The Story Of Our Travelling Post-Offices SOMEBODY POSTED A COW (LATE FEE) The Sunday Herald (Sydney,… Sunday 29 October 1950


The Story Of Our Travelling Post-Offices




ALMOST half the mail handled by Australian post-offices is sorted in mail vans as New South Wales

express trains roar through the night at 50 to 60

miles an hour.

THIS is the way the Post

office saves time in de-livering letters for all parts of the Commonwealth.

New South Wales is the only State with this system. The reason is its geographical position in the Commonwealth and the length of its railway network.

All sorts of articles are sorted and once a cow technically became late fee (overweight).

The 74 specially selected officers who operate the five main lineT.P.O.s have good cause to be proud of the branch’s record, for not one man has been charged with pilfering since the inception of the service nearly 80 years ago.

The T.P.O. service starts at the Mail Custodian’s room, Central Station, where 10,000 bags approximately II million articles are handled daily.

The room is connected to Sydney’s 23 platforms by a network of tunnels and lifts.

The T.P.O. itself is the mail van attached to express trains.

Each van is a large mail room staffed by men who must know the location of 4,500 towns and villages in the State.

To assist them remember these names the Department prepared613 stories. Each story was named after a central town and included all post-offices served by the central district office.

On the Northern T.P.O. to Glen Innes there are 143 central and1,000 district post-offices.

A short story to cover Aberdeen and its six small district offices


Aberdeen: Davis (Davis Creek), the Dean of Aberdeen,fired darts into the brook (Dart-brook) that were made of rough shell (Rouchell Brook) (UpperRouchell). When the darts burst there was à danger in the field(Dangarfield) so the Dean advised the spectators to watch the game from the brush on the hill (Brushy Hill).


WHEN I joined the North Coast T.P.O., and accompanied the first shift from Sydney to Kempsey, grey-haired, jovial. Mr. L.B. ("Tim") Young was in charge.

Mr. Young has travelled more than 14 million miles during his 33


His assistants were Messrs. Gordon Donovan and Jim Fordham.

They had been working in the van for three hours when the train left at 8.15 p.m.

The bag rack was "dressed" with180 bags and the sorting bench was covered with letters, packages and parcels.

This post-office is travelling at 60 miles per hour, but you’d never guess it by looking at the sorters.

"Tim" Young was sorting into150 pigeonholes.

The majority carried no town identification, but he said, "You get to know where they are."

As the train gathered speed I was

tossed from side to side.

"It’s rougher in here than in a carriage," said Gordon Donovan."I hope you don’t get train sick like some of our chaps who have. had to toss in the job because they were sick for the whole journey."

When the train reached the North Coast line it was much rougher.

1 hung on with both hands for hours, but the T.P.O.. men were standing firm footed and swaying with the van as the express roared through the thickly timbered north coast country at speeds of from30-60 m.p.h.

They flicked letters into pigeon-holes, bundles and parcels into bags, and wrote out despatch notes.

These men have been over the ‘track so often that they can instinctively pinpoint the train’s position although working within the enclosed mail room.

"Tim" Young would pick up a bag, walk to the back of the van and toss from the open doorway as a platform was reached.

His action was mechanical, and

the bag would drop on a barrow or a

slide across the platform to the stationmaster’s office.

"Tim" Young said: "When I was on the South they used to call us the travelling ghost. For years I threw out mail in the darkness to people I had never seen, but I always felt I knew them.

"On the North-west, the boys are in closer contact with people living beside the line in the outback.They see them in daylight. One of them makes up parcels of lollies and gifts which he throws with the mail for the children.

You see some funny mail

matter at times. I have even seen a cow posted late fee.

"That happened on the South some years ago. The cow was discovered when I went to the back of the van to collect some bags.

"The cow remained there until we chased it out at Cootamundra.

"We afterwards learned that one of our own chaps ‘posted’ the cow while we were asleep during the day.

"Our biggest problem is handling letters which people address with a via. We don’t want via on any mail matter. The town of destination is sufficient.

When the train was nearing Kempsey Gordon Donovan picked

up a newspaper and moved to the doorway.

"Must not miss my little blonde,"

he said.

Out went the paper, to be caught by a pyjama-clad four-year-old girl who was standing at a tent doorway.

The T.P.O. men had a 10-hour break at Kempsey while a relief staff went on to South Grafton.

In the evening they rejoined the van on the return trip to Sydney.

To save time, the Post-office often has to send mail AWAY

from the point for which it is intended.

For instance, mail for Queens-land loaded at Grafton doesn’t go direct to Queensland ‘. but back towards Sydney for 150 miles

on the North Coast=Sydney mail train while it’s sorted out. Then completely sorted-it’s thrown on

to the north-bound Brisbane Ex-press at Taree.

On the return trip 112 suburban bags were added to the rack,

This enables suburban mail to be delivered direct to its destination without passing through the


City sorters will soon be attached to the T.P.O.s to sort city letters and have them ready for delivery on arrival of the train at Central.


One thought on “THE MAIL TRAINS”

  1. My father worked the North Coast and Moree runs for 25 years.
    He said it was so cold in the mail van in winter that frost formed on the inside walls. There was no form of heating in the van.
    My father was Alex Kerr and he worked with his mates, Manny Bloomfield and Vern Wittenbury.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s