TPO -> Postcards and Travelling Post Offices

Postcards and Travelling Post Offices

By Rick Martin

The first Postcards were introduced by the Austrian Post Office in October 1869, and were designed to convey a short simple message. The General Post Office (GPO) in Great Britain followed the Austrian initiative a year later. Postcards with a printed postage stamp were issued on the 1st October 1870, and more than 500,000 passed through the main London sorting office at St Martin's le Grand on the first day that they were on sale.

With a face value of one penny, (halfpenny postage; halfpenny for the card) it is reckoned that 76 million were used in the next twelve months.

For the next 29 years, printed illustrations of any kind were forbidden, but following the lead of some European countries and the advances in photographic and printing techniques, the GPO gradually relented and by 1899 the picture postcard as we know it today, had arrived in the British Isles.

The golden age of the picture postcard was in the years between 1901 and the early 1920s. This was at a time when cheap travel by railway encouraged more people to take holidays away from home, the result being a postcard sent back to family and friends to say "wish you were here".

Among the thousands of postcards published at this time, many were produced for the railway companies and showed various aspects of their activities, including views of Travelling Post Offices (TPOs), and in some instances, showing them in action. The following is a selection of postcards that have featured TPOs since 1900 until the demise of the TPO in the British Isles in 2004.

The London & North Western Railway (LNWR) was a pioneer in publishing postcards showing scenes of the areas served by the Company, also of its locomotives and rolling stock.

Their legacy includes these images listed on the left. Click on each image to see an enlarged picture of Britain's railway heritage and early travelling post office history.

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