The Service develops

Back to main narrative Introduction of the service The Collecting Office hypothesis A Postbüchel reference 1896: looking back, looking forward 1899 & 1901 lists of Offices and description of the service The 1924 Annual Report On to List of Pneumatic Offices


Introduction of the service

The introduction of the pneumatic post received little mention in the press. However, an article in the Morgenpost of 8 March 1875 is an enraptured account of posting an item, or maybe of the female employees .. a transcript (courtesy of the ONB's new text facility) and a translation (by Google) is here.

The pneumatic post was first conceived only for the speedy transport of telegrams and letters, but the usage was very low - 5301 in the first year: an average of 2 items per station per day! So on 1 August 1879 it was expanded to accept specifically-manufactured Pneumatic Post Cards franked at 10Kr. Further expansion followed a year later, with red-painted Pneumatic Post letter-boxes with the inscription "ROHRPOST". They were smaller than the normal yellow ones for ordinary mail, and were emptied every 20 minutes by dedicated messengers; the ordinary boxes were only (only!) emptied five to nine times per day. By the end of 1895 there were 427 red boxes. (The box shown here was exhibited at WIPA 2000 – hence the title card!)

The Pneumatic Post ran to a strict timetable: every 20 minutes, latterly in the central district every 10 minutes. As will be seen later, the cancellations gave the despatch time including the minutes. If an item of pneumatic mail was found mistakenly posted in an ordinary yellow post box, the postman had to take it immediately to the nearest Pneumatic office, where it received a special explanatory boxed cancel "Aus dem Briefkasten / Postamt Wien {district} am {date & time}". This 1901 example may be the converse: it was actually used for a foreign letter to London, for which the rate was 25H. The handwriting looks English - perhaps the sender hadn’t realised that red post-boxes in Austria weren’t the same as those in London!

A slightly earlier miss-post (8 July 1894) received a handwritten explanation, saying "found in the" (regular) "postbox at 7:45". It also has a boxed WIEN 54 cancel - this is the standard office cancel, more often seen on "Pneumatic Railway-Station Correspondence". Office 54 (Margarethen) was not connected to the tubes until Dec 1 1894. This item's journey can be traced by the cancels:
  • 07:45 - found in a regular post-box at (or near) office 54 (Margarethen); delivered thence to 57 (Gumpendorf) for Rohrpost service.
  • 08:40 - transit cancel from office 57
  • 09:20 - transit cancel from office 76 (Südbahnhof); they provided service to Favoriten, to which it was taken by messenger.
  • 09:40 - arrived at office 74 (Favoriten - which was not connected to the tubes till 1895).

Initially, the delivery of pneumatic mail was restricted to Districts I to IX (excluding the Brigittenau but including limited parts of the Prater area); the costs of the delivery were included. The opening of an office in Fünfhaus in 1880 marked the first extension of the original concept of setting a boundary at (today's) Gürtel. This office took care of deliveries to Sechshaus and Rudolfsheim as well as items for Gaudenzdorf and Meidling (which incurred a delivery fee called Botenlohn discussed in this section).

The original ten Pneumatic Post Offices of 1875 were extended to 12 by 1880, to 17 by 1881, to 27 by 1883 and to 31 by 1884. Expansion went on; later changes meant that certain offices were closed down, although these were sometimes replaced by a new office nearby. In the 1890s, 21 new offices were opened; by 30 July 1900 there were a total of 45 offices; and by 1913 there were 53 pneumatic post offices, joined by 82½km of pipes. The service pipework network also expanded (and later contracted). A detailed history (up to 1933) and office opening/closing list is contained in "Geschichte der Wiener Rohrpost" by Dr H Hajek.

The customer service expanded along with the area covered: from 1880 the pneumatic stationery (including reply-paid cards) were obtainable in tobacconists, and the introduction of "Pneumatic Railway Station Correspondence" on 1st July 1883 also helped to ensure the viability of the system. From about the mid-1890s the insistence on special Stamp Impressions was dropped, and ordinary postage stamps were permitted. And officially from 1899 (Circ. VOBlatt 14/99), though in practice earlier, incoming mail if adequately franked could be delivered to Vienna addresses via the pneumatic system. This required changes in the size and weight limits; see Hajek's book for details. Self-evidently, when only the officially-supplied stationery was permitted, that defined the size limits; the weight could be increased by an enclosure so was explicitly stated.

