Thursday, 28 December 2006

The Steel Wheel

Before Christmas I wrote about Railways, Steam Locomotives and the Machin, which I might add was received favourably by several readers. It just goes to show that there is more to write about and more to learn about Machins than one may think.

To continue on this theme, as a follow up, I thought you may be interested in a Prestige Booklet (number 07 in the series) that was issued on 18th March 1986

The Steel Wheel / The History of British Rail.

The booklet was printed in Gravure by Harrison & Sons Ltd containing stamps that had perforations of 14¾ x 14. All of the stamp panes had a PVA Dextrin gum. On the release date, 18/03/86 the booklet was sold over the counter at a face value of £5.00. It is catalogued today in the region of £12.00.

The booklet contained four different panes of Machins, each with a stub and interleaves that provide interesting information on The history of British Rail. Below is a picture of the front cover of the booklet. This is reduced in size.

The First and the Last

In the two hundred years since Richard Trevithick proved a steam engine could successfully haul a train on rails, Britain's railways have played a unique role in the development of the country,s industry and the mobility of the population.

As with all technology, nothing stands still and the move from steam to deisel power gradually came into effect. In March of 1960 the last steam engine ever built for British Railways came off the production line at the engine works at Swindon, Wiltshire. The locomotive with the engine number 92220 is fondly remembered by enthusiasts.

Its name - Evening Star - was an appropriate epitaph to steams long and proud reign on the railways of Britain, which was begun by Stephenson's steam engine - Rocket - 131 years earlier.

The stamps and panes

Pane one

9 x 17p greyish blue Machins printed in gravure on Advanced Coated Paper ACP(H)DEX gum. The 17p value was the first class inland rate up to 6o gr at the time of print.

The stub of the pane entitled Royal Mail by Rail shows two postal workers loading sacks of mail onto the TPO mail train " The Great West Down" at Paddington Station, London in 1968.

Pane two below Right

These are 9 x 12p emerald green with centre phosphor bands. This was the second class rate for inland postage up to 60 gr at the time of print.

The stamps on this pane are printed on FCP(H)DEX gum. The stub of the pane shows a picture of a powerful express. The Locomotives number 70048 has the express title of "The Irish Mail" ( which was the longest - running titled express service in the world) pulling the Mail and passenger coaches.

Pane three below

A mixed muli value Machin pane, where the stamps are placed se-tenant around a single 31p value.

The 12p stamps have either a left phosphor (side band) or right phosphor side band. The 17p and 31p Machins all have two side phosphor bands. printed on FCP(H)DEX gum

Although the locomotive shown is a diesel / electric, this is another final day. The picture on the stub shows the last mail pouch exchange near Penrith, Cumberland in 1971

Pane four right

The last of the panes from this booklet depicts on the stub a post office worker in 1948. He is busy sorting the Kings Mail mail whilst the express is on the move. The stamp pane shows 6 x 17p first class Machins, each has ACP(H)DEX gum

The Travelling Post Office

As a tribute to the end of Travelling Post Offices in the UK, a prestige booklet entitled Letters by Night was issued 16 Mar 2004. This was Printed by De La Rue Security Print UK and sold at a over the counter face value of at £7.44. This booklet is now catalogued at £13.50p

This Presisige booklet contained four pages of stamps, one is a page of mixed Machin definitives in se-tenant format surrounded by a central label.

The Print is in Gravure, on OFNP/PVA1 gum with security ellipses incorporated into the perforations. The stamp values consist of 4 x 37p dark grey Machins with two phosphor bands and 4 x 1st-class gold which also have two phosphor bands. The 1st class stamps above and below the label have short phosphor bands (either top or bottom) as to ensure they do not encroach over the label.

Although the story of British Rail and the TPO are but a chapter in the long history of Railways, it is undoubtedly one of the most significant.

Steam engines bowed out officially in the UK when the last scheduled steam hauled train, crowded with passengers wearing black ties completed the Preston to Liverpool run on August 3rd 1968.

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