Association of


Railway Modellers

Reports prior to October 2022 can be found here.

Below are the most recent reports.

5th June 2024.


Mail coaches to TPOs; the early railway vehicles of the post office (1830-1845) - including some  influences on early carriage design.  Talk by Tom Nicholls.



On Wednesday 5th June, Tom Nicholls from London gave a detailed and fascinating presentation on early mail carriages. His level of knowledge based on extensive original research using primary sources really shone through and made for an excellent evening.


Mail vehicles (1830 – 1850)

Early Mail vehicles can be divided in to those that carried mail bags as well as passengers and those which carried and sorted letters (but didn’t carry passengers).


The story starts on the common roads with horsedrawn mail coaches, which were introduced in the 1790s. Looking at the livery details and the fact that these horsedrawn carriages carried only four passengers inside unlike early stage coaches with predominantly were 6 inside.


Jump forward to the Liverpool & Manchester railway in 1830 and within a year they had converted their early four inside carriages to a form of mail coach on wheels, which was called a ‘railway mail coach’. This continued the tradition of four inside passengers only, although they had three compartments, meaning they carried twelve in total and a mail guard outside guarding the mail.


Some context was discussed regarding early LM coaching building practice looking at how the four inside carriage bodies were likely built as traditional (road) carriage bodies joined together.

Myths and red herrings caused by how prints from the period were made and modified and individually coloured were shown to have caused problems in interpretation. Some past interpretations were shown to be incorrect.


How mail coaches developed on the LM the Grand Junction Railway and London & Birmingham was outlined and some details as to how they were operated by those railway companies was briefly considered. How livery continued from the stage coach origins and how the GJR introduced the dormeuse to the Mail coach design in preparation of trips from London to Liverpool.


The story then swung to the first TPOs and baggage wagons. The well known beginnings of the GJR horse box experiment were shown with new information on the how the L&B took over the development of the TPO for the line from London to Liverpool & Manchester.


Time limitations unfortunately curtailed a look at horse box origins of baggage tenders and the influence of railway mail coach design on contemporaneous and later carriage design of which Chris Cox had brought along some examples in 4mm scale for his Coventry 1839 project.

Tom Nicholls.