THE HISTORY OF THE RAILWAY PHILATELIC GROUP
by Tony Goodbody
The circumstances surrounding the Group’s formation were curious. In a certain house in Rotherham the journal of the TPO and Seapost Society was produced by Norman Hill, doyen of the Travelling Post Offices (TPOs), using a Gestetner duplicating machine. The text and diagrams had to be typed onto a ‘skin’ and this in turn was used to produce the required number of copies with the use of the machine. The snag with this system was that after having produced 260 copies the skin was worn out. The consequence was that the number of members of the TPO & Seapost Society was limited to 260 and there was a long waiting list. Therefore, The conditions were ripe for the founding of a new society catering for TPO enthusiasts who were unable to join the existing society. The new society was the Railway Philatelic Group (RPG).
Volume 1, No 1 of ‘Railway Philately’, the journal of the Railway Philatelic Group, was launched in 1966 to an unsuspecting world. The journal was of high quality and printed on 7” x 9” glossy paper. This format lasted from 1966 until September 1974.
The founder of the new Group was Roger Kirk who was still a member up to his death in 2005. Roger and the other members of the Committee wisely realised that there was more to Railway Philately than TPOs and the first edition of the Journal, Railway Philately, contained articles on THEMATIC STAMPS, RAILWAY LETTER STAMPS, PERFINS, etc, as well as the inevitable TPOs. The Committee Members in those far off days were S R Turner (President), R L Cantwell (Chairman), R Kirk (Secretary and Journal Editor), J Eaton (Treasurer and Exchange Packet Secretary), A Johnson (Librarian), J Smith, M J Burrows, D Burton (Committee Members). The annual subscription was 21/- (£1.05) which in real terms was probably more than the subscription is today.
Many people have asked why we are a group and not a society. The expectations of the early members were modest and they probably envisaged a smallish membership although a limit was never considered. However, the Group grew quickly at first, both in the number of members and in the range of activities which it embraced. By the Spring of 1967 the name of R P Cornish appeared on the mast head of the journal as Editor of the Thematic List, a publication which attempted to list all the stamps showing trains and railways. The following issue saw two more names added. Cliff Hall was the Postal Auctioneer and F N Green the Business Manager. Presumably the job of the latter was to solicit advertisements from Philatelic Dealers which were a prominent feature of the early journals. As membership grew it became necessary to appoint a Membership Secretary and Alan Violet was appointed to this post in 1969.
GROWTH, CHANGE AND THE FUTURE
For many years, an important activity of the Group has been the Annual Convention and AGM. The first Convention, held on 25 October 1969 at Loughborough and attracted 25% of the UK membership of that time. It was held in a village hall and was generally deemed to have been a success. A special one-day Post Office hand stamp was produced to commemorate the event, the first of many to be used in subsequent years. The formula of having a one-day event in a school or church hall was followed for many years until the Convention was held in the rather more elegant surroundings of the Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle. However, it was not until our Fortieth Anniversary in 2006 that the mould was really broken when we held a residential weekend Convention and AGM at Liverpool University. In 2008 a second, successful, weekend Convention was held in Glasgow and hosted another Weekend Convention in 2014.
Today the Group numbers some 200 members at home and abroad. The aims of the Group remain much as they were 50 years ago but circumstances are different. The Postal Auction has to compete with internet auctions and the Exchange Packet has to contend with high postal charges. The Journal is produced to a high quality, in colour, using a computer and it is no longer necessary to send original items to the editor. The Thematic List has become a Stanley Gibbons catalogue, ‘Collect Railways on Stamps’.
What will the next 50 years bring? With the demise of the Travelling Post Office and the Railway Letter Stamp, together with the dwindling use of adhesive stamps, the Group will inevitably have to look to the past. Nevertheless, new items will continue to be discovered and railway philately will continue to provide excitement for its many followers.
Grateful thanks to Tony Goodbody who first built a website a number of years ago from which much of the material in this website has come. Also,Tony compiled the bibliographies and the Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations as well as writing this history of the group. I would also like to acknowledge the very valuable help given to me by my husband.