Travelling Post Office System
The TPO has its origins way back in those leisurely days of horse drawn transport when elegant Royal Mail coaching services along the turnpikes and lanes of the land conveyed mail. During this period (1830 - 1840) the price of a letter was calculated by its weight, content and distance carried. Postage due was collected from the recipient of the letter and not by the sender. All of this was a very different system to that with which we are so familiar today.
The mail system in those days was expensive, inefficient and required very large numbers of staff to handle comparatively very few letters. At this time the rumblings of great change were to be heard throughout the land. Wars were being fought and the British Empire was growing. Steam had been harnessed and was emerging as a means of creating power for the burgeoning industries and to improve output in areas like construction and mining. However, probably the one most important aspect of steam power was to be its use as a self-propelled unit capable of hauling heavy loads along iron rails - the steam locomotive.
Once it was established that the steam locomotive could run for long distances along these iron rails, companies were established, to lay lengths of track from town to town throughout the country. Initially, a successful railway was operated between Liverpool and Manchester and although passenger carrying was its principal aim, the Post Office recognised an opportunity for transportation of mail - a vast improvement on its road services between those two places.
In the 1830's, certain individuals recognised the chaotic and inefficient system that was the Post Office of the day, was in need of change. Not unnaturally the 'old guard', holding office at the time, resisted any thought of change and was not backward in saying so. Chief among these was one Lieutenant Colonel Maberley, Secretary to the Post Office, who was suspicious of any change, believing that any development of the service could be managed by the existing horse drawn road services. Among the 'upstarts' who wanted change was a man named Rowland Hill and without doubt Hill was an exceptional man. A great many things have been attributed to this genius and although there are those who say that some of the claims made on his behalf were exaggerated, Hill did without doubt force huge changes within the postal system.
By far and away, the greatest innovation attributed to this man was the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post. For the first time ever, members of the public were going to be able to post a letter to any part of Great Britain for the price of one penny and this to be paid by the sender. No longer would the letter carrier have to haggle with the recipient over the price, no longer would the staff have to examine each individual letter, nor would they have to assess the charge to be raised. Most significantly though, this development would allow the poorer members of the community to send letters to their relatives, friends and businesses.
Once this development was put into place Hill anticipated, despite his critics, that there would be a great increase in postal traffic. No sharp increase in revenue was expected immediately but was predicted to rise over the years, and so it proved. About both these predictions Rowland Hill proved to be absolutely correct. There was furious debate within and without the Post Office and is a subject in its own right. Suffice to say that in January 1840 Hill's Uniform Penny Post was introduced and was to set the standard for postal practice right up to the present day.
The greatest single challenge facing Rowland Hill and his supporters, and there were numerous difficulties to be overcome, was the increase in volume of traffic. As mentioned previously, the amount of mail carried in the pre 1840 era was very small by mid Victorian standards, and Hill had the foresight to recognise the difficulties ahead.
The sudden influx of mail into offices in large cities and towns during the evening postings had to be dealt with quickly. Delays to the mail would have meant an opportunity for Hill's critics to carp about what it was he was trying to achieve. The innovator of the scheme was having none of this and had decided that speedy and efficient mail sorting and distribution, was to be a key part of his plan. To this end Hill and/or others had the good sense and foresight to see how the mail could be best dealt with.
No longer would it be possible or sensible to have large numbers of road coaches careering out of London during the evening. Instead, the mail would be conveyed to one of the new railway stations from which it could be loaded into a train and sent on to various destinations along the line. However, this was not to be enough, so great was the influx of mail into the sorting offices that more revolutionary strategies had to be employed.
This brought the minds of those Victorian Post Office innovators to bear on the question of how to deal with the increasing flow of traffic. Their solution to the problem was to get it out of the sorting offices as quickly as possible, and on to a Traveling Post Office (TPO) in an unsorted state. It is worth noting that the first experiments with TPO's took place in January 1838, almost two years before the introduction of the uniform penny post! Hill and his associates were able to anticipate the problems that lay ahead. These new TPO's, also called Railway Post Offices or Moving Post Offices became the key to the success of the uniform penny post. It was the Internet of the 1840's.
The methodology behind sorting systems is quite complicated and would not be best described here. Suffice to say that once the mail was received into a receiving (later sorting) office, it would be sorted into areas of the country (primary sorting) and would then be transferred to the railway system.
