Night Mail
Night Mail
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Travelling Post Offices often ran late at night and in the early hours of the morning so that they would arrive at their destinations in time for the first delivery of the morning. At the end of the 20th century, the increase in night maintenance of track inevitably lead to delays in their running schedules and was a contributory factor in their withdrawal in 2004 by the privatised Royal Mail.

The TPOs (Travelling Post Offices) History
  • The first TPO carriage ran on 20th January 1838.
  • The last TPO trains ran on the night of 9th January 2004.

  • The first 'Mail Special' - a train used solely for carrying mail, was introduced in 1885.
  • By about 1914, there were 130 TPOs in use.
  • In 1936 the work of TPOs was popularised by the GPO film 'Night Mail'.
  • The first standard British Rail TPOs were bought into service in 1959.
  • When the two-tier postal system was introduced in 1968, it was decided to sort only first-class mail on the TPOs.
  • The use of trackside collection nets began in 1838 and ended in 1971 as the faster trains could afford to make more stops at stations along the route.
  • By 1988, rationalisation of the network had reduced the number of TPOs in use, to just 35.
  • By 1994, the number had reduced to 24.
  • North East TPO train manager, Marion Farrell, was the first female TPO train manager and also the last.
  • At the end of 2003, there were only 18 TPOs still running.
In 1995 the TPO fleet consisted of 123 coaches:  
  • 84 (POS) Post Office Sorters [NS5] - Travelling Post Offices
  • 36 (POT) Post Office Tenders [NT5] - Stowage Vans
  •  3 (BPOT) Post Office Tenders (Brake) [NU5] - Stowage Vans with Brake 

In 2000 this had reduced to 112 coaches with a staff of 540 operating 18 TPOs:

  • 74 POS
  • 38 POT
Postal Specials

A TPO carriage could run as part of a passenger train, but more often than not would form a complete train, as a 'Mail Special'.

Down services worked out of London. Up services worked back to London.
TPOs in Detail
TPOs in Detail
TPOs in Detail.

Photo: 80322 NSA at Darlington on 29th August 2003 © Nigel Burkin

See also Night Mail in the GPO Film Unit.

Farewell South Wales TPO presented by Martin Bray.

Special thanks to Nigel Burkin.
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