Monday, September 20, 2010


The Dutch Transorma letter sorting machine used at the Peterborough, Ontario, post office from 1955 to 1960 has been discussed in previous posts. In this article I will be providing a bit more detail concerning this remarkable machine. In the early 1980s when I first began collecting covers processed by Transormas, there was little knowledge of and consequently little interest in the Transorma, especially in Canada. Fortunately that is no longer the case as researchers and organizations have written and posted several articles dealing with the Transorma:

Transormas were installed in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This post is limited to the Transormas used in the Netherlands (1930s), the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Please refer to the articles listed above for information on those installations not discussed in this article.

Identifying Transorma Sorted Mail

Covers handled by a Transorma are easily identified because they are stamped with "Operator Identification Codes". These markings were used to identify the operator and were stamped on the front of the envelope. Each operator was issued a personal code which usually consisted of one or two letters or numerals struck in red. The British refer to these markings as "idents", a few of which are shown below:




United Kingdom

United States

1. The Netherlands (1930s)

a) Rotterdam

The first Transorma was installed at the Rotterdam post office in the early 1930s. The first few years involved experimentation, including the manner in which the ident was struck on the envelope.

Rotterdam to Washington, February 6, 1933

Transorma idents are sometimes difficult to see on a cover. I have circled some of the idents to assist you in locating their positions on the cover:

Ident BC repeated horizontally

Rotterdam to Chicago, July 31, 1933

A three letter ident
90 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal

Amsterdam to Gothenburg, Sweden, April 11, 1933

Repeating AD ident90 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal

Rotterdam to Chicago, September 29, 1933
Repeating AE ident
135 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal

Single Letter Idents

From early 1934 the Rotterdam post office used a single serif-letter ident.

Rotterdam to St. Louis, March 17, 1934

Single capitalized serif-letter B ident90 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal

Rotterdam to Newport News, Va., March 20 1934

Single capitalized serif-letter G ident

Rotterdam to Chemnitz, Germany, July 17, 1934

Single capitalized serif-letter I ident90 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal

Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam, July 15, 1938

Single lower case serif-letter g ident135 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal

The successful Rotterdam Transorma trials were followed by installations in Utrecht and Haarlem.

b) Utrecht

Liverpool to Utrecht, December 9, 1939
Utrecht was assigned two-letter idents from AA to BL

Two-letter ident (sans-serif) AU