As the railway systems grew so the road coaches diminished and the use of TPO's and Sorting Carriages (SC) became more evident across the network. With London being the principal city as well as being the largest it had always been the hub of all postal activities. The railways too, soon found their way to London and radiated out from the capital roughly following the old major coaching routes. Lines to Dover, Plymouth, Penzance, Bristol, Cardiff, Holyhead, Birmingham, Crewe, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Sheffield, Derby, York and Norwich, were all accessible from London. The various TPO's and SC's adopted names suited to their location and lines of railway companies over which they traveled. The "North Eastern", "North Western", "Great Western", "South Eastern", "Great Northern", "Caledonian" and "East Anglian" were all names used over the years at various times and gave some indication of the routes they traveled. District Sorting Carriages tended to be named after the places from which they were staffed and ran from/to. Typical were the Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ipswich and Cambridge SC's.
Having set up the system there then remained the question as to who would operate them, how this would be done and the conditions under which the staff would work. It has to be remembered that none of this had been tried previously and the men concerned were true pioneers.
Who Would Work on the TPOs?
The Post Office found that there was little choice in this matter, for no one other than the Sorting Clerks working in stationary offices (a term latterly used by TPO men when talking of fixed sorting offices) at the time. These clerks were very jealous of the position they held in the Post Office hierarchical structure and the mystique they had built up within their little empires. Class in the 1830's riddled the Post Office system and the staffs were regularly reminded of their places. The clerks chosen to work on the first TPO's were not selected by the standards applied many years later but by their status and there is a suggestion, with a touch of nepotism! Relatives of highly placed officials were among the first to become 'Men of the Iron Road'.
From the outset, whoever had been chosen to operate the new service would most certainly have found things very different from what they had been used to previously. Even in the pre Victorian era the offices did have some form of heating and basic facilities, including eating and toilet arrangements. The trials with TPO's, commenced in January 1838, had no form of heating, sanitation and very poor lighting on the carriage. Once the train moved, despite the excellence of the craftsmanship, draughts would have been evident and the cold conditions would have intensified as the journey progressed. Anyone who has ever tried to sort mail, write and tie knots would know of the uncomfortable situation faced by the staff. The windows were most certainly not double-glazed and as is evident from the drawing of the first carriage, they had a net on the side of the vehicle to collect mail on the move. Exciting as this may have been to the newly recruited staff, it would have added further discomfort when in use.
The initial furnishings appear to have been simple transplants of fittings from land based sorting offices and had none of the padded protection added in later years. No doubt this would all have been part of the steep learning curve everyone involved had to climb. As stated, lighting was not good, being provided from paraffin lamps in the roof and although these men would have been used to such forms of illumination, the fact that they were on the move would have made reading more difficult. Anyone who has seen the handwritten letters from that period will know that they are difficult to read and often written in a barely legible hand. These items are sometimes difficult to read under modern lighting system on a stable surface - imagine trying to do the same on an oscillating carriage in very indifferent light!
Once the vehicle had been loaded with mails, and these would have been few compared to the quantities handle per man in later years, the train would have got underway. It is not difficult to imagine the slow, violently lurching start with un-braked vehicles banging together as the train accelerated. It is likely that rates of no more than 40 mph were achieved but to the people of 1838 who had never experienced anything faster than a running horse, such speeds would have been truly impressive. The vehicle wheels were cast and not precision turned, designed to run on equally well-machined bearings. The rails were crude by modern standards and together, these rails and wheels on fairly primitive springs together with the loose coupled un-braked vehicles, would have meant that those early TPO men would, at best, have had a very difficult time.
In 1858 Doctor Lewis was asked to investigate conditions for staff working on TPO's and his findings were a rather interesting insight into conditions at that time. Although twenty years had elapsed since the first TPO rolled along the lines, Dr. Lewis gave his considered opinion that broad gauge lines were a far superior ride to the 'narrow gauge' or what we now know and refer to as the standard gauge. He was particularly scathing of the west coast route and referred to drivers who passed over points at major junctions at excessive speed.
Astonishingly, staff were allowed seven days annual holiday in 1858 but as these holidays were unpaid it will come as no surprise to learn that Dr. Lewis discovered that the men were working without rest for weeks on end. In fact only one man was known to have taken his holiday and he was 'of private means'. The long hours the men worked without a break had a debilitating effect on them and the doctor put this detail in his report. The Post Office disregarded this aspect of the report and only after years of what became known as the great "Post Office Agitation" were conditions to improve. Cynics might conclude that the Post Office waited until conditions changed for the better in other industries.
