Norvic Philatelics - GB New Stamps and Special Postmarks

Pictorial Faststamps: Mail by Rail - 15 February 2017

Pictorial Post & Go stamps appear in machines in UK Post Offices for defined periods of time in the year and this series is intended to provide attractive stamps that are appropriate for the season in which they are issued.

Post & Go stamps are sold from Post Office Self-Service Kiosks (SSK), which allow customers to weigh their letters and packets, pay for and print postage stamps and stationery supplies, often without the need to visit the counter. The first Post & Go machine was trialled in The Galleries Post Office® in Bristol in 2008.  The labels will be used in Post & Go machines at Post Offices around the country, and from Royal Mail machines at Enquiry Offices, Museums and Spring Stampex.  The labels can be obtained with 6 different service indicators: 1st class up to 100g & 1st class Large up to 100g, a dual-value Europe up to 20g/World up to 10g, Europe 100g, Worldwide 20g, and Worldwide 100g.  From SSKs other stamps can be printed with monetary values for a variety of services including Special Delivery and parcels.

 Faststamp showing railway Mailbox exchange. Faststamp showing Post Office underground railway..
Faststamp showing Title of Night Mail documentary film. Faststamp showing mail being loaded onto TPO.
Faststamp showing mail being sorted on TPO. Faststamp showing TPO on the move.

From top left:
Travelling Post Office: bag exchange, Post Office (London) Railway, Night Mail: poster,
Travelling Post Office: loading, Travelling Post Office: sorting, Travelling Post Office: on the move
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In Feb 2016 Royal Mail issued the Royal Mail Heritage: Transport set as part of the Royal Mail 500 celebrations. Post & Go issues in 2017 will build on the theme, creating a series of issues in which the transportation of mail is explored in greater detail.  The first in the series is Mail by Rail and will coincide with the 90th Anniversary of the Post Office Underground Railway in 2017.  MailRail will be part of the new Postal Museum which is due to open early in 2017.

From humble beginnings, the UK’s railways have proved to be an efficient form of mail transportation for more than 180 years. The Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened in September 1830 and it was just two months later, on 11 November, which the first few mail bags were carried on this railway. Over the following decades, an upsurge in the use of mail trains would arise. In 1927, a special underground mail service, the Post Office (London) Railway, was introduced, which conveyed post between Liverpool Street and Paddington stations, thus avoiding the growing congestion on the capital’s streets.

By the 1970s, three-quarters of letters were carried by rail at some stage of their journey and 10,000 trains were being used daily to move mail bags. Changes in mail circulation in the 1980s saw many letters transferred to road or air. By 2003, a total of 16 Travelling Post Offices remained, with the last running on the night of 9 January 2004 (see 2004 tribute issue). More recently, mail transported by rail is carried within sealed Royal Mail carriages.

The stamps in detailMail by Rail Post and  Go presentation pack.

Travelling Post Office: bag exchange
A specially designed apparatus enabled leather pouches containing mail bags to be exchanged with a moving Travelling Post Office (TPO). Pouches were hung from track-side standards or train-side ‘traductors’ to be caught by nets. The first successful mail-bag exchange was in 1838.

Post Office (London) Railway
Also known as the Post Office Underground Railway, this subterranean line connected sorting offices with London railway termini. Operating between 1927 and 2003, it was renamed Mail Rail in 1987. Up to 40,000 mail bags were carried daily between Liverpool Street and Paddington over 6.5 miles (10.5km).

Night Mail: poster - Three years after the GPO Film Unit’s Night Mail film was released, in 1939 graphic artist Pat Keely designed an iconic poster that captured the essence of TPO trains. In excess of 70 were in operation at this time, transporting, sorting and despatching 27 million letters every day and night.

Travelling Post Office: loading - ‘Euston Station: Loading the Travelling Post Office’ is a 1948 poster designed by artist Grace Golden. Main-line railway termini such as Euston station in London became hives of activity as dozens of mail vans crowded in to have their post unloaded for despatch across the country via the TPOs.

Travelling Post Office: sorting - A key feature of Travelling Post Offices was that mail was sorted while on the move. The Up Special TPO from Carlisle was the longest TPO in the world and could have 50 highly skilled postal staff working on it, while the smallest of mail trains could have just a single sorter.

Travelling Post Office: on the move -The first bespoke Travelling Post Office carried mail in 1838. By the 1930s there were 130 TPOs operating both night and day, with four exclusively functioning as mail trains. Day services ceased following the Second World War and the final TPO services ran on 9 January 2004.

Technical details:

Designed by Osborne Ross with illustrations by Andrew Davidson. ‘Bag Exchange’, ‘Post Office (London) Railway’ and ‘On The Move’; Night Mail poster by Pat Keely (1939) and ‘Loading’ painting by Grace Golden (1948) © Royal Mail Group Ltd, courtesy of The Postal Museum; ‘Sorting’ painting by Ian Cryer (2003) © Ian Cryer. The detail of the Night Mail poster by Pat Keely (1939) and photos of the Post Office (London) Railway and the Down Special TPO service © Royal
Mail Group Ltd, courtesy of The Postal Museum.  Printed in gravure by International Security Printers, 56 x 25 mm, with two phosphor bands, self-adhesive.

These will be on sale from machines Spring Stampex, and with an additional inscription at the Postal Museum. The service indicators and datastrings will be printed by machine in all cases.  For more information see our blog.

Products issued

The labels will be used in Post & Go machines at Post Offices and Royal Mail Enquiry Offices around the country, and from the Royal Mail machines at Spring Stampex.
A mint set of 6 x 1st will also be available from Royal Mail's Tallents House Bureau in a pack similar to a presentation pack. All values in the pack are 1st Class and the details are printed in gravure.

Royal Mail will again produce a First Day Cover and official First Day Postmarks for these stamps.

Special postmarks available for the day of issue  were shown in Royal Mail's Postmark Bulletins (download here)

This page updated 25 August 2017

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