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TPOs of Honduras

By Alan Codling

Although the Honduran railway system only extended for a few hundred miles it had an interesting history and a surprising diversity of TPO markings. The one and only Government railway was the unfortunate victim of one of the biggest financial scandals of the Victorian era, one which saddled the country with a debt that was not finally paid off until 1953, and was the subject of questions in the British Parliament. Work on this proposed Inter-Oceanic Railroad, linking the Atlantic port of Puerto Cortes with the Bay of Fonseca on the Pacific coast, began in 1868. Some 60 miles of track (of the 233 total) had been laid when it was discovered that most of the huge loan raised for the project had disappeared into the pockets of various financiers and the Honduran representatives in London.

Map of the Honduran railway network

Work ceased, and in spite of several efforts to revive the project, the Railroad was never completed. However such were the advantages of mail transportion by rail, even over this relatively short distance, that a TPO service was introduced (probably soon after opening of the line, although the first distinctive Ambulante postmark is not recorded until 1906).

Early Honduras Agencia Postal Ambulante TPO mark

Later, as the large-scale cultivation of bananas began in the north of Honduras, further tracks were laid and trains operated by American companies, such as United Fruit and Standard Fruit, to serve their plantations. By 1920 one of these companies was also operating the National Railroad for the Government. The TPO system was extended to these plantation railways, with some unusual "directional" cancellers in use on the Standard Fruit Company lines in particular. The TPOs appear to have ceased operating in the late 1950s.

AMBULANCIA POSTAL mark with a directional arrow

PPC depicting a scene on the Honduran railway



Very little has been published on Honduran TPOs, but introductory articles can be found in the "TPO" Journal.

  1. TPO Journal: Volume 12, pages 33-36, and Volume 32, page 66.
  2. Information on the financial history of the Inter-Oceanic Railroad is in
    "The Mainsheet" (journal of the Spanish Main Society) Volume 7, pages 59-62.
  3. A more comprehensive account is in preparation by the present author.

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