12 October 2012
In our latest stamp Collecting book review we examine an easy-read history to mail trains. The book covers the development, the importance and operating practices of this countrywide service. ...
by Julian Stray
The author is the Assistant Curator at The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) and this title follows his previous book, Post Offices (published in 2010) in the Shire Library Series. Staff at the BPMA have provided many of the illustrations and photos from the archives, and Julian has written an easy-read history to the mail trains, both those that just carried the mail; and those whereon sorting took place every night, not forgetting the London Underground Railway between Paddington and Liverpool Street.
The flavour of the book can be seen from the chapter titles Mail by Rail; Travelling Post Offices; A National Network; Post-War Change; and Modern Mail Trains. The author has shown the development, the importance and operating practices of this countrywide service. He deals with the problems it faced, the staff who manned it, the atmosphere at the termini and within the carriages themselves. In the end, competition from road and air alternatives has truncated the mail train services. Among the illustrations are diagrams and extracts showing, for example, part of the Route Details of the Down/UP TPO Special; the Marshalling Plan of the Down Special TPO. A plan of the TPO Network as it was in 1988 shows routes, and departure, arrival and connection times. It was a very precise operation, and the timings of the trains, the work schedules of the sorting and station platform staff needed to be absolutely spot-on for next-day deliveries to be achieved all over the country.
A short list of further reading is provided together with a full index in this nicely produced 64-page paperback fully illustrated in colour. A short list of places - Bath, York, Didcot, Loughborough, Nene Valley Railway - where old carriages and other items of euipment may be seen, gives contact, website and location details.
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