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Casey Jones Rail Road Unit of the ATA


TRAINS on POSTAL STATIONERY

Detailed Listing - Introduction

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by
Bill Senkus

The main thing I have learned in putting together this list is how little I knew about postal stationery. I now know, for example, that a complete collection, excluding Russia and Romania, would comprise at least 5,000 items, and that Russia alone has issued ten to twelve thousand postal stationery items with trains. So I have no ambitions of making this list complete, and offer it simply as a guide to the types of material that are available. I hear that Hans Eriksson is working on a new edition of his catalog, though, so don't despair, help is on the way.

The starting point for this list was my own collection, which comprises about 300 items of postal stationery. I added to that from ATA HB-138. Several other collectors have sent me scans and listing data (see acknowledgments, below). The result includes a wide range of material, from hard-core official issues to event covers and other privately produced items. I do not collect bridges, stations, etc. - only those items that actually depict a train or rail equipment - so you will find few items relating to those other areas. If you can add to this list, or provide more information about any item listed here, please e-mail the author at .

In cases where a scan of the item was available, I have provided minimal descriptions, since the image should supply all the information one needs. As time permits, I may add to the descriptions, so that the text part could stand alone, but for now this will have to suffice. If anyone cares to fill in the details, please let me know - all contributions are welcome.

A final word about all those numbers above - each of the experts I consult on the question "How many items of postal stationery exist?" has a different answer, based on his own definition of what qualifies as postal stationery, and what qualifies as collectible. Keith Downing expressed these distinctions well in an e-mail he sent me on 2/23/3, in response to the estimates above. His remarks are directed specifically at the assertion that there are ten to twelve thousand different items from the USSR, but I think they apply in general terms as well. Here are his thoughts on the question:

The total number of ALL [USSR] postal stationery envelope issues 1953 -1977 inclusive was 12,561 - taken from a Russian authored catalogue. Before 53 there was much less, whilst in 1977 it was 790 for the year, so if we assume a generous 1000 each year 1978-91 - the end of the USSR - that's a total of 25,500. If we assume there were as many postcards again - which I don't believe - then that's 50,000 items maximum. If the total available is believed to be 10,000-12,000 then that means between one in four and one in five has a railway theme, which is patently not the case.

Yes I know that in the 80s the stamp indicator included a railway mail coach, so if we assume 50% of all envelopes had this stamp for 10 years, that's 500 per year max total 5000. If there were 12,000 in total, that still means 7000 other items. I just don't believe it. (Here are two examples of envelopes with the indicium Keith mentions.)

So for the purist, yes, you could argue you need every single issue with the railway mail coach stamp and I could accept 7-8,000 items. But aside from those, there are at most a couple of thousand other railway subject items from the USSR. Still a massive number, but less frightening.

If we accept that the beauty of collecting is that we can do what we like, then fine, there might be 10,000 out there for the purist to go for, but the realistic collector has 'only' 1-2,000 to look for!

If someone wants to collect 8,000 identical stamps for the sake of completeness then that's their choice, but I submit they collect USSR stationery, not Railway material.

What do others think?

If you have a different opinion you would like to share with our readers, feel free to send it to me at .


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TRAINS on POSTAL STATIONERY

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NOTES:

- The notation "ATA HB" refers to the American Topical Association Handbook 138, World Railways Philatelic, compiled and edited by Norm Wright, Sr. For the items it lists, I quote the HB entry, with permission. If there is no HB reference, that item is not listed in the ATA Handbook.

- The notation "TG" means the scan and description/commentary were supplied by UK member Tony Goodbody, whom we thank for his generous contributions to this listing.

- The notation "KD" means the scan and description/commentary were supplied by UK member Keith Downing, whom we thank for his generous contributions to this listing.

- The notation "DL" means the scan and description/commentary were supplied by US member Don Lewis, whom we thank for his generous contributions to this listing.

- The notation "CP" means the description/commentary were supplied by Classic Philatelics, whom we thank for their generous contributions to this listing. See main article for contact information.

- The notation "AJCB" means the description/commentary were supplied by CJRRU member AJC (Albert) Borgstein of South Africa, whom we thank for his generous contributions to this listing.


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All maps courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

All text Copyright © 2003, William M. Senkus

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Revised -- 01/23/2004