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GB Railway Sub Offices and Postmarks

The first post office designated as an RSO was Braco, Perthshire on 1st March 1856. Eventually more than 2000 RSOs were designated throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and, today, some stranger RSO locations need a little explanation. Islands that had no railway, never mind a TPO, had their post office designated as an RSO. Examples include Skye, Mull, The Orkney Islands and Arran in Scotland and even Sark in the Channel Islands.

These strange designations came about because the qualification of RSOs was apparently broadened to include sub offices that were some distance from the railway which, nevertheless, sent and received the bulk of their mail via a TPO route. In some cases this definition was taken to include mail delivered by TPO for onward transmission by steamer boat explaining why most of the apparently absurd locations are on islands.

Postmarks for designated post offices started to include the letters "R.S.O." within them from the 1870s (duplex types) but it seems this didn't happen in all cases. Until 1900 only a few RSO post offices were using postmarks incorporating "R.S.O." but from 1901 a large number of RSOs had handstamps issued identifying their status and these were usually to produce single or double circular postmarks although several examples of skeleton postmark are also known.

The designation title of RSO was abolished in 1905 although many post offices continued to use their "R.S.O." handstamps for years, even decades, afterwards. Examples of postmarks continuing in use are also found where the "R.S.O." was simply removed to leave a blank space or a line was inserted in its place.

Further interest in RSO postmarks is created by the handstamps of RSO sub offices that include the designation. Very often the sub-office name is included in the postmark along with the RSO post office name and the "R.S.O." designation letters.

When a post office became an RSO the office's address was usually changed to include RSO and all reference to any Head Office was deleted. For example the address of "Lynmouth RSO, North Devon" was previously Lynmouth, Barnstable (Lynmouth's original Head Office). This ensured sorting staff would separately bag items for this office and not include them with items bound for the RSO's previous head office. These address changes were reflected in many official documents including letterheads, invoices, parcel tags etc. and such items are in demand among railway philatelists.

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