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Author Topic: Final run of the travelling post office, 9th to 10th January 2004  (Read 512 times)
grahame
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« on: January 10, 2021, 07:15:27 am »

10th January 2004 - this morning, 17 years ago, the final TPO (Travelling Post Office) pulled into its destination.

From Postal Heritage at the Web Archive

Quote
A Travelling Post Office (TPO) is a series of one or more rail carriages in which the manual sorting of letters takes place. These carriages were invented to save time sorting mail while it was being transported to its destination.

Before the invention of the railways, mail was transported by road on horse-drawn carts and mail coaches. By modern standards this was a slow and inefficient service in which mail was often delayed, lost or stolen. As early as August 1826 Rowland Hill had suggested the sorting of letters on mail coaches to improve the service, but this came to nothing.

The first public railway opened on 15 September 1830 between Liverpool and Manchester. It did not take long for the Post Office to make use of this more effective mode of transport. By 1838 the mail coaches for Manchester, Liverpool and Carlisle were being transported on rail trucks between Euston and Birmingham.

George Karstadt, a long-standing Post Office surveyor, made a formal proposal on 6 January 1838 to trial a 'travelling office' where mail could be sorted during transit. The first run took place that same month. With more railway lines being built the new TPO network rapidly expanded.

and

Quote
The TPO service was cut back during the First and Second World Wars as part of wartime economy. TPOs ran on major routes carrying sealed bags only, without sorting. After the Second World War, few of the TPOs recommenced operations due to a reduction in the number of deliveries.

This post war lull, coupled with Dr Beeching's report on the reshaping of British Railways in 1963, meant that a number of quieter lines and stations on the TPO network closed. From then on the TPO network went into decline. In 1988, a radical TPO review was introduced which meant the reduction, re-routing and removal of numerous TPOs. This left only 35 in service, and by 1994 this was just 24. By the end of 2003, there were few dedicated services still operating and the golden era of TPOs was coming to an end.

"TPOs were the backbone of the long distance rail network for well over a century?it might seem strange to end them, but it's worth reminding ourselves why it has to be? technology has moved on and with the big increase in machinable letters, the proper place to sort them is within a mail centre..." - Steve Griffith, TPO Manager, 2004

In recent years, many mail routes have been revised and large volumes of mail have been transferred to air and back to the road. This, coupled with problems over service level agreements and a rising concern for the health and safety of staff, meant that the decision was finally made to dispense of all TPO operations. The last TPO services ran on the night of 9 January 2004.







Not quite the end of the carriage of mail by train, I don't think - just they end of sorting on the move??
« Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 07:23:21 am by grahame » Logged

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bobm
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2021, 08:31:18 am »

In the 1990s I was lucky enough to have a behind the scenes trip on the TPO from Paddington to Penzance as far as Bristol Temple Meads.

The staff who worked on them were in the main long-serving employees who, once on the trains, never moved to another job with the Post Office/Royal Mail.  Although mechanisation was coming in elsewhere, the trains were very much a manual operation.  Bags were no longer exchanged on the move but there were still tight deadlines to drop off bags at stations which had either been loaded onto the train already sorted or those filled with items which had been sorted on the move.

We dropped off mail at Reading, Swindon and Bath followed by a large number of bags at Bristol - some of which then went onto another TPO running up to Birmingham.

After I left the train, sorting continued as the train headed west.  More was unloaded at Yatton to be taken to Bristol Airport, then Taunton, Exeter St David's, Newton Abbot and Plymouth.  The drop at Newton Abbot contained a lot of mail for Sutton Seeds in Torbay.

Apparently by the time the train reached Penzance the staff would be sorting the mail down to the individual rounds for the posties to deliver around the town.

As well as a letterbox on the side of the train there was also a small box on the concourse at Paddington which was sealed until the evening but allowed letters to be posted before the train came in - close to where the current postbox is at the bottom of the arrival road.
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2021, 08:41:31 am »

Not quite the end of the carriage of mail by train, I don't think - just they end of sorting on the move??

Currently Royal Mail run a number of mail trains but they carry post already sorted and either bagged up or loaded onto trays and placed on trolleys.  (The trolleys are called Yorks as that was where they were first trialled)

Trains run to and from Princess Royal Distribution Centre in Willesden to Warrington and Low Fell near Newcastle.   There is also a service from Warrington to the Scottish Distribution Centre in Shieldmuir near Glasgow.
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bobm
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2021, 08:51:45 am »

I am not sure how readable this will be - but this poster was still on display by the post box outside Princess Royal in August 2016.  Long after the TPOs had stopped running.

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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2021, 09:05:37 am »

When I was an apprentice at OOC in the mid 70's during my stint in carriage and waggon the Mk1 TPO sets came in for maintenance. 
They had their own distinct smell inside due to all the leather and wood.  Also interesting features like 2 sets of lighting, batteries and dynamos.

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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2021, 11:42:23 am »

There used to be a Post Office Train stabled at Bristol Parkwaywhen i Started work on the railway back in 2005 and was there for quite a while Does anyone know what happened to it?
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2021, 02:02:40 pm »

There was a Royal Mail terminal at Bristol Parkway which was opened in 2000 but closed only four years later.  I think some Class 325 stock was stored there for a while before Royal Mail started using trains again to transport bagged mail.
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2021, 04:04:08 pm »

In the early hours of Jan 10th 2004 I was up extra extra early and drove to Hayle station to click a few pictures of the Bristol Parkway to Penzance TPO which stopped at Hayle to unload Mail for the Hayle and St Ives areas.
I think it was due off Hayle at 06:10 or thereabouts.
Besides being surprised by the amount of Mail unloaded, I remember the staff on the platform clapping and cheering as the train left, this was the VERY LAST departure of a working TPO as all the other TPOs were due to finish before 06:00.

The Penzance to Bristol Parkway TPO was the most traveled TPO stock in the country, whilst other TPOs traveled such distances as London (well Stonebridge Park) to Glasgow, the Penzance-Bristol Parkway TPO made a RETURN journey overnight and as the empty stock came from (and returned) St Blazey  this added roughly another 100 daily miles.
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2021, 07:50:13 pm »

Not quite the end of the carriage of mail by train, I don't think - just they end of sorting on the move??

I was surprised to see a TPO, or at least a train the livery, one day when I was flying out of Filton. I didn't have a camera, and my log book doesn't nail the date, but I would guess at 2008.
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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2021, 10:48:21 pm »

In the early hours of Jan 10th 2004 I was up extra extra early and drove to Hayle station to click a few pictures of the Bristol Parkway to Penzance TPO which stopped at Hayle to unload Mail for the Hayle and St Ives areas.

"Have the pictures survived" he asks hopefully  Grin
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