Scottish Railway Preservation Society Collections pages

Mk.1 Post Office Sorting (POS) coach No.80382

Mk.1 Post Office Sorting coach No.80382
Outside the Carriage Shed, Bo'ness, 5/3/08. Photo SRPS.

SRPS Core Collection, acquired 2007. Designated by the Railway Heritage Committee, donated by EWS.
For display, Royal Mail red livery.
Built 1975-7, York, with no nets or arms. Diagram 726A, Lot 900.

Postal traffic was carried by rail from the earliest days of the national network, and became a major traffic. Mail was carried by passenger train and by dedicated mail trains. The latter, operating a complex network throughout Britain, included Travelling Post Office (TPO) coaches, in which letter mail and packets were sorted while en-route. The coaches were fitted out with sorting racks for the purpose. They also carried specal apparatus by which mailbags could be set down and picked up en route and at speed. The trains travelled by night and were never in the public eye, except when in 1936 W.H.Auden wrote his famous poem Night Mail for the equally famous documentary film of the same name, which was produced by the GPO Film Unit.

However, the national mail train network, then operated by EWS Railways, was withdrawn as an economy by the debt ridden Royal Mail in January 2004, making the fleet of travelling post office coaches redundant. Since 2004, some mail has moved again by train, but without on-board sorting facilities. Royal Mail now use high speed automatic sorting machinery at main sorting offices, reducing the need for hand sorting.

Coach No.80382 is a comparatively new Post Office Sorting (POS) vehicle. It was built after the practice of collecting and setting down mail bags at speed had ended, and was not provided with the equipment. The interior is equipped with sorting frames along one side, sized for letters and for packets. Only First Class mail was sorted on-board, and there is a late-posting box on both sides for public use. The coach was last used on the West of England service, and retains the name "fillets" at each pigeon hole for stations on the main line to Penzance. Expert Sorters knew the pigeon hole identities without these!

The coach shows the small security windows which were fitted to mail coaches after the criminal attack on a mail train in August 1963. All doors are fitted with pins which secure them closed from the inside. Mail was never left unattended in these coaches, and a special search for any remaining mail was conducted before the end of each working shift.

After the privatisation of British Railways, ownership of the vehicles used for postal traffic passed to English, Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS), who generously donated 80382 for preservation as a tribute to the railway's long standing contribution to postal services. The coach will be on display in the Scottish Railway Exhibition at Bo'ness Station during 2008.

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