BNAPS Railway Post Office Study Group

MT-1 Albert and Salisbury RPO postmark dated 3 Aug. 1931
Train 255, 3 Aug. 1931
QC-98 Levis and Riviere-du-Loup RPO postmark with RPO clerk's name, J. A. Dionne, dated
                     18 Dec. 1915
(RPO clerk name)
Train 45, 18 Dec. 1915
RY-87 Halifax and  S.W.R'Y. RPO postmark dated 18 May 1910
East, 18 May 1910
SN-10 Hamilton Canada duplex postmark used at GTRy station dated 22 Nov. 1910
11 AM, 22 Nov. 1910
Duplex used at GTRy station
Interior of a railway mail car

Inside the mail car

The photo was taken by Robert K. Lane at the Edmonton Railway Museum.

Collectors of Canadian RPOs and TPOs have many great references, some of which are available online. The references listed here are subdivided into the following categories:

Besides information on RPO and TRO postmarks, these references describe the history of the railway mail service and Canadian railways, and provide data on train station locations, routes, maps, schedules, etc. RPO collectors find great value in older railway maps and railway timetables. One of the intriguing aspects of RPO collecting is the challenge of tracing actual routes taken by covers showing many postmarks.

Some reference material for other specialties is useful in the study of RPOs. For example, several Canadian RPO postmarks are squared circles, and are catalogued in the Squared Circle Study Group handbook, Squared Circle Postmarks of Canada.

Catalogues and census compilations

Catalogue of Canadian Railway Post Office Cancellations and Related Railway Postmarks including Selected Waterway Postmarks, 2022 edition.
Ross Gray
BNAPS, 2022

This catalogue is the reference for listings of postmarks, correlations with train numbers, dates, and rarity factors. It provides a wealth of information about RPOs and their history.

Travelling Post Office Postmarks of Newfoundland & Labrador – A Study of the Postmark Hammers, (second edition)
Travelling Post Office Postmarks of Newfoundland & Labrador Compendium of Related Information
Brian Stalker
BNAPS, 2016

Because most official records for the Newfoundland Post Office were destroyed shortly after Confederation in 1949, it is not possible to produce a definitive work, but these two books draw together numerous pieces of a highly fragmented jigsaw into a nearly complete picture.

Update #2 - May 2020
Note: this is a cumulative update. It includes the data in Update #1 - Oct. 2018. This update was distributed as a supplement to the RPO Study Group newsletter, Vol. 48, No. 2, Apr.-June 2020.

Canadian Railway Post Office Database
Richard Cromwell and Brian Stalker
BNAPS website, 2022

An Excel spreadsheet maps Lionel F. Gillam’s list of railways with Ross Gray's list of Railway Post Offices. The spreadsheet includes the Gray and Lew Ludlow listing numbers for each RPO, the number of official and mail clerk hammers, the RPO mileage, the period of operation, and the year the railway began operating.

Introductory and explanatory notes are provided in a separate file.

Introductory notes (0.1 MB)
Excel spreadsheet (0.1 MB)

Newfoundland & Labrador Railway and Coastal Mail Steamer Database
Richard Cromwell and Brian Stalker
BNAPS website, 2022

An Excel spreadsheet maps Brian Stalker’s list of Newfoundland & Labrador RPOs and TPOs with the list compiled by Lew Ludlow. The spreadsheet includes the Stalker and Ludlow listing numbers for each RPO and TPO, the number of official and mail clerk hammers, the RPO/TPO mileage, the period of operation, and the year that service began.

Introductory and explanatory notes are provided in a separate file.

Introductory notes (0.2 MB)
Excel spreadsheet (0.1 MB)

MONT & TOR GT RY RPO cancel on Map Stamp

Railway Post Office (RPO) Postmarks of Canada on the 1898 Canadian 2¢ Imperial Penny Postage Issue (The ‘Map Stamp’): A Cover Census and a Roster of Off-Cover Cancellations (5.5 MB)
Rick Friesen
BNAPS website, 2021

About 250 Map Stamp covers postmarked with RPO hammer strikes are listed. The listing for each cover includes an illustration (if an image is available), RPO cancel identification, origin (if known), destination, and provenance. The census also updates the 1987 Lew Ludlow roster of RPO cancellations on off-cover Map stamps.

Proof Strikes of Canada; Vol. XVI, Transportation Proof Strikes of Canada, Part 1
Proof Strikes of Canada; Vol. XVII, Transportation Part 2 and Squared Circle Proof Strikes of Canada
J. Paul Hughes
Robert A. Lee, 1992

These two books are among several proof books published by Robert A. Lee. They provide detailed images of the original strikes of RPO postmarks. No additional information is included, but these books are very useful for clarifying poor strikes on stamps and covers.

Books, articles, and exhibits

On Track The Railway Mail Service in Canada
Susan McLeod O'Reilly
Canadian Museum of Civilization in cooperation with the National Postal Museum and Canada Post Corp., 1992. 151 pages.
Can be viewed online at the Internet Archive website.

Describes the operation of the Canadian railway mail service, its history, and its workers. Profusely illustrated. The Museum of Civilization prepared an exhibition on the railway mail service. The exhibition opened in January 1991 for a duration of seven months. Over 50 railway mail clerks were interviewed for the exhibition. The book draws upon the materials for the exhibition and expands upon it.

A History of Canadian R.P.O.s, 1853-1967
L. F. Gillam
American Philatelic Society, 1979

This book is organized by railway companies. It includes a short history of the development of each railway system, a chronological history of the RPOs used on the lines of the systems, pertinent dates and maps. Subsequent studies by many collectors have produced updates to this information so the reader should be careful to check information in this book where it is speculative. Nevertheless, the speculations offer real opportunities for new RPO collectors to embark on their own research - which is a bonus!

► NEW - Posted 9 July 2024◄
Instructions to Railway Mail Clerks (18.0 MB)
Controller, Railway Mail Service, Post Office Department
January 1913

Specifies the qualifications, duties, working conditions, and remuneration of railway mail clerks. Also describes their advancement in the Railway Mail Service, the conduct expected of them, and the care and treatment of mail and Post Office property.

You can complement the Post Office's booklet with reminiscences of actual railway mail clerks (RMC), the individuals who sorted the mail in rail cars on trains travelling from community to community, day after day.

► NEW - Posted 17 June 2024◄
Oshawa-Waterloo, Ontario Registered Letter (5.2 MB)
Frank R. Scheer
BNAPS website, 2024

This article traces the route taken by a registered letter mailed in 1937 from Oshawa to Waterloo, ON, and the speed with which the letter was delivered using the RPO postmarks on the back of the cover.

RPOs On The Mysterious Estevan Line
Railway Post Offices Postmarks Used in Southern Manitoba
Robert K. Lane
BNAPS website, 2008

These are exhibits by Robert K. Lane in the Online Resources & Exhibits (ORE) area of the BNAPS website. To view them, go to "Canada ● Postal History ● Railway Post Office" in the ORE Exhibits section.

Work area in the mail car Work area in the mail car

Work area in the mail car

The photos were taken by Robert K. Lane at the Edmonton Railway Museum.

Copyright © 2015 - 2024 The British North America Philatelic Society.
The documents on this website are for informational and non-commercial or personal use only.
Documents on this website shall not be used on other websites or for commercial purposes without permission.

This page was last modified on 2024-07-09