot of postmen that were happy to see the back of it as some staff were terrified of using it and are even rumored to have paid other postmen to do it for them.
The Current T.P.O,s
- Today's T.P.O,s have not changed much since the early sixties, and the way in which they work (other than the apparatus) has not really changed at all. Mailbags still come in to be sorted manually and go out at stations on route, direct to towns and villages all over the UK.
- The only thing that has changed is the amount of T.P.O,s there are, and the amount of mail they receive. Before the World War II there were 77 services operating in comparison to only 18 today. Due to the change in Mail Traffic i.e. much more A4 or flat mail the T.P.Os have had to adapt it's current way of sorting and in the future maybe even refurbish the stock to accommodate this mail.
- But as we know this will not happen due to ceasation