London, Midland and Scottish Railway and The Transcontinental Railroad: It’s all the same!

Well, that is if one leaves it to the United States Postal Service. If my readers will remember, this May was the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first US transcontinental railroad. Brad and I went out to Utah to participate in the festivities. You can read my blog about it here.

Historically, the completion of that railroad in 1869 was a huge event for the budding United States. So, commemorating this event in 2019 with a postage stamp would be quite appropriate. The United States Postal Service did exactly that. The USPS produced a sheet of stamps, depicting the two locomotives which participated in the event at Promontory, Utah 150 years ago:


On the left is Central Pacific Railroad’s “Jupiter” and on the right is Union Pacific Railroad’s “119”. Both are typical locomotives for the 1860s. Now referred to as the “American” type, with a 4-4-0 wheel arrangement. “Jupiter” was built in 1868 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works, New York. “119” was built by the Rogers Locomotive Works in Paterson, New Jersey, also in 1868.



Details of the stamp sheet

So much for a bit of background regarding what follows.

To sell their stamps the US Postal Service does what every other company would do: advertise their wares! One way the USPS does it is by displaying posters showcasing the stamps coming up for public release. It was no different for the “Transcontinental Sheet Set”. And here it is:


Photo by Kevin Tucker

Central Pacific’s “Jupiter” is prominently displayed. Nothing to complain about, right? Well, look closely. What’s a London, Midland and Scottish Railway “Stanier Class 5” doing on a poster selling US transcontinental railroad commemorative stamps? Not that 99 per cent of the folks buying stamps would ever notice, although I freely admit that I would be one of the “1 percenters” who’d notice it right away.

I have a feeling that, whoever designed this poster, just grabbed a photo from the Wikimedia platform and used it. After all, a steam locomotive is a steam locomotive is a steam locomotive…no need to read the photograph caption or some such! And, of course, nobody at the USPS approval chain caught this.

Perhaps it was just meant do depict a generic steam locomotive/train. But why a UK locomotive? There are literally tens of thousands of photos of US steam locomotives on Wikimedia.

Not that the Staniers weren’t great locomotives. A lot of technological firsts were built into these locomotives. The first one was built 1934 in Crewe, UK. These were 4-6-0 locomotives (in US parlance it is a “Ten Wheeler”), not 4-4-0, like “Jupiter” and “119”. The London, Midland and Scottish Rwy really liked the type, as did the British Railways in later years.

So, how about it USPS? Stamps are a bit like a window to a country’s soul. Try a tad harder next time and find a suitable and appropriate US motif if we are going to commemorate an American event or person.  Maybe like this one:


A Chesapeake & Ohio 4-4-4 Class L-1 “Hudson” at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad 490

The same locomotive before it was moved into the locomotive shed. This photo by Pat Krug

I sort of got the idea for this blog from John Kelly’s column in this mornings Washington Post. To read it, click here.

All photographs by Ralf Meier, unless otherwise attributed. (Sony RX100M7 and iPhone X)




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