The origins of the Railway Letter Service dates from 1891 when a number of railway companies and the General Post Office agreed to a system whereby letters could be accelerated on their journey by handing them in at a station for an extra fee.
The various railway companies involved produced their own stamps to a design agreeable to both parties. At that time the ordinary postage was one penny and the railway company charged two pence. It was a particularly useful service for journeymen, commercial travellers and other businessmen away from home and requiring communication with their head offices. It also proved very useful for placing orders at the end of a day’s business, being sent by rail and collected by the recipient. This allowed the order to be processed straight away and dispatched to the customer almost by return.
Over the years the service gradually fell into disuse and during BR days was almost extinguished. However, the heritage railway movement kept the service alive.
Nene Valley Railway started its Railway Letter Service in 1986, joining a number of other Heritage Railways who had signed the Railway Letter Service Agreement with the Post Office in 1974. The agreement permits the Heritage Railways to charge a fee for the carriage of mail by rail, issue their own Railway Letter Service stamps for this purpose and allow for the cancellation of those RLS stamps within clearly defined rules.
In addition to designing its own RLS stamps, NVR also produces first day and commemorative covers which, along with the stamps, are becoming very collectible for both the railway and philatelic enthusiast.
NVR usually issues three or four new stamps, in sheets of nine, each year with an associated first day cover. These issues quite often correspond to and complement stamp issues and first day covers from Royal Mail. In addition a number of limited edition covers are produced to reflect events happening on the railway. We hope to have our catalogue on the NVR website very soon, along with our latest newsletter which details forthcoming issues.
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As from 1st April 2014 and as a result of the Royal Mail postage increase RLS single stamp covers will go up from £4.50 to £5.00. Heritage covers will remain at £4.00 for this current (2nd) series. Covers with full sets of RM stamps will continue to be priced in relation to the stamp value included on the cover. Our normal UK postage and packing flat charge will increase from £1.00 to £1.50.
Starting with the New England proof, we can now provide framed proof sheets at £42.00 including P&P.