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TPOs of Ceylon / Sri Lanka

Click to enlarge Map of Ceylon's TPO system By Keith Morris

Start and finish dates: 1st March 1892 - still running

The first railways were not built until 1865 (Colombo to Ambepussa) as part of the Colombo - Kandy Line. After this the building continued until there was a system which covered over a thousand miles. All the railways are state owned and the predominant gauge is 5'6", however there are also narrow gauge lines of 2'6".

Mails were conveyed from the 1st January 1867 between Colombo and Ambepussa and manuscript markings survive from this period. The introduction of Travelling Post Offices to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the end of the 19th century was intimately related with the development of the Tea Industry on the Island. It was to satisfy the needs of up-country tea planters and their staff, to have the Colombo evening newspapers delivered as soon as possible, that the TPOs were introduced on probably 1st March 1892.

There were seven main routes:

TPO Name Route Notes
Railway Post Office  
Down Mail TPO  
BW TPO }Colombo - Badulla TPO changed its name many times
Bandarawela TPO  
Indo-Ceylon TPO Colombo - Talaimannar  
Jaffna TPO Colombo - Jafna  
Galle TPO Colombo - Galle  
Batticaloa TPO Colombo - Batticaloa  
Kandy TPO Colombo - Kandy  
Anuradhapura TPO Colombo - Anuradhapura Recorded in impression books
Relief TPO Route unknown Recorded in impression books

Click to see whole cover with UP BATTICALOA T.P.O. cancel Click to see whole cover with UP INDO-CEYLON TPO cancel


Mail Trains currently running in Sri Lanka in January 2006
(not all are TPOs)
Train No Name Departure Station Time Arrival Station Time Runs
45 Night Mail Colombo-Fort 19:40 Badulla 6:30 Daily
46 Night Mail Badulla 17:45 Colombo-Fort 4:40 Daily
47 Night Mail Colombo-Fort 22:00 Badulla 8:45 Daily
48 Night Mail Badulla 19:50 Colombo-Fort 5:50 Daily
50 Night Mail Matara 18:30 Trincomalee 8:45 Daily
51 Night Mail Trincomalee 17:00 Matara 7:15 Daily
89 Night Mail Colombo-Fort 21:30 Vavuniya 4:25 Daily
90 Night Mail Vavuniya 21:30 Colombo-Fort 4:50 Daily

In 2002 a letter asking about current TPOs elicited the information that there were only six TPOs left in operation. They were:

Kandy TPO - up and down
Badulla TPO - up and down
Galle TPO - up and down. Since the tsunami this TPO has been lost.

If you can add any more information, please get in touch.

Source: The TPOs of Ceylon by Derek Walker published in 1990 by the Ceylon Study Circle.

This author has provided a list of cancels as part of his research activities. The document may be found on our resources page.

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