Since its founding in 1671, the Jamaica Post Office has employed most known means of transportation to move the mail. Just when mail began to be carried by the railway is not known, but it is known that in 1873 the postmaster terminated a mail contract with the railway because he found the service to be more unreliable than the road service.
In 1878, a limited mail collection system was established with the placement of a post office receiving box at each of the Kingston, Spanish Town, and Old Harbour stations. Whether this service continued between 1890 and 1900 when the West India Improvement Co. owned and operated the railway is not known.
With the resumption of government ownership in 1900, a concerted effort was made to give the railway a more active role in the collection of mail. A number of stations were stops at the major plantations. Although the volume of mail from these locations was very small, timely pickup of this correspondence, much of it commercial, was deemed vital to the well being of the economy.
The railway station clerk had the responsibility of cancelling the stamps on correspondence with a datestamp. Each station already had its own datestamp -- the one used to validate passenger railway tickets. These same datestamps were used to cancel stamps on mail. An image of the front and back of a ticket showing payment of fare from Kingston to Spanish Town and with a Kingston Station validation datestamp appears to the right. The date appears in the middle while the station name appears along the circumference. Maltese cross, dot, or dash separators often appear before and after the station name.
Forty one stations are known to have canceled mail. Some of the stations handled very little mail, making these cancels on stamps rather scarce. None of the cancels are common, and examples with a clear date and station name are popular with stamp collectors. A few examples of stamps bearing clear railway cancels appear below and along the bottom of this page.
Following World War I, the Jamaican economy experienced a decline and the government decided to eliminate the expense of maintaining a railway station postal system. By then, these offices duplicated the services of most nearby post offices. Effective December 31, 1924, the government withdrew the facilities for the posting of mail at the railway station windows and receiving boxes, and the use of the special cancellations on the mails was discontinued. However, a few of the stations continued to accept stamped parcels for four more years, and high denomination stamps bearing railway cancels dated between 1924 and 1928 are occasionally found. Stampless official mail bearing railway datestamps dated as late as 1948 can also be found.