TPO -> The TPOs of Brazil

The TPOs of Brazil

By Jay G Walmsley FRPSL

In 1493 Pope Alexander VI divided the New World of the Americas in two, the west to Spain and the east to Portugal. The eastern section became Brazil and somewhat amazingly, despite the differences between the various states, it managed to stay together as one nation and is now the fifth largest country in the world. That makes it both pretty big and Portuguese speaking.

There was a great need for railways. As the song puts it, "There's an awful lot of coffee in Brazil". The mines in the state of Minas Gerais were rich in minerals. All these products and more had to be got to the coast. Railways were built from the cities along the coast to tap the inland wealth. There were a lot of them, usually promoted by local enterprise, designed to reach port outlets or navigable rivers. There was little coordination between them and various gauges were employed although 1600 mm and metre gauge became the two most widely used. Much of Brazil is on a plateau with a considerable and often sharp drop to sea level. This made railway building much more difficult and is of course why metre gauge was so popular.

As is usual in South America, one had only to put down a length of track and a TPO appeared. It is easy to see why; they were much safer and faster than the horse riders or mule trains that preceded them. The Post Office was quick to take advantage. Thus the number of travelling post offices was considerable with the various cancellations employed even more numerous. It is a fascinating area to study and whilst there is guidance available, the definitive work has yet to be produced.

The article by Helmuth Ponge and Donald D Smythe "The TPOs of Brazil" (actually of São Paulo State) published between 1965 and 1970 in the TPO Journal Vol. 19 et seq, sadly unfinished, is a mine of information.

The record of the cancellations that I have found so far (September 2023) "The Travelling Post Offices of Brazil - A Personal Record" is available as a free download [13Mb].

Examples of Brazilian Travelling Post Office cancellations:-


Used on the São Paulo Railway on 9 March 1886.

Used by the conductor on the EF Bragantina train on 25 July 1950 on the run from Campo Limpo to Vargem.

Used on the Paulista train (second train, no. 1 crew) from Campinas to São Paulo on 25 November 1895 on the card's journey to Rio de Janeiro.

Used on the Rede de Viacão Paraná train between Paranaguá and Curityba on 20 May 1933.

Used on the Mogyana Railway express train to São Paulo on 20 December 1909.


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