Conditions steadily improved among the staff as it did with rolling stock. The railways were under continuous pressure to improve efficiency, safety and conditions. The Post Office had considerable influence and powerful rights over the railway companies, and not unnaturally coaching stock had a high priority. For the TPO staff any improvement would have met with approval and facilities like gas lighting, sanitation and the means to brew a cuppa would have been a quantum leap forward. Carriages were equipped with padded edges to hard, sharply angled furniture and fittings. Cocoa matting was laid on the floors and low-pressure steam heating pipes were provided in the vehicles once through braking and screw link couplings were introduced. Eventually corridor connections became de rigueur and on board conditions could then be described as acceptable. Clerestory roofs were built in to some carriages and draught excluders in the form of heavy beige curtains were fitted to all side and end doors.
The original carriages were a short wheel based four-wheeled design. Six- wheeled carriages followed with articulated carriages being introduced on the Great Northern Railway. Eight-wheeled vehicles were used on the London & North Western Railway and allowed the length of the carriages to be increased, an important factor to those who worked in them. Eventually bogie wheels were designed allowing the vehicles to be increased in length to 60ft. plus, in keeping with modern vehicles still in use at the present time. Over the years the carriages rode more smoothly and their sophisticated design allowed sorting to take place at speeds up to 90mph.
The corridor connections were not of a standard design and were offset as opposed to the normal centrally located versions on regular passenger stock. There appear to be two schools of thought as to why these connections were offset - that they were so located to allow for the space occupied by the sorting fittings constructed on one side of the vehicle or that they were so designed to prevent access to and from the passenger vehicles often attached to TPO's. It would not have been difficult to design the internal furnishings of a TPO to allow central positioning of the gangway, even on the first vehicles to be equipped with connectors. However, bearing in mind the Post Office paranoia with keeping its activities close to its chest and certainly not encouraging public access to its inner workings, the idea of keeping passengers out of TPO's would seem logical.
Of course things did change and members of the public were invited to inspect and learn of the activities of the TPO's but this did not happen until the mid 1980s. The only way that accounts of early TPO duty are known are from the writings of officials and the occasional carefully selected visitor. The Post Office always reserved the right to examine any writings that found their way into the public domain and only sanitized versions ever appeared in print.
Collecting information about the early TPO's is very difficult to amass and reference has to be made to various sources. Newspapers provide reports of accidents, new services, memoirs of retiring officers and other snippets. Official reports of railway accidents where mail trains were involved and railway reports relating to service arrangements also furnish considerable detail. Postal historians writing in private journals have contributed much to this little known service that did so much to improve communications in the British Isles.
The Various Services
The TPO system was constrained only by route availability in the same way as the mail coaches were by the roads. Of course the Post Office did not need TPO's on every set of rails anymore than it did coaches on every road, it would not have been economic or expedient.
Initially, most of the TPO services ran out of London in roughly the same route pattern as that provided by the road services with the only significant difference being the West Coast route. In mail coach days the routes to Cornwall and the West Country, Dover, Norwich, Cardiff, Holyhead and Birmingham were of paramount importance but none were as significant as the route to York, Newcastle and Edinburgh along the Great North Road. When the railways were laid the West Coast route assumed a great significance providing access to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, the industrial northwest, Carlisle and Glasgow. The East Coast route, while still very important and serving the same towns and cities, as did the Great North Road, was not embraced with quite the same enthusiasm by the Post Office and the TPO service as the West Coast route. Eventually, and in the heyday of the TPO service, the Up and Down Specials supported by the North West Night Down TPO, traversed the West Coast route. These were without doubt the greatest TPO services to work in Britain.
There were many important subsidiary services running across country to make up all parts of the postal system from short run District Sorting Carriages to three or four coach trains like the Shrewsbury - York service and the Midland TPO. Their history is a long and fascinating one, most of it as yet un-researched and unrecorded.
