At a glance:
Builder: Córas Iompair Éireann (Inchicore Works)
Build date: 1958
Original company: An Post
Withdrawal date: 1992
Final company: An Post
Arrived at DCDR: 1995
Current status: Scrapped
Current owner: DCDR

Travelling Post Offices (TPOs) were first used by the railways in the 1830s, and greatly enhanced the efficiency of postal communication from the outset. Instead of horse-drawn mail carriages travelling along unsurfaced roads, rail travel reduced journeys that would otherwise take days into a matter of a few hours. TPOs provided accommodation for postal workers to sort and store letters and parcels while the train was travelling, picking up and dropping off satchels at their appropriate stations on the move using the ‘snatching’ apparatus. These trains were once a common sight throughout Britain and Ireland, until a decline in postal traffic led to their eventual withdrawal.

Coras Iompair Éireann built several of these 61-foot-long coaches in 1958 to replace their ageing fleet of existing TPOs, some of which dated from the 19th century. They incorporated the latest design features which contrasted them greatly to their wooden predecessors, including a timber body with steel cladding, fluorescent lighting, and even tea-making facilities! The new carriages even came complete with a letterbox for the public to use while the postal train was standing at platforms – although an extra ‘1d’ (one old penny) stamp was required.

The mail trains featured regularly at night on the Galway and Cork lines, with 2978 belonging to the ‘Galway Mails’. As integral steel stock began to replace them, the wooden-bodied carriages were restricted in their speed and route availability . As their usability became reduced, their ‘snatchers’ were removed in the 1970s, and the final mail train ran in Ireland in 1992.

After official withdrawal in 1994, 2978 was purchased for preservation by us alongside Park Royal carriage 1944. The two coaches hitched a ride from Dublin to the freight yard at Adelaide on the back of a goods train in December that year, and from there were moved to Lisburn where they remained over New Year’s. In January 1995, they finally completed their journey to Downpatrick where 2978 was put into storage until 2002. Following the devastating effects of that year’s Boxing Day arson attack, 2978 was selected for conversion to our ‘Santa’s Grotto’ carriage after 713, which had previously filled that role, was destroyed.

2978 continues to serve as the Santa’s Grotto to this day, though plans are afoot to eventually replace it with our 450 Class railcar to enable the former to come into the workshop for a much-needed overhaul.