BR Mark 1 TPOs

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In the 1950’s, the newly formed British Railways embarked a programme of standardisation in bringing together the best practices from all the ‘Big Four’. As well as locomotives, this included carriages. BR built the standardised ‘Mark 1’ coach which was modified for a number of uses and variations including Travelling Post Offices.

At the Nene Valley Railway we currently have five Mark 1 TPOs. These are a mixture of ‘sorting’ coaches (With large frames inside where mail would be sorted on the move) and ‘stowage coaches’ (Where sorted and unsorted mail would be stored in bags).

Mail bags were exchanged on the move so the train did not have to stop in every village along the route that needed post delivering. The NVR is one of only 3 places in the UK which can perform mail drops at speed whilst on the move.

When British Railways were building their standardised Mark 1 coaches in the early 1950’s they continued to build pre-grouping TPOs. However by the late 1950’s many TPO’s were becoming life expired. As such, BR designed the Mark 1 TPOs, the first of which was built in 1959. The last coach was built in 1979, long after passenger carrying Mark 1 carriages were built.

These coaches were taken out of operational service in 2004 when five coaches were bought by the NVR. Four were bought for use in demonstration mail trains, whilst the fifth is used as a tools van for the civil engineering department. One of the sorting vehicles has been refitted with nets and arms to perform ‘mail drops’ on the move.

There are two sets of lineside apparatus that are able to do mail drops at Sutton Cross, just East of Wansford and at Yarwell Junction, to the West of Wansford.

The brake coach, in which the guard sits and works is currently in store awaiting overhaul.


80327 80337 80402 80456


The coaches are:

No. Type Year Built Built at Diagram Lot no. Current condition Notes
80327  Sorter 1968/9 York  728 30778 Operational Built with provision for traductor arms but not nets. On 20th June 1995 this arraige was named "George James" at Penzance Station in recognition of over 40 years service to the TPOs by Penzance based George James. This vehicle was also the last but one TPO to be given a major overhaul.
80337 Sorter 1968/9 York 729  30779  Operational - Fitted with equipment for lineside exchanges 

Built with the ability to carry exchange equipment, but never carried it in service. This vehicle was modified in later years to include a system called "Priority Service". The vehicle was in use on the final night of the TPO services when it formed part of the Great Western TPO.

Since preserved at the NVR it has had traductor arms and nets fitted to conduct TPO drops. The vehicle has been named "Brian White" in recognition of NVR volunteer and former TPO operator Brian White's services to TPOs continued operation and preservation.

80402 Stowage 1959 Wolverton 722  30488  Operational  Built with both an apparatus net and traductor arms. The vehicle  is the only mark 1 stowage van with apparatus ability to survive. The other two, 80400 and 80401 both having been scrapped.
80456 Brake Stowage 1968 York 733  30782  In store, requiring overhaul  Built with a brake compartment at one end to accommodate a guard. THis enabled complete rakes of TPOs to be marshalled without the need to use any passenger carrying brake vehicles.
80417 Stowage  1968  York  732 30781 Used by the NVR's civil engineering dept. as a stores van/workshop