Peterborough: An Important Mail Centre
In 1844 Peterborough was a small market town into which two road mail coach services ran up and down each day. In 1845 this small market town grew rapidly after it was served with a railway line from Blisworth on the London & Birmingham Railway. This line ran east from Blisworth through Northampton, Wellingborough, Thrapston, Oundle, Wansford (Sibson) and into Peterborough. This was the very first railway route into London and so important was it to the townsfolk of Peterborough and the surrounding area, that on the day in June 1845 the line opened for passenger traffic the population of the city doubled.
The Post Office authorities were quick to recognise the potential of this railway service and by December 1845 a contract was drawn up to have mails conveyed over the line. The road coach services between Lincolnshire and London were truncated at Peterborough and the mails and passengers taken the rest of the way by train. At first the significance of the relationship between rail and mail did not manifest itself to the good burghers of Peterborough or for that matter the Post Office.
Shortly after the London & Birmingham line from Blisworth arrived in Peterborough, the Eastern Counties 'Ely & Peterborough' line opened in 1846 with an end on connection. In fact the London & Birmingham line used the Eastern Counties station in Peterborough before the owning company. The Midland Counties 'Syston to Peterborough, line (fully opened in 1848) had its own station but it was short lived and they too used the facilities at the Eastern Counties station. Finally, the defining railway construction took place when the Great Northern Railway built its lines from Doncaster via Lincolnshire (opened 1848), from London to join up the route to Doncaster (opened 1859) and then the direct through route "Towns Line" via Grantham, Newark and Retford (opened in 1852).
Within seven years Peterborough, the sleepy little market town, had become a very important railway junction having rail access to all parts of the country. Each one of these railway companies was contracted to convey mails and over the years a TPO, District Sorting Carriage or Bag Tender served each of the aforementioned routes at some period.
Peterborough Post Office, due almost entirely to the railways, grew from a tiny one roomed Receiving Office with one elderly lady Letter Carrier to one of only thirteen great General Forwarding Offices. Almost from the very beginning Peterborough Post Office was served by TPO services and it is this long association between mail and rail, and in particular the TPO system, that the Nene Valley Railway is seeking to perpetuate.
Peterborough and the TPO System
The very first connection with the TPO service is a little hazy. There is strong reason to believe that from the outset the line from Blisworth to Peterborough conveyed mails prepared on TPO's using the London & Birmingham railway. The "Rutland & Stamford Mercury" reported in December 1845 that the Post Office had signed a contract with London & Birmingham Railway to convey mails over the line from Blisworth to Peterborough including mails from the moving railway post office, undoubtedly a TPO, almost certainly Peterborough's first ever association with the service.
Whether a TPO, Sorting Carriage or Bag Tender ever traversed the line in the very early years is open to conjecture. It is known that in 1892 Bletchley to Peterborough and Blisworth to Peterborough Bag Tenders, and Peterborough to Bletchley and Peterborough to Northampton Bag Tenders existed. It is also a matter fact that in 1889 a working timetable produced for the southern area of the London & North Western Railway, designated the 8pm ex Peterborough for Rugby and the 2.10am ex Rugby for Peterborough as "Mail." It is curious that of all the great many trains listed in this working timetable, only this service was headed mail. Further to this, a Post Office Inspector known to the compiler of this history, and who worked in the Victorian era recalls a TPO service over this line. Add to this the fact that Wansford was known to be a Railway Sub Office, which, to obtain that status, received all or part its mail from a TPO, begs further questions. Finally, and which is referred to later, in 1966 the vital Peterborough to Rugby mail train ceased and a TPO was created as a result, not to mention the Nene Valley Railway.
Despite the best efforts of postal historians little is known of early TPO business. There is reason to believe that services of a short-lived nature proliferated in the early days driven by perceived needs that did not manifest themselves in practice. The sheer weight of traffic, increasing almost weekly, found the Post Office management struggling with a logistical nightmare, the like of which it had never encountered previously. Not unnaturally, desperate measures were called for and a classic example of this took place at Peterborough in 1856 when day mails between London and March, Wisbech and Kings Lynn were being seriously delayed.
It would seem logical to have mails for Norfolk and Cambridgeshire conveyed by the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) but for these more northerly parts of East Anglia it was more expedient to bring them up to Peterborough. Once at Peterborough, it was a simple matter to transfer them to an ECR train, where in a very short time they would have arrived at their destination. At least that was the theory. There were however, problems that had to be overcome and that were peculiar to Peterborough.
