Railway Letter Service


On the 1st February 1891 most of the railway companies in Great Britain entered into an agreement with the Post Office whereby letters could be carried by the railways between any two railway stations throughout the country.
This provided a very fast service for urgent letters. On arrival at the station of destination the letter could either be called for by the addressee or be posted on to its ultimate address. In either case the ordinary postage for the letter had to be paid by affixing postage stamp(s), 1d in 1891, in the normal way, as well as the fee paid to the railway company. The railway initially accepting the letter, irrespective of it being carried by other railway companies during its journey, collected the railway fee of 2d in 1891.
The Talyllyn Railway was included in the 1891 agreement but did not operate a railway letter service until May 23rd 1957, when the railway fee was 11d and the ordinary postage was 2½ d.

The TR News of March 1957 had the following announcement in the publicity section.


Then in the July 1957 News, again in the publicity section the following announcement appeared.


The two sheets of stamps printed in 1957.



The 1891 agreement continued after the formation of British Railways, who dictated the level of charges for all the railways. British Railways ceased to operate a letter service from June 8th 1984, when the BR fee was £2.08p.
In 1974 a new agreement was made between the Post Office and the railways that operated a railway letter service. This agreement allowed an independent railway to operate a railway letter service over its own system for a fee (10p in 1974, 25p since 1990) set by the Association of Independent Railways. If a letter was carried by more than one railway then a fee had to be paid to each one.
In the mid-1990s Royal Mail began to modernize the postal service. Negotiations were held with representatives from the railway letter services and the Association (now Heritage Railways Ltd), and a new agreement came in to effect on December 18th 1998. This agreement is a contract directly between Royal Mail and the individual railway companies. The service recognises only one weight band of up to 100g. The railway rate remains unchanged at 25p in addition to First Class Postage.
The service currently provided by the Talyllyn Railway operates under the 1998 Agreement, with most postcards and/or letters carried to be posted on arrival at Tywyn Wharf.

The 50 anniversary of the service was commemorated by a sheet of stamps based in part on the 1957 designs.


The covers bearing the sheet of stamps were carried on a special train on Wednesday May 23rd 2007. The train is seen here at Abergynolwyn.


Photos by Neill Oakley.
Many thanks to David Broadbent and his predecessors who ran the letter service – Messrs Cope, Adams, English, Watterson and Sara Eade, without whose work we wouldn’t have been able to celebrate the 50 years of the service. Thanks also to the RLS committee with out whose help the service wouldn’t run.