Railway Thematic Stamps : Artist's Source Material, mostly Postcards

With so many photographs in the world today, and so easily accessible, anyone can quickly come up with an image of almost anywhere on the globe and turn it into a postage stamp. Unfortunately, many ungifted and / or purely commercially-minded persons apply themselves to this task all too often, usually with very disappointing results.

However, go back a century and a stamp designer in London, Paris, Amsterdam or New York, charged with producing a pictorial design for, say, some African country, would rarely have had access to a picture library containing anything useful. Just producing something from one's imagination with no point of reference would have risked some cultural nonsense, so he might instead have trawled through the engravings in popular magazines. From about 1900, though, he made use of the explosion in the production and popular usage of picture postcards which were starting to criss-cross the globe in incredible numbers.

With the odd exception, this article looks at some of these picture postcards and how they were turned into stamps. It is not intended to be an exhaustive study, just examples that we have spotted over the years. We hope you find them interesting.

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Barbados

Although not quite the same, this or a very similar postcard, would appear to be the source.

Railway Postcard Barbados Bethsheba Railway Station

Railway Stamp Barbados Bethsheba Railway Station

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Bermuda

A tramcar in Hamilton, exact image used.

Railway Postcard Bermuda Tramcar

Railway Stamp Bermuda Tramcar in  Hamilton

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Bosnia & Herzegovina

The Glogosnica Viaduct, slightly different elevation, but quite possibly the source material.

Railway Postcard Bosnia & Herzegovina Glogosnica Viaduct

Railway Stamp Bosnia & Herzegovina Glogosnica Viaduct

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Bulgaria

King Boris of Bulgaria as an Engine Driver, probably at Sofia. He was fascinated by steam locomotives. The postcard is dated March 1931. A close-up of the King, taken from the postcard view, is shown alongside the stamp. Although clearly in a different pose and location on the locomotive, we think there is a reasonable chance that this view may have been used as a starting point for the stamp designer. After conducting a small search online, we have found no other picture of the King in the cab of a locomotive nor in the same coat and cap, which may be the ones he is said to have had specially tailored for him in Paris for his 'outings' on the footplate.

Railway Postcard Bulgaria King Boris Engine Driver

Railway Stamp Bulgaria King Boris Engine Driver Railway Stamp Bulgaria King Boris Engine Driver

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Fiji

A photograph, rather than a postcard. Appears to be the exact image used.

Railway Postcard Bulgaria King Boris Engine Driver

Railway Stamp Bulgaria King Boris Engine Driver

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Guatemala

Railway Bridge, Puente de la Penitenciaria, Guatemala City. Exact Image, a few detail changes.

Railway Postcard Guatemala Puente de la Penitenciaria

Railway Stamp Guatemala Puente de la Penitenciaria

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Guernsey

A tramcar in Guernsey, used for a Postage Due stamp, exact image.

Railway Postcard Guatemala Guernsey Tramcar

Railway Stamp Guernsey Tramcar

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Iran

A railway viaduct in Iran, exact image.

Railway Postcard Iran Railway Train on Bridge

Railway Stamp Iran Railway Train on Bridge

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Ivory Coast

Abidjan Railway Station, exact image, some detail changes.

Railway Postcard Gare d'Abidjan Station Ivory Coast

Railway Stamp Ivory Coast Gare d'Abidjan Station

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Nicaragua

Mount Momotombo & Steam Train, exact image. There are two quite extensive articles on the Momotombo stamps of Nicaragua amongst our articles (link in left panel).

Railway Postcard Gare d'Abidjan Station Ivory Coast

Railway Stamp Ivory Coast Gare d'Abidjan Station

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Senegal

Gare de Dakar, from a set of four stamps, all being reproductions of old postcards. We have seen many postcards of la Gare de Dakar but this certainly seems to be the source material with only minor modification by the the modern artist, including some simplification of the tree's foliage and a reduction in the number of people present.

Railway Postcard Senegal Gare de Dakar Station

Railway Stamp Senegal Gare de Dakar Station

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Peru

Finally, as we have these to hand, an example of turning a photograph into an artist's sketch and finally into a stamp.

Railway Photo Steam Locomotive Peru

Railway Artist's Sketch Steam Locomotive Peru

Railway Finished Stamp Steam Locomotive Peru

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Note: At the time of writing this short article, this final item (from Peru) is being offered for sale by us by auction through the Delcampe website (lot number 640869049).

Alternatively, click here (opens in a new tab) to see the Peru item on Delcampe (if still available).

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