Source and date

Size

Max Weight

Initially, only the officially-supplied stationery was permitted

10 grams
Hajek pp 38-39: CircVOBlatt 14/1899 (effective immediately?)85x150mm15 grams
Hajek pp 38-39: CircVOBlatt 14/1901 (effective immediately?)110x155mm20 grams
Hajek p53: PVOBlatt 29/1931 (effective 1 July 1931)120x180mm[no change]

Another development was "express forwarding": a Decree of 1887 ["Express Delivery of pneumatic correspondence outside the pneumatic area in the Viennese Postal Area (in 1887)"] introduced a facility whereby "pneumatic correspondence which is handed in to the pneumatic system for an address outside the area of the pneumatic network, but within the Vienna Local Postal Area, shall be placed in a cover (Post Office Form 776) and entrusted to a Post Office for conveyance as an express letter and delivery as such by a delivery office within the Vienna Local Postal Area, provided the delivery address lies within that office's delivery area. For addresses outside the office's delivery area the item is to be delivered as for ordinary letters.".

The new postal service brought with it specially prepared stationery, first in the form of envelopes and letter sheets, later supplemented with post cards and letter cards. Pneumatic Post rates were, unsurprisingly, higher than the ordinary rates in view of the cost of operating the system, but because of the advantage of speed a premium over the ordinary mail rates was justified. In 1875 the rate for Pneumatic Post letters was 20kr as against only 3kr for ordinary local mail, and when postcards were introduced in 1879 [See relevant Decree, "Introduction of Pneumatic Correspondence Cards (1879)"], the Pneumatic Post rate was 10kr as against 2kr for a like item in the ordinary mail. However, the public’s early response had been good, and in 1887 when Pneumatic Post letter cards were introduced, the Pneumatic Post letter rate was reduced from the original 20kr to 15kr, the same as for letter cards.

Items are found which have supplementary franking added by adhesive postage stamps, or less commonly by a second or even third imprint. Jump to 'Additional franking for Local Delivery' and 'Pneumatic Railway Station Correspondence'; also numerous examples are in the Rates and Operations section.

The imprint on the stationery changed in 1883 from a telegraph to a postage stamp, and a year later a detailed announcement was made in the press informing the public what to do with the now-obsolete old-form items. Basically, old ones could be exchanged for new ones (transaction fee 1kr per item!) until 31 October 1884; thereafter only the new ones could be used. The text in the Neue Freie Presse of 24 Oct 1884 is:

Mitthelungen aus dem Publicum.
Einziehung der pneumatischen (Rohrpost-) Werthzeichen älterer Emissionen.
Mit 31. October 1884 sind laut hohen k. k. Handelsministerial-Erlasses vom 16. October, Z. 34,626, die mit dem Postwerthzeichen der Emission vom Jahre 1867 versehenen einfachen pneumatischen Correspondenz-Karten à 10 kr, dann die derlei doppelten mit Rückantwort à 20 kr, und schließlich die pneumatischen Briefe und Enveloppes mit eingedruckter Telegraphen-Marke à 20 kr aus dem Jahre 1873 einzuziehen.
Die k. k. Post- und Telegraphen-Aemter wurden beauftragt, den Umtausch der noch im Umkaufe befindlichen derlei Werthzeichen bis 31. October 1884 zu pflegen.
Die vorschriftsmäßige Umtauschgebühr (von 1 kr per Stück) wird hiebei nur für jene verdorbenen Exemplare erhoben, welche die Spuren einer thatsächlichen versuchsweisen Benützung (Beschreibung) zeigen.
Vom 1. November 1884 an sind für den pneumatischen Verkehr nur mehr die Emissionen vom Jahre 1883 (Adler mit der Umschrift “Kais. kön. österr. Post”), bestehend in einfachen pneumatischen Correspondenz-Karten à 10 kr, doppelten pneumatischen Correspondenz-Karten à 20 kr und pneumatischen Enveloppes à 20 kr, zulässig.
K. k. Post-und Telegraphen-Direction für Oesterreich unter der Enns. Wien, am 21. October 1884.