Peterborough had two stations, the Great Northern Railway (GNR) station (to become known as Peterborough North) and the ECR station (to become known as Peterborough East). The London day mails arrived at the North station at which place they had to be off-loaded at the down side platform, put onto barrows and taken to a foot crossing where they were taken off the barrow and carried across the rails to the up side platform. This process would have taken 10 minutes at best to achieve. Then, once on the up side platform mails for the east would have been loaded onto a horse drawn cart or more probably a handcart. A 15-minute transfer between North and East stations would have ensued, and this would have been a best time. Once at the East station a further 5 minutes would have been required to off-load from the hand-cart and then onto the waiting train.
So, we have a situation where simply transferring bags from one train to another would have taken at least half an hour and any slight hiccup could have extended this time considerably. The Postmaster General had his surveyors investigate the matter and the ECR Company agreed to delay the departure of their train by ten minutes. This was to be of no avail and the situation required an urgent solution. As the London down mail arrived at Peterborough it passed within 400 yards of the ECR station when it passed over the London North Western (LNWR) and Midland Counties (MCR) lines, both of which had an end on connection with the ECR.
The Post Office, who had very considerable influence over the railway companies, were quick to realise that here was an instance where the TPO system could be used to good effect. They recommended the establishment of mailbag exchange equipment on the approach to Peterborough, on the GNR line, enabling the mails to be conveyed to the ECR station much more speedily - probably within 10 minutes. Sadly, despite rigorous investigation it has proven to be impossible to discover where precisely this exchange took place. As it was simply a train to lineside drop, it could have taken place on the embankment close to the bridge over the LNWR and MCR lines. Only a pick up from the lineside, requiring the use of the carriage net, would have imposed clearance restrictions.
All the major companies running into Peterborough had TPO's working over their metals with first coming into the city via the ECR route. The Cambridge District Sorting Carriage, according to J. G. Hendy "...was extended to London & Peterborough (via Ely) on 15 September 1858...." H. S. Wilson suggests that this might be erroneous saying that the duty was expanded in 1867.
There is some evidence to suggest that in fact Hendy knew of an arrangement that provided for the sorting of mail between Peterborough and Ely in 1858 and if it was not the Cambridge District Sorting Carriage then it was another, as yet undiscovered mail sorting vehicle that was involved. A minute of the ECR dated 1858 stated that their Carriage Superintendent was required to raise the roof of a second class carriage, "....to allow the mail guard to deal with his letters between Peterborough and Ely..."
In those early days the need for vehicles in which to sort mail must have been a high priority for the Post Office, and the situation would have been fluid with the burgeoning railway system and the ever-increasing volume of letter mail. As with the lineside apparatus at Peterborough, urgent needs demanded immediate responses. The heightening of carriage roofs would have been a simple solution to a pressing difficulty. A mail guard was a title carried forward from the days of the horse drawn coach but had a different meaning in 1858 - it meant a grade similar to a postman/sorter. It is well known that very early carriages were not designed to accommodate standing passengers, hence the need to raise the roof. It is essential to understand that in those far off days 'necessity was the mother of invention' in every sense of the word.
Eventually an established service between Peterborough and Ely came into being in the form of the Peterborough & Ely Sorting Carriage that was established on 2 August 1869, replacing the Peterborough to London Railway Post Office of which little is know but may well have been the service referred to above. The Peterborough & Ely S. C. ceased on the night of 3/4 June 1916.
The Grimsby & Peterborough Sorting Carriage was a latecomer into the lists commencing on 1 April 1900 and ceasing on the 30/31 March 1917. This service ran over a well-established route, which opened in 1850 throughout and was always known by Peterborough railway and postal staff as "The Loop". Right from day one the Post Office had an interest in the line and a mail service was established under contract, the times of which the Post Office dictated. In 1850 the train for Grimsby left Peterborough a 2.00am - in 1960 the train carrying mails and traversing the same route departed Peterborough at 2.40am. It was still referred to as "The Loop" and was still a highly significant mail service.
The Great Northern Bag Tender was another service that ran through and transacted postal business with Peterborough. The GNR route is something of an enigma. It was a fast and efficient route between London and the North East, and onto Edinburgh. Strangely it was one of the last routes to have any kind of TPO service running over it and this is all the more curious when one understands that this line of railway ran along virtually the same route as the premier road of coaching days, the Great North Road.
