TPO -> TPOs of Russia

TPOs of Russia

By Phil Densham


Imperial Period

The leading English language reference work "Russian Railway Postmarks" (published 1994) by Anatoly Kiryushkin and Philip Robinson, states that small numbered postmarks (17mm) including the word "poezd" (train) are recorded used 1872-1904. Between 1900-1904 larger postmarks (20mm) with the word "pochta" (dispatch) were used.

Russian TPO Poezd 3 cancel Russian TPO Pochta 3 cancel
Poezd 3 Pochta 3

From 1892 distinctive oval "DOPLATIT" (to pay) marks were issued to railway post offices and from 1903 these included the word "VOKZAL" (railway station) or an abbreviation and postmarks "POCHTOVY VAGON" (postal wagon = travelling post office) with a route number.

Russian Doplatit TPO cancel Russian postal wagon 40 TPO cancel Russian postal wagon 57 TPO cancel
Doplatit Postal wagon 40 Postal wagon 57

Route numbers in single-ring TPO postmarks, from 1861, were allocated showing the routes both, down and up, from and to the capital St Petersburg (St Pbg). In 1903 double-oval numbered TPO postmarks appeared. Postmarks were struck twice so the date could be read more readily. In addition there were un-numbered TPO postmarks.

Russian numbered TPO cancel Russian un-numbered TPO cancel
Numbered TPO Un-numbered TPO

There were also circular postal hand stamps used in army hospital trains.

Russian hospital train cancel
Hospital train

Railway Station Post Offices

Single ring postmarks were issued in the 1860s to railway station post offices. A separate Railway Post Office department created in 1869 introduced a variety of postmarks, when until 1903 double-oval postmarks appeared stating "VOKZAL", or an abbreviation, with serial letters. These are not TPO postmarks but commonly form part of Russian TPO collections.

Russian railway station postmark

Non-Railway Post Offices

Confusingly some offices administered by the General Post, not the Railway Post Office, used postmarks including the word "VOKZAL" or abbreviation. Such marks can be of single, double-circle or double-oval design. Examples from Vilna (now Vilnius) and Khar'kov are more commonly found.

Russian General Post cancel - Vilnius Russian General Post cancel - Kharkov
    Non-railway Vokzal     Non-railway Vokzal

Soviet Period

Rampant inflation meant that postage stamps of the correct denominations were frequently not available in 1918-1922. Postal items were frequently unfranked and although pre-paid the postage cost was not evident from the items themselves. New TPO postmarks were introduced bearing the star/hammer and sickle motif at top, although some old imperial period postmarks were still used for a time.

Russian soviet period TPO cancel unfranked Russian soviet period TPO cancel paid
Soviet TPO Still in use


Imperial Period

Many postal services operated on the extensive waterways system, mainly on r. Volga and the Black Sea. Typically such marks included the word "parokhod" (steamship) or an abbreviation.

Russian steam ship cancel - Volga Russian steam ship cancel - Black Sea
    Parokh r. Volga     Parokh Black Sea

Soviet Period

Post-WW2 cruise liners in the Black Sea and research vessels operating in polar regions carried illustrated postmarks stating ships name. Postmarks can include "Teplekhod" (motor ship) and "Ledekol" (ice-breaker).

Russian motor vessel ship cancel Russian ice breaker ship cancel
Teplekhod Ledekhol

References and More Covers

1873 Cover from Odessa to Marseilles with six TPO and/or transit marks.
Russian Postvagons TPO cancel
Russian Moscow - Kaliningrad TPO cancel

The following site by the WORLDWIDE SOCIETY OF RUSSIAN PHILATELY has an excellent article on St. Petersburg Suburb Postmarks by Timo Bergholm, with links to fine illustrations of railway TPO and station postmarks.
Here is an article on Railway mail under the Russian Czars, dealing with the Vilnius - St. Petersburg railway, from the PHILATELY OF LITHUANIA site.
Thanks to Phil Densham for bringing these to the webmaster's attention.
[As they are 'deep links' they may break, so please let us know if you find any links are broken].

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