The Collecting Office hypothesis

From their introduction until 1884, pneumatic postcards carried a list of offices ["Ämter für den pneumatischen Dienst in Wien"]. There is a mystery here: several of the offices named on the 1883-84 postcards (Ascher 7, 8 & 9) do not appear on any list of those offices having pneumatic facilities by 1884 (indeed, in most cases they never had them), nor are they on the lists of cancellations seen on correspondence. Some are mentioned in Müller's book on the 1867 issue, but he acknowledged that he obtained some of his information from the canceller-maker's records, not from actual posted specimens. Nor do the collections of the authors or their colleagues have any examples of cancels from these offices. These offices are:
Bez. I: Esslinggasse 4, Herrengasse 13, Minoritenplatz, Nibelungengasse 6;
Bez. II: Nordbahnhof, Praterstrasse 54;
Bez. III: Löwengasse 32;
Bez. V: Hundsthurmerstrasse 26;
Bez. VI: Gumpendorferstrasse 63;
Bez. IX: Abgeordnetenhaus; Währingerstrasse 11
Funfhaus (not a Bezirk of Vienna until 1890): Westbahnhof

The publication "Post-, Telegraphen-, Telephon- und Rohrpostdienst im Localpost-Rayon von Wien" dated February 1892 includes a list of all the red pneumatic postboxes in Vienna and also the 1892 timetables. All the offices listed above as not having pneumatic service did have a red post box at or very close to their address. We conclude that the messengers who emptied the red boxes also served these offices, and that their explicit mention on the postcards was perhaps publicity for the new service.

Digging in the archived newspapers at anno.onb.ac.at/ for all pages containing "rohrpost" produces surprisingly few mentions of the Vienna pneumatic post. However publicity of the steady introduction of red letter boxes is evident; all these are listed in the 1892 document linked-to above. Note that they have the 1880s street names, not the post-Vienna's-expansion ones.

A Postbüchel reference

"Postbücheln" were small booklets produced from the mid-1800s onwards, initially at the expense of the postmen, latterly with advertising. They contained essays, jokes, helpful information on postal rates and services, etc. They were handed out (usually around Christmas) by the various types of postman (letter delivery, packet delivery, ...) to customers in the expectation of a tip. Some at least of the funds raised were handed to the Postal Workers Welfare, Widows and Orphans Fund. In an extensive collection of over 100 of these boooklets, only two were found with any reference to the pneumatic service! The cover and two contents pages of an 1887 booklet are here; the other one is from 1937 and is in the Railway Station Letters section.

1896: looking back, looking forward

A 4-page article by Dr Karl Hugelmann in the "Österreische Zeitschrift für Verwaltung" of 30 July 1896 presented his views on the operation of the Rohrpost to date, and his views on what should be changed in the future. The original is available as page images on the ANNO site and for convenience is copied here. Recently, ANNO have introduced a Full Text Facility, and the result (slightly cleaned up) is here.

1899: list of Offices and description of the service

Circularverordnungsblatt 14 of 17 June 1899 lists all the offices having pneumatic apparatus, and their Instradirungschiffre. It goes on to give the service frequencies and the times of the first and last trains. 'What can be sent' is described, with the size & weight limits and the rates; the requirements for using your own covers are given. The red letter boxes are discussed next, and their collection frequencies. The latest-possible posting opportunity for a customer is to hand in their item at a Post Office with pneumatic facilities, no later than 21:00. Delivery charges are given - these depend on the distance from the built-up area.

1901: list of Offices and description of the service

Circularverordnungsblatt 14 of 11 June 1901 lists all the offices having pneumatic apparatus, and their Instradirungschiffre. [The list includes W43, W69 and W79, which were opened in 1900; also Brigittenau and N-W Bahnhof are now listed as Bezirk 20, whihc was split off from Bez. 2 in 1900.] It goes on to give the service frequencies and the times of the first and last trains. 'What can be sent' is described, with the size & weight limits and the rates; the requirements for using your own covers are given. The red letter boxes are discussed next, and their collection frequencies. The latest-possible posting opportunity for a customer is to hand in their item at a Post Office with pneumatic facilities, no later than 21:30. Delivery charges are given - these depend on the distance from the built-up area. The increased size & weight limits are stated; and the rates in the new currency.

Railway Station Letters are described, first those from Vienna to elsewhere, then those arriving. The franking and marking requirements are stated. If a sender from elsewhere to Vienna specifically wants pneumatic handling, then they must affix the normal surface postage (to cover carriage to the railway station where the item arrives) and additionally the full amount for a pneumatically-handled item from that station to the street address.

State as at 1924

The Generaldirektion für Post- Telegraphen- und Fernsprechwesen presented in their Annual Report for 1924 a summary of past history and current status; the Rohrpost section is here.

Back to main narrative Introduction of the service The Collecting Office hypothesis A Postbüchel reference 1896: looking back, looking forward 1899 & 1901 lists of Offices and description of the service The 1924 Annual Report On to List of Pneumatic Offices