According to Wilson in "The Traveling Post Offices of Great Britain & Ireland - Their History and Postmarks", Rowland Hill saw the establishment of the GNR as an attempt by a railway company to force the Post Office to use yet another service and was not at all enamoured of the idea. It would appear that a Bag Tender service was not established until 1871 and this was the first Post Office staffed mail service over GNR lines ! This is directly at odds with the information referred to above, where, in 1856, the Postmaster General requested and approved a facility for mailbag exchange equipment to be installed to ensure that the London Day Mails connected with Eastern Counties service.
It is very likely that the Post Office in the early days of railway operation set up ad hoc arrangements for sorting carriage and bag tender workings as and when they were required. The 1856 arrangement for mailbag exchanged on the Great Northern Railway and the raising of carriage roofs on the Eastern Counties Railway are typical examples. I strongly believe that many such services were tried and a great number were withdrawn with only the ones that became established being recognised and named as TPO services.
In 1910 a sorting duty was established (Great Northern TPO) followed by the creation of the London-York-Edinburgh and North Eastern TPO's. The LYE TPO has now finished and for a short period the NETPO did not run through Peterborough. At the time of writing, the NETPO continues to work through Peterborough but only runs between Willesden and Newcastle and is the last remaining TPO service to use Peterborough.
The East Anglian TPO began in 1929 and was the result of a major reorganisation following a period when numerous TPO's. District Sorting Carriages, Railway Post Offices and Bag Tenders proliferated throughout the eastern region. Connected closely with this service and also established as a result of the 1929 scheme was the Norwich - London TPO.
The last Peterborough staffed service was the Peterborough - Ely S. C. but there was always a heavy use of inter-connecting rail services from the busy railway junction city. When the EATPO commenced it had a section working from Kings Lynn via March and Ely and joining the main section at Haughley. This section was never really very efficient as it failed to deal with the increasing volume of distribution traffic. During the Second World War these services ceased and did not resume until 1946. Eventually, in October 1949 the Kings Lynn service was withdrawn and the service was extended to Peterborough.
At this time Peterborough was a significant General Forwarding Office and the influx of Eastern and Essex mails from Lincolnshire, the Midlands and Northwest were proving too much to handle. The establishment of the EATPO (Peterborough Section) was an inspired move and this became one of the hardest worked sections in the TPO network. For over forty years the Peterborough staff worked 'cheek by jowl' with their Norwich colleagues between their respective home stations and London Liverpool Street.
Although the Peterborough Section finished in 1990, as did the Norwich - London TPO, the East Anglian continues working between Norwich, Willesden and Dover.
In 1966 on 6th June the Peterborough - Crewe - Peterborough TPO came into being. This TPO has a direct link with the present Nene Valley Railway, for not only was it the cessation of rail services that ran over the metals between Peterborough and Rugby, and the subsequent loss of mail services, that inspired the creation of the TPO but also provided the trackbed for the NVR.
The Peterborough - Crewe services ran via Stamford, Leicester, Derby, Stoke on Trent to Crewe and return. At Derby the Lincoln Section, that had replaced the Lincoln - Tamworth Bag Tender, joined the main TPO. Over the years the route varied from time to time but basically remained as it commenced until its cessation in 1991. Peterborough and Lincoln crews throughout its existence staffed this TPO.
At the cessation of the Peterborough - Crewe TPO service, the Lincoln staff lost their TPO connection while the Peterborough staff crewed the Peterborough - Carlisle TPO that replaced it in 1991. This was not a return or 'out and back' service and Carlisle staff were required to work this mail on one side while Peterborough staff worked the other. This TPO went out from Peterborough following the route of the service it had replaced. Once at Crewe it proceeded northwards on the West Coast Main Line to Carlisle. On its return journey from Carlisle the TPO went across country to Newcastle and then southwards along the East Coast Main Line to Peterborough. In 1996 this service ceased and meant that after many years Peterborough no longer had TPO staff on its strength.
The TPO service has a long and proud tradition, which, over recent years, has become a very small part of the modern postal system. Many of its practices and internal systems of working have become diluted through modern management systems. It would appear that the Post Office or Consignia has come full circle and if recent staff/management enquiries are to be believed, the great period of Victorian postal agitation is with us again. Who knows but one day, Consignia may rediscover railways as a more efficient and environmentally friendly way of moving mail.