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Mail was first sorted on a moving train in a converted horse box on the Grand Junction Railway, between Liverpool and Manchester, in January 1838 at the suggestion of Frederick Karstadt, a Post Office surveyor. Karstadt's son was one of two mail clerks who did the sorting. In 1845 the service was extended via Derby to Newcastle upon Tyne by the Midland Railway and soon after reached Scotland. A close relationship between the railways and the carrying of mail was soon established, and the service soon became known as TPO's (Travelling Post Office). The connection was immortalised in the poem Night Mail by W. H. Auden and the British Transport Films' production of the same name. TPOs were equipped with letter boxes so that mail could be posted while the train stood at the station and the post marks from TPOs are highly valued by collectors. British TPOs were operated most recently by Rail Express Systems, and their successor EWS. On 9 January 2004, however, this long history came to an effective end when Royal Mail decided to suspend transporting mail by rail, as services had been severely disrupted after the Hatfield rail crash. In this volume, the respected rail historian Peter Johnson has gone back to original sources to research this beautifully produced history of the TPO in Britain from its origins through to the effective end of mail sorting on trains. Brilliantly illustrated, and with a lively informative text, this new book will become the definitive source of information on that most British of institutions, the Travelling Post Office.
- 1 – The Travelling Post Office
- 2 – TPO Services
- 3 – TPO Rolling Stock