Pneumatic office numbering.

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There is often a large crayon number on a pneumatic item, usually at the top left. It is normally blue, though black, red, green and even pencil are occasionally found. It is the number of the destination office on the Pneumatic system, applied by the operating staff and used to route the item. This number is taken from a List of Offices numbered in more-or-less the order in which they were built; it is called the "Instradierungs-Chiffre" (which means routing or destination code) and may or may not be the same as the Office Number used by the general public. In this September 1938 example it is the red 101.

Question: Which office used which number when?

The major problem is that the numbering sequence of the original ten stations in Vienna, as given in the decree announcing the opening of the system to the public in 1875 (see Vol 3), is different from the official numbers applicable to the pneumatic stations themselves and used on their cancellers and as the destination codes. Our researches have revealed a complex web of American philatelists, working in parallel in the 1970s on this question and reaching the same answer! The principal actors were Arthur Thomas; Robert Dalton Harris; and John G Fluck. From the incomplete information available to us, it seems that Harris deduced from studying examples of pneumatic postcards that the published sequence of numbers for offices 1-10 was wrong. (Müller, or possibly Hajek, made the original mistake; all subsequent authors including Klein & Godden carefully copied it!) Harris mentioned this to Thomas in Spring 1972; Thomas meanwhile had motivated Fluck to study the Vienna Pneumatic system, and when Fluck visited Vienna in 1972 he separately discovered the error. Fluck and Harris do not seem to have directly communicated until July 1976.

Klein's magnum opus "The regular postmarks of the permanent local post offices in the Austrian half of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy" was published in parts; volume 1 is dated 1967 and vol 2 1972. Fluck didn't meet Klein until December 1973. In part 2 chapter 9, Klein 'for lack of total clarity' sticks to the numbers of the Decree; and goes on to say: "With the establishment of further Pneumatic Post Offices, the previous numbering of the Pneumatic Post Stations (and their designation as such) was abandoned and, from 1883, in general the only distinction between the various offices was by their location. In connection with this a system of "Instradierungs-Chiffre" (abbreviation or destination codes) was also introduced for the despatch service. Thus Pneumatic Station No 3 received the code 9, Station No 5 received code 3 and the Fruchtbörse (first established in 1879) code 11, to mention but a few. An important and lasting alteration came on the occasion of the 1892 renumbering of the Viennese Post offices. The Pneumatic Post Offices received the same numbers as the Post and Telegraph Offices with which they were associated, and these numbers also, simultaneously, formed the new destination codes. The unnumbered offices Telegraph-Centrale and Rathaus received the codes W and R. We find the destination codes in the left upper corner of the pneumatic postal items - markings made usually with coloured crayon, but also with ink or pencil."

An article in 'Austria' 14 (reprinted in 'Austria' 58), attributed this research on office numbers to "Robert Dalton Harris, who had presented it at WIPA 81". There used to be a quarterly journal of postal history called "P.S." (Post Schrift), edited by Diane DeBlois with major contributions by Robert Dalton Harris, and published by their jointly-owned company aGatherin' of Wynantskill, New York. It ran a series of articles on the Vienna pneumatic post in issues 5-10, published in 1980 & 1981 and then issued as a handbook at WIPA, May 1981. In them, exactly the same discovery is recorded on the station numbers as in Fluck's work.

"Post Schrift" issue 7 says at page 23: Though Edwin Mueller propagated the erroneous numbering of the stations in his "Die Poststempel auf der Freimarken-Ausgabe 1867 von Oesterreich und Ungarn" (Wien, 1930) [pp 238-240], his later writings on the Austrian Telegraphs in "Die Sammlerwoche" (1935, p.131) cite an official announcement of 17 January 1876 (Z 38094/1875) that correctly associates station number with station location. Mueller, however, apparently didn’t note the incongruity. Accordingly, more modern writers, e.g. Anton Lessig in "Mitteilungsblatt" 145 (July 1961) and A.H. Godden in "Austria" 14, have repeated the error in station sequence. Most recently, Wilhelm Klein in Vol.II of his "Die postalischen Abstempelungen und andere Entwertungsarten auf den oesterreichischen Postwertzeichen-Ausgaben 1867, 1883 und 1890" (Wien 1973) also catalogued the Wien Rohrpost according to the old list though, to be fair, he did remark on the incongruity given the evidence provided by associating the circular date/time stamps with the wax-pencilled target station numbers. Perhaps Klein believed that a numbering sequence demonstrated for 1883 need not necessarily have applied to 1875. But, then, the 1875 list was already outdated in 1878.

