British Postal Mechanisation: From Transorma to the Modern Era


British Postal Mechanisation:
From TRANSORMA to the Modern Era

The story of the postal automation in the UK

Purpose: To present the story of the co-dependent development of four mechanisation threads that enabled post office mail handling to become automated. These threads are:

A. Machine-readable stamp identity
B. Letter facing + service class + cancel integration
C. Letter destination sorting
D. Postcode structure + Implementation


1: Early Mechanised Sorting 1935-55
2: The Search for Stamp Identity 1945-59
3: Production Phosphor Compounds 1960-93
4: Automatic Letter Facing (ALF) & Sorting (ALS) 1939-74 and Postcode Structure & Implementation
5: The Modern Letter Processing Era 1975-Present

Presentation Approach: This exhibit uses elements of Postal History, Marcophily, Display and Traditional categories to tell the story. A minimum number of philatelic items are included for important event markers.

Exhibit Scope

Royal Mail commenced automated mail sorting operations at its Brighton office in 1935, using a Dutch TRANSORMA machine, thus beginning a decades long development program to automate and integrate letter facing and sorting processes. This effort is on-going today with the principal elements of development over this time span representing the scope of the exhibit.

This exhibit is about the story, told through the philatelic trails of the advancements in materials science, engineering and address data structure, that has enabled this remarkable advance in automation.


Frame 1

  1. Introduction and Plan
  1. Historical Background
  2. Historical Perspective
  3. The Brighton Installation
  4. The Brighton Installation
  5. Idents
  6. Ident Range
  7. Ident Range
  8. Subsequent Ident Sets
  9. Subsequent Ident Sets
  10. Local Mail Double Idents
  11. Brighton as Local Processing Center
  12. Ident Errors
  13. Uninked Ident Impressions
  14. Orientation Error
  15. Bi-colored Ident Impressions

Frame 2

  1. International Mail
  2. The TRANSORMA's Decommissioning
  3. First Operation UK-Built Sorting Machine - SixPLSM
  4. The Single Position Letter Sorting Machine - SPLSM
  5. SPLSM Idents
  6. SPLSM Idents
  1. Introduction
  2. Early Research - Conductivity and Metallization
  3. Conductivity via Graphite
  4. Dollis Hill Naptha DAG Test Articles
  5. Dollis Hill Naptha DAG Test Articles
  6. Dollis Hill Naptha DAG Test Articles
  7. Graphite Printing Variety
  8. Graphite Printing Postal Use
  9. Graphite Printing Postal Use
  10. Graphite Use on Postcards

Frame 3

  1. First Experiments in Phosphor
  2. 3d Test Stamps
  3. Para-hydroxydiphenyl (PHD)
  4. Phosphor Band and Shape Experiments
  5. Phosphor Bands Under Ink Experiments
  6. Norwich Equipment Trials
  7. Variability of PHD
  8. Combination Yellow & Blue and Blue Only Phosphor Trials
  9. Phosphor-Graphite
  10. Phosphor-Graphite
  11. Phosphor-Graphite Use on Cover
  12. Phosphor-Graphite Use on Cover
  13. Phosphor-Graphite Use on Cover
  1. Banded Stamps - Green Phosphor
  2. Green Phosphor
  3. Blue Phosphor

Frame 4

  1. Commemorative Phosphor Introduction
  2. Commemorative Phosphor Introduction
  3. Violet Phosphor
  4. Phosphor Band Variety
  5. Varieties Begin to Expand
  6. Commemoratives Switch to Violet Phosphor
  7. Commemoratives Switch to Violet Phosphor
  8. Band Evolution
  9. The End of the First Commemorative Banded Period
  10. Alternate Identity Configurations
  11. The Machin Series Arrives
  12. All-over Phosphor (AoP) and The Origin of Phosphor Coated Paper (PCP)
  13. All-over Phosphor (AoP) and The Origin of Phosphor Coated Paper (PCP)
  14. All-over Phosphor (AoP) and The Origin of Phosphor Coated Paper (PCP)
  15. Effect of Background Color
  16. Effect of Background Color

Frame 5

  1. Effect of Background Color
  2. PCP Trials
  3. PCP Trials
  4. Phosphor Under Ink (PUI) Printings
  5. Phosphor Under Ink (PUI) Printings
  6. Phosphor Under Ink (PUI) Printings
  7. PCP on Commemoratives
  8. PCP on Commemoratives
  9. The Return of Phosphor Bands
  10. Experiments on Commemoratives
  1. Automatic Letter Facing (ALF)
  2. Automatic Letter Facing Development
  3. Service Class Development
  4. ALF Cancellation
  5. ALF Cancellation
  6. 1st & 2nd Class Post Introduction

Frame 6

  1. Address Simplification Codes
  2. Luton Extract Code Trials
  3. Luton Destination Sorting Trial Equipment
  4. Luton - SPLSM Ink Marks
  5. Luton - SPLSM Ink Marks
  6. Luton Binary Coding
  7. Norwich Phosphor Encoding Equipment
  8. Luton Extract Code - Horizontal Bars
  9. Phosphor Tape
  10. The Norwich (NOR) Trial Postcode
  11. The Norwich (NOR) Trial Postcode
  12. The National Postcode
  13. Public Awareness of the National Postcode
  14. First Generation Offices
  15. First Generation Offices
  16. First Generation Offices

Frame 7

  1. Phosphor & Equipment Continue to Evolve
  2. Introduction of Easy View Desk at Redhill
  3. Introduction of Easy View Desk at Redhill
  4. Introduction of Easy View Desk at Redhill
  5. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) & Recent Advances
  6. SPYPA
  7. SPYPA
  8. SPYPA
  9. Opacified Sorting Phosphor Dots
  10. Recent Equipment Modernization
  11. Modern Postcode Markings
  12. The Four-State Code
  13. Bar Code Fluorescent Ink Color Additive Test
  14. Barcode and Inkjet Test Cards
  15. Inkjet Cancels
  16. Conclusion