Sorting Barrow's post behind a steam locomotive

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19 March 2017 4:17PM

IN 1985 the General Post Office was celebrating its 350th anniversary and one of the events was a special steam-hauled Whitehaven to Huddersfield night trip by a travelling post office.

It was pictured at Barrow station in early September that year during a brief stop in its nightly four-and-three-quarter hour journey.

Normally the TPO was pulled by a modern diesel locomotive but for the anniversary celebrations it was provided with a steam engine.

It was 44767 George Stephenson, a Stanier “Black 5” loco which was built at Crewe Works in 1947.

The TPO is a type of mail train where post is sorted during the journey by a team of very fast-working sorters.

Bags of post could be picked up or dropped off while the train was moving at high speed, using special nets on posts at the side of the track.

The sorting carriages also had a posting box in the side – which could be used to deposit envelopes which it was standing at a station.

The first mail was carried by trains from 1830 on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

Mail was first sorted on a moving train in January 1838 in a converted horse box on England’s Grand Junction Railway.

The last TPO trip was on January 9 in 2004, although the Whitehaven to Huddersfield run had finished on September 27 in 1991.

Railway sorting on the Cumbria coastal route was originally from Carnforth to Whitehaven and began officially in January 1875 but may date back to 1869.

In July 1926 the sorting service was extended from Carnforth to Preston – a trip from Whitehaven of around three hours and 20 minutes.

The service was suspended from September 1940 to October 1946.

In January 1965 to Whitehaven run was extended to Stalybridge and from January 1966 to Huddersfield.

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