3rd October 2023 Another Bloody Railway – Mail from Hong Kong & the Treaty Ports via Siberia – Peter Pugh

Peter Pugh RIP

On Tuesday October 3rd, 2023, Banbury Stamp Society welcomed Peter Pugh who presented his collection titled ‘Another Bloody Railway’ which related to the Treaty Ports in China and the railway lines that connected them around the coast of Southern and Eastern China and to various other inland trading centres.  The first cover dated from 1910 with, like all the other covers shown, illustrated with the ship that carried that cover. The steamers arrived with mail at the various Treaty Ports with mail for distribution on the railways and collected mail to be shipped to destinations all over the world although the vast majority went to Europe.

The display not only provided the ship that the mail had been carried on but also images of the various trains that were operating on the numerous railway lines which added a large amount of context to the material on display.

Amongst the covers were a number that had been posted in areas where plague was rife meaning that all the mail had to be disinfected before it was allowed on board a ship. Whilst the railways were extremely beneficial in distributing mail they acted as a vector for the plague as the population often fled areas that were infected only to move the infection along the railway lines infecting town after town. This was later controlled with trains receiving the same level of decontamination as the mail.

Whilst mail primarily went to European destinations some covers were shown with destinations in the USA and even as far as Sao Paulo in Brazil. In the case of mail going to the Americas it would have travelled more than 8,000 miles via a journey composed of a sea crossing from China to the UK (alternatively, some went via the Trans-Siberian Railway and then across Europe by rail). Then on a train from the arrival port in the UK to Liverpool to pick up a ship to New York and then finally another train to the final destination.

It should be noted that the railways in China and Europe used a different gauge so to add additional complication mail and passengers had to change trains at the border. It just goes to illustrate the complications involved in getting nail from A to B.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 17th October at 7.30 pm when the topic will be “Seychelles Stamps and Postal History 1861 – 2001” at the Hanwell Fields Community Centre. The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831.