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Brief History of the Railway Letter Service
On 1st February 1891 most of the railway companies in Great Britain entered into an agreement with the Post Office whereby letters could be carried by the railways between any two railway stations throughout the country.
This provided a very fast and direct service for urgent letters. On arrival at the station of destination the letter could either be called for by the addressee or else posted on to its ultimate address. In either case the ordinary postage for the letter (1d in 1891) had to be paid by affixing postage stamp(s) in the normal way as well as the fee to the Railway Company. The Railway Letter fee, which was set at 2d in 1891, was collected by the Railway initially accepting the letter irrespective of it being carried by other railway companies during its journey.
The Talyllyn Railway was included in the 1891 agreement but did not operate a Railway Letter Service until 1957 by which time the fee had increased to 11d. The Talyllyn did however carry mail between Tywyn and Abergynolwyn under contract to the Post Office for a time in the early part of the 20th century.
The 1891 agreement continued after the formation of British Railways, who dictated the level of charges for all railways, but was finally ended in 1974 when a new agreement was made between the Post Office and the private railways who operated a Railway Letter Service.
The 1974 agreement allowed railways, who were members of the Association of Independent Railways, to apply to operate a Railway Letter Service and authority was given to the A.I.R. to fix rates on behalf of member companies. This ended British Railway's monopoly, whilst requiring an additional fee to be paid for the transfer of letters from minor railways to British Railways. British Railways ceased to operate a service from June 8th 1984.
This agreement has subsequently been modified in December 1998. At the present time the fee for a Railway Letter is 25p in addition to First Class Postage and there is a weight limit of 100g.
The service currently provided by the Talyllyn Railway operates under the 1998 agreement with most letters carried 'to be posted on arrival' at Tywyn Wharf.