TPO -> TPOs of Austria

TPOs of Austria

By Tony Goodbody

Travelling post offices made their appearance in Austria in 1850. Now, in 2007, they are just about finished. Since their inception they have used a great many different types and sub types of postmark. It would be quite impossible to show them all here but we have included examples of most of the main types.

First and Second Class TPOs and Mailguards
In Austria there were 1st Class TPOs, 2nd Class TPOs and Mailguards (called Conductor Posts or [later] Gesamtpostkurse).

Some authorities assert that Second Class TPOs and Conductor Posts were one and the same. This does not appear to accord with the facts. Second class TPOs used postmarks with the route number specified, whereas Conductor Posts used postmarks which included not the route number but the train number.

The Early Postmarks

Fig. 1: Imperial Royal TPO - Route 6 - Prag to Bodenbach The earliest postmarks were rectangular, undated and inscribed with the words K.K. (KAISERLICH KÖNIGLICH) FAHRENDES POSTAMT: an approximate translation of which is Imperial Royal Travelling Post Office (figure 1) (Route No.6: PRAG - BODENBACH)

The WIEN - NIMBURG - PRAG route, No. 41, used a straight line mark without the words K.K. etc (Figure 2). The cover shown here was posted at Znaim (Znojmo) on 29th October which information has been added in manuscript. There is unfortunately no year date.

Fig. 2: WIEN - NIMBURG - PRAG route, No. 41

Fig. 3: undated POSTAMBULANCE TPO cancel Fig. 4: dated KK POSTAMBULANCE No. 9 TPO cancel Fig. 5: Fahrendes Post Amt No 24 TPO cancel
Figure 3 Figure 4 Figure 5

An alternative term for TPO was POSTAMBULANCE (figures 3 & 4: figure 4 being the first dated type). TPO No.9 was the TRIESTE - VIENNA route, used here in 1879. The postmark shown in figure 5 includes the initials F.P.A. (for Fahrendes Post Amt) together with the route (WIEN - PRAG) and the number (24).

Standard Types of Postmark.

By about 1900 the types of postmark had become more or less standardized, with the route round the top and the route number in the centre or at the base (figures 6, 7, 8).

Fig. 6: First Class TPOs series of cancellations with route number at the base Fig. 7:  cancellation with route number in the centre Fig. 8: Second Class TPOs series of cancellations with route number at the base
Figure 6 Figure 7 Figure 8

Route numbers 1-200 were assigned to First Class TPOs (figure 6), while route numbers above 200 and up to about 700 were assigned to Second Class TPOs (figures 7 & 8).

20th Century Postmarks

Postmarks used in the 20th Century are usually of the type shown in figs 9 or 10 with the terminal points and route number specified. There are several minor variations.

Fig. 9: Fig. 10

Figure 9 Figure 10

Mail Guards

Fig. 11: Mailguard mark - Train No 107 We now hit a problem. The postmark shown in figure 11 (the same type as figure 7) is from a mailguard and the number, 107, is the train number and not the route number. How can we tell the difference? The answer is that we can't unless we have more information, but here are some guides. Numbers over 1000 can be assumed to be train numbers and indicate a mailguard. Alternatively if the postmark is known with several different numbers within a restricted range, that too probably indicates a mailguard. The postmark shown in figure 11, for example, is known with the numbers 103, 107, 108 and 112, i.e. two out and two back indicating a working twice a day.

Fig. 12: mailguard postmark POSTCONDUCTEUR IM ZUGE/ WEIPERT - KOMOTAU No. 740

Fig: 14: mailguard Gesamtpostkurs mark Another type of mailguard postmark is shown in figure 12 reading POSTCONDUCTEUR IM ZUGE/ WEIPERT - KOMOTAU No. 740. This is known for train numbers 733 - 740 inclusive. A more recent name for mailguard is Gesamtpostkurs as shown in figure 13 (below). However figure 14 (right) is also a mailguard route (KUFSTEIN - BRENNER), quite indistinguishable from a standard TPO mark.

Fig. 13: mailguard postmark Gesamtpostkurs

Unusual postmarks

Fig. 15: First Class TPO showing station of posting - Strakonitz - on the Eger to Wein route

Some routes used peculiar postmarks such as the 1st Class TPO shown in figure 15 which includes the station of posting (Strakonitz). This is from the route EGER - WIEN.

Fig. 16: mailguard duty mark of train no. 3155 on the local route from Tachau to Plan Another unusual postmark was the one shown in figure 16 for the route TACHAU - PLAN. This includes the train number: 3155 of the Plan - Tachau Lokalbahn. This is clearly a mailguard duty.



There is a long series of articles in 'Austria' the Journal of the Austrian Stamp Club of Great Britain. Parts 1-8 dealing with the subject up to about 1900 appeared from July 1966 to April 1968. Presumably the series was continued beyond part 8.

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