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Gresley TPO - LNER & ER

The models were described in Model Rail April 1999 and this is an overview based on a wider set of pictures than there was space for in the magazine for both periods.

The prototype

These TPOs were first built in 1933 (to D.165), and 1933-36 (to D.164) with no external difference that I am aware of and this is the version covered by the Peter K etchings.

Note that the final batch of five built in 1937 (LNER 4206-7, 2440-2. BR 70298-9, 70293-5, respectively) had the doors at the far end to the nets revised from sliding to the right, to sliding to the left. This was accompanied by a swap in toplights and panelling which can be seen in the prototype pictures. The example preserved at Loughborough (E70294) is one of these.


The first of a new generation of TPOs, No 2151 of D.165, is brand new at York in 1933. The design was to dominate construction of LNER TPOs during the 1930s. Photo: LNER/NRM

TPO 2153

This picture is not what it may at first seem to be. It was taken at Hunslet in Leeds during an LNER exhibition over the (Bank Holiday?) on Sunday-Monday 11-12th August 1935 and shows TPO No 2153, the penultimate vehicle in the 1933 build of D.165, The date 9-5-33 can be read on the solebar along with a later shopping date of 15-3-35. The beauty of the picture is that the net has been extended to the catching or pick-up position.

It's a vertical format picture, hence the unusual crop. What appear to be blemishes on the panelling are patches of sunlight piercing the netting. Photo: SLS.

TPO 70291

E70291E of 1933 to D.164 stands at Bounds Green in 1958 coupled to other postal vehicles. It is still in full running order. Photo: D. Seabrook, author's collection.

LNER TPO sorting side

A relatively rare view of the main sorting side of a D.164/165 TPO at Bounds Green. The number is, alas, lost under the grime. Photo: D. Seabrook, author's collection.


A rather sad view from 1965 of E70301E after outshopping at York in 1965 shows the final condition in maroon livery with traductor gear partly stripped and the nets removed, possibly for use on the GE Section. For modellers of this period, it is the simplest version. Photo: A.G.Ellis.

The next six pictures were taken four years later in 1969 at Hornsey:


In a row of several postal vehicles, E70290E has had the traductor gear partially stripped and the net removed. Pho: Photomatic.


Next in line in BR blue and grey livery is a 1937 TPO, No E70299E, with the far door sliding to the left. The collecting nets are still in place but the traductor gear, no longer required, has been partially stripped. Beyond it is a 51'1 1/2" stowage van. Pho: Photomatic.


A closer view of the net and reduced traductor gear on E70299E.Pho: Photomatic.


A view from the far end of an unidentified 1937 TPO shows the changed panelling and toplights with the nearer door sliding to the left. It's possible that consistency was required with both doors sliding the same way. Pho: Photomatic.


A broadside view of a 1937 TPO shows more detail of the revisions to the body and a fine view of the underframe fittings on this side. Pho: Photomatic.

LNER TPO post box

A close up of the post-box that was fitted on both sides of the TPO with the visibly off-centre slot covered by a hinged flap. This is on the sorting side of the vehicle. Pho: Photomatic.

E70294E exchange gear

And finally, because it's such a poor picture, taken in the shade and the negative very thin, here is the exchange equipment on E70294E after shopping in June 1958. By chance this is the one now preserved at Loughborough. Photo: D. Seabrook, author's collection.

Pictures of other postal vehicles and the services are shown in the Prototype and Traffic section: Postal Services - LNER and ER

The models

TPO kit

The etchings as supplied from Peter K Models (now Kemilway) are for the body only and the picture shows the sides and ends. I have not included etchings for the netting frame, part of the traductor gear or the four lost-wax castings for the latter. Note the drop-in lower panels, MJT-style - excellent! You have to make your own roof, floor pan and underframe, which is the standard 60ft long, but a little narrower than normal because the exchange gear side is almost flat with the equipment sticking out: this can be done on a Copper-clad base with brass channel for the solebars, or using Plastikard with Evergreen channels for the solebars, both with MJT underframe parts and ABS bogies, all of which I have described in various articles.


A general view in the original LNER varnished teak condition. The sliding door on the left can be seen with its pull to the right and panelling up to the roof there. The roof itself was made from a plastic Kirk roof which requires narrowing and careful cutting for the area around the nets. Attachment to the body was by long bolts through the floor, mainly so that the roof could be taken off if necessary to reach the internal wiring for the external lights. Note the extra fittings on the underframe made from Plastikard and by cannibalising MJT parts.


A closer view of the catching nets end. The base of the frame was fitted with brass wire pins to pass through holes in the body and attachment after painting. Netting came from a clothing fabric shop in town and was tied on with black thread using a sewing needle - all good fun! Another piece of the thread was looped around a retaining loop for, in practice, to hold the net out the set distance when catching mail bags. A nice detail, this.

From this angle it is hard to see the soldered joint between the sliding doors and the sides with a rather shallow tumblehome. The etching is approximate and requires careful fettling. All the black-painted handrails were fitted after painting of the body was complete.

For me, the trickiest part of the whole model was in making the traductor gear. An etching and some lost wax parts were supplied but I ended up scratch building much of it, adding a locating pin to go through the body, after painting and lining, with a little glue to finish.


The other side is relatively straightforward with a conventional body profile and two swing-open doors.


In BR crimson livery, the ambience of the TPO is strikingly different but no less pleasing. All the transfers were PC/HMRS Methfix, which is the only type that I use for its appearance and superior accuracy in placement.


The exchange net end in close-up. The external lights were made from LEDs in a sleeve which was glued to the body with the lamps a press fit. Pick-ups were fitted to the bogies so the lights do actually light up when the model is running.


The other side in BR crimson livery. It's hard to tell but the post box by the double doors was now being painted Post Office red and is barely distinguishable from the BR crimson.


The final picture show one of the ends - which were scratch built in order to get the right profile and marry with the roof (the etchings are unusable) - with the off-set gangway.

For the latter I used the Masokits etching for the BS single-scissors gangway, with a reduction in height. These etchings by Mike Clarke have an amusing name and are quite fiddly, but only if you have clumsy hands! They are unsurpassed for appearance and actually work.Yep, big fan here!

Also visible on this end is the train alarm gear fitting, and both jumper leads at the same side. Note how the tweaked Kirk roof blends seamlessly.

Some observations

Almost everybody knows about TPOs thanks to the LMS-Post Office film "The Night Mail" and the LNER services were just as interesting, and the vehicles equally good looking. As the results show, fine models can be produced. I have seen the Peter K etchings for this vehicle rubbished without clear reason - when there is more than meets the eye. Having built four I can say that the sides are pretty good with the lower panels inlaid MJT-style, unlike most other etching designers of GNR/LNER panelled vehicles, who provide simplified versions that are not as accurate nor as good looking. As the pictures show, the panelling is spot-on. Only the sliding doors needed a little tweaking.

There is a problem with the undersize ends and I have to say that it's not uncommon with many coach kits or body etchings. I have lost track of the times I have had to make replacement ends for vehicles of all the companies, in 4mm and 7mm scale. Especially when the roof provided doesn't marry, or you are fitting a roof of your own choice. If only end-etchings could be provided oversize so that you could fettle them to fit.

There is a final aspect because TPOs require traductor gear and the Peter K etchings include lost wax castings; it's only a pity that they needed much fettling/replacement. It's a complex fitting and much depends on how accurate a representation you seek.

Then there's the working lights, a personal addition and arguably gilding the lily: but surely deservedly?

In-service pictures and other postal vehicles are shown in the Prototype and Traffic section, here: Postal Services - LNER and ER

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