Document 219/14 in the Austrian Post Office Archives is a report of John Fluck's research, written by him & dated 1987. He says: To study the Vienna Pneumatic Post as to the location of each station the Klein handbook, "Die Postalischen Abstempelungen Und Andere Entwertungsarten Auf Den Österreichischen Postwert-Zeichen-Ausgaben 1867, 1883 und 1890: Zweiter Band", was used as a reference. Using the postal cards as a reference material as to the sending and receiving stations of the system, the station numbers and names of the 1883-1891 cancels did not correlate with Klein's listing. On Dec 28 1973 at a meeting with Mr. Klein in Vienna I demonstrated my assumptions as to station numbers, based on the postal card data, and after reviewing this data he stated, "You may be correct, as I did not research the Pneumatic Post but just took Ing. E. Müller's information verbatim and published it in the Zweiter Band". With this encouragement I exhibited my findings and continued to search for further confirmation. In the Postal Library of the Austrian Post Office in Vienna [with special thanks to Frau Dr. Christine Kainz], a copy of "Zeitschrift Fur Post Und Telegraphie" dated 20 January 1900, an article entitled "25th Year Jubilee of the Vienna Rohrpost" was found listing the first ten stations as established by the collection.

Fluck continues: [During] further search at the Post and Telegraph Museum, Wien a map "Pneumatisher Telegraph In Wien" dated 1875 was discovered listing the first ten stations as established by the collection [with special thanks to Herr Leopold Holub]. Thus based on the postal stationery of the Pneumatic Post, the notations of the sending station postal clerks, and the circular receiving stations name cancellations, the first ten station numbers and names are as listed.

[Actually, the "Müller" to which Klein referred must be the book on the 1867 cancels (the Austrian part of "Die Poststempel auf der Freimarkenausgabe 1867 von Oesterreich und Ungarn"). But the statement Fluck quotes is not quite accurate: Mueller pp238ff: 4757 fruchtbörse err(ichtet) (- - 80); Klein 7798: fruchtbörse err (- - 79). Müller 4785 zieglergasse err. (- - 79); Klein 7809, zieglergasse err. (1.8.80); Müller 4758: fünfhaus schonbrunnerstrasse err. (1.8.80); Klein 7822 identical. Conclusion: Klein did NOT take Müller "verbatim", as Fluck quotes Klein, but interchanged the years for the Fruchtbörse and for the Zieglergasse & Schonbrunnerstrasse pneumatic offices. Why? The most likely answer is that Müller's book was published in 1930. Hajek writing three years later had uncovered information Mueller did not have, and therefore Klein changed these dates, but did not remember to mention it to Fluck.]

In 2004, APS member Alan Berrisford, who regularly undertakes research in the Technical Museum in Vienna, unearthed the book from which the map was taken! It is "K.k.Telegraphen Central Station, Wien 1874" written by Georg Ehlich, an official of the k.k. Telegraphenamt and issued on 1 March 1875. The same book contains plans of the installations in the Central Telegraph Building, and the "fusebox diagram", which provide useful insight into the original operation mode of the system.

The Zeitschrift für Post und Telegraphie for 20 Jan 1900, in an article headed "25th Anniversary of the Vienna Pneumatic Post", says "… the heart of the system was the Central Telegraph Building, Station I. The pipe ran thence to the Laurenzergebäude in Fleischmarkt (Station II), from there... to Kärntnerring (Station III), out to Wieden (Station IV), then through Margareten to Gumpendorf (Station V)... to Neubau (Station VI) and Josephstadt (Station VII) and completed the circle at its point of commencement. From Laurenzergebäude two branches ran to Leopoldstadt (Station IX) and Landstrasse (Station X) and similarly from the Centrale a branch ran to the Börse (Station VIII)".

