Over the years, Crewe Station saw numerous different Travelling Post Offices (TPOs) – some
of which started or terminated at Crewe, and some of which passed through Crewe to other destinations. Here we look at the TPOs which had a handstamp/postmark showing the name ‘Crewe’ (i.e. those TPOs starting or terminating at Crewe).
A TPO could consist of one or more railway carriages. Before we look at the Crewe TPOs, it is worth noting that you will come across other abbreviations – all of which mean much the same as ‘Travelling Post Office’:
RPO Railway Post Office (one or more railway carriages)
ST Sorting Tender (single railway carriage)
SC Sorting Carriage (single railway carriage)
RSC Railway Sorting Carriage (single railway carriage)
On this page we look at the following TPOs (you can scroll down to each of them in turn,
or you can click on the blue link text below to jump straight to the one you want to see):
(Note: TPO services were suspended for much of the duration of the two World Wars.)
1. London Crewe ST / London Crewe SC
The London Crewe run was introduced around 1873 as the London Crewe Sorting Tender. The interest in the following illustration is not in the main double-ring postmark (Balham S.W. /
JU 16 02), but in the small L & C /S. C. (London & Crewe Sorting Carriage) handstamp.
In his book The Travelling Post Offices of Great Britain & Ireland Harold Wilson states:
“The small [L & C /S. C.] handstamp was issued on 2 August 1884 and was, I believe, used by an emergency [Post Office] officer from the [London] Inland Branch who travelled when [an] exceptionally heavy [batch of] mail was despatched. It is recorded used until 1900”
Note that the above example extends the known date of usage of this handstamp to 1902.
The next illustration shows the handstamp used on the London & Crewe Sorting Carriage, Down (London to Crewe) Day Mail run.
2. Crewe Birmingham / Birmingham Crewe TPOs
The Crewe Birmingham TPO services started on 12 July 1885. Here we show the handstamp of the Birmingham Crewe TPO being used not only to to cancel the normal postage stamps, but also to cancel the extra stamp used to pay the Late Fee.
After the last normal daily mail collection had closed for the day, it was still possible to post a letter at a Railway Post Office, and even to post it directly into a Travelling Post Office stopped at the station. However, this ‘late’ service (introduced in October 1863) was subject to a Late Fee of 6d (old pennies). A stamp (or stamps) to the value of 6d had to be added to the letter or postcard to show the Late Fee had been paid.
The cost of the Late Fee was gradually reduced until 1 March 1880, when it was lowered to 1d. From 1880, the cost of the Late Fee fluctuated between ½d and 1d until it was eventually abolished on 27 September 1976. Some users of the TPO services affixed the Late Fee stamp in the top left hand corner of the letter or postcard (as in the example above).
Next we have another variety of Birmingham Crewe TPO postmark – this time on a 1965 first day cover. The Birmingham Crewe TPO was withdrawn shortly afterwards (on 6 March 1967) as a result of the re-routing of the Up Special TPO and Down Special TPO through Birmingham.
Before we leave the Birmingham Crewe TPO we can show you the inside view of the carriage as long ago as 1907!
3. Crewe Bangor / Bangor Crewe TPOs
This TPO started life some time around 1870 as the Crewe Bangor Up TPO, then the Crewe Bangor Down TPO, and finished (as the Bangor Crewe TPO) on 9 February 1979. Here we show postmarks from the TPO going in each direction (Bangor to Crewe, and Crewe to Bangor):
4. Crewe Cardiff / Cardiff Crewe TPOs
This service started on 4 October 1920 as the Crewe Cardiff Sorting Carriage and the Cardiff Crewe Sorting Carriage, and ended (as the Crewe Cardiff TPO and the Cardiff Crewe TPO) on 15 May 1988 when it was amalgamated with the Shrewsbury York TPO. However, this amalgamation did not last long, and the Crewe / Cardiff TPO service was re-started on 31 May 1994 – only to be finally withdrawn on 27 September 1996. Here we show postmarks from the TPO going in each direction (Crewe to Cardiff and Cardiff to Crewe).
5. Crewe Glasgow SC
The Crewe to Glasgow service was introduced on 15 December 1926 as the Crewe Glasgow Sorting Railway Carriage (effectively taking over the route of the Preston Glasgow Railway Sorting Carriage). The service was eventually withdrawn on 14 May 1992.
6. Manchester & Crewe ST / SC
A Manchester Crewe Bag Tender was introduced on 1 September 1859, carrying only sealed mail bags. This was replaced by a Sorting Tender on 14 March 1864. Here we see a postmark applied by the Sorting Tender to the back of a letter sent from London in 1871 (dated 30 JU 71):
7. Crewe Peterborough / Peterborough Crewe TPOs
The Crewe Peterborough / Peterborough Crewe TPO was not introduced until 6 June 1966. Indeed, it was the last TPO ever to be introduced on the railways of Britain. Here we show postmarks of the TPO going from Crewe to Peterborough:
… and here we show postmarks (dated 24 October 1969) of the TPO going from Peterborough to Crewe. This example has the added interest of a Late Fee Not Paid hand stamp accompanied by a 4d Postage Due stamp (cancelled at Northolt on 27 October 1969, in mauve ink ).
Crewe Station, its Post Office and TPOs – End of Display
There will be another POSTAL DISPLAY COMPETITION at the 2019 Annual Convention.
Why not send your own entry in … you could WIN!