The stations are shown in blue; their numbering is as in the newspaper article just cited. The route of the pipes is in red. A larger (and uncoloured) version of this map is in the Maps section. The map shows the route drawn on a Vienna street plan. The Danube Canal is the S-shaped thing across the top, with the not-yet-partially-covered Wiener-Fluß running up the map past the old city to join it.

In the following table, F is Fluck's (and Harris's) amended station numbering as found on the top left of the items; N is the number in the original decree (and in Kropf, Müller, Klein etc). M is the number in the 1875 Messenger Instruction manual, which has a list of offices and the streets assigned to them




111K.K. Central Telegraph OfficeBörseplatz 1
222K.K. pneumatic station in the Laurenz buildingFleischmarkt 19
353K.K. telegraph office KärntnerringKärntner-Ring 3
466K.K. post office WiedenNeumanngasse 3
577K.K. pneumatic station GumpendorfMagdalenengasse 67
688K.K. post office NeubauSiebensterngasse 13
799 K.K. post office JosefstadtMariatreugasse 4
810-K.K. pneumatic station in the EffectenbörseSchottenring 19 until 18.3.1877;
Schottenring 16 thereafter
934K.K. post office LeopoldstadtTaborstrasse 27
1045K.K. post office LandstrasseHauptstrasse 65

And once you start looking at actual specimens, it's obvious! These two illustrations of items from offices 1-5 and offices 6-10 clearly show the arrival cancel and the office destination number code. Other similar numbers, especially if in a different colour or place, are thought to be (a} the "train" number (eg, 7 could be the seventh train that day) possibly applied in times of heavy traffic to excuse delays; (b} an indication of additional postage paid in cash, for onward transmission of the item in the normal mail. Occurrences are rare, and the explanations tentative! Sometimes, the item's serial number is applied in the blue crayon: see next example.

The illustrations above show (a) & (c) an example of the blue "Office Number crayon" also used to write the item serial number (b) & (c) the use of W for Telegraphen-Centrale instead of CR or 1.

This illustration shows part of the back of an 1880s telegram form, listing the offices where telegrams and pneumatic letters and cards can be accepted. (The office numbers are not stated - the public did not need to know them.)

The 1932 Operations Manual for staff of the Pneumatic Post gives instructions for adding the delivery office number (in its part I pp8-9). "On the front side of express mail to be transported with the Rohrpost, the identifying number of the Rohrpost delivery office is to be placed clearly in the upper left corner, with red crayon, in Arabic numerals. For items, which because of their routing have to be forwarded from the last Pneumatic Post Office to another office, the number of the last Pneumatic Post Office is to be stated. The identifying number (Leitvermerk) is to be taken from the Rohrpostleitbehelf." [The Rohrpostleitbehelf is a directory listing each street and the pneumatic office number for deliveries to it; parts of the 1901 edition are here]

We don’t know when red crayon became "official" instead of blue crayon. Indeed, while most older items of pneumatic post have blue routing numbers, one can also find pen-and-ink; pencil in black or grey; and crayon in dark blue, light blue, blue-green, green, red, orange and black!

So summarising (and anticipating the expansions), each item sent through the pneumatic system was marked at top left with the number of its destination station. Until the 1892 renumbering of the Viennese Post offices, these were allocated in order-of-construction; from 1892 they were the new Post Office number. During the changeover, the staff sometimes used the old numbers out of habit; and sometimes a new-number letter canceller was used because the new-number pneumatic canceller hadn't been delivered.

The following table gives old-new conversions (the ‘old’ are the Fluck-Harris numbers).



 2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19   20  21  22  23  24  25 
NewCR or W 2  15  50  57  62  64  E  23  40  P  60  100  10  R  71  110  105  55  101  34  102  104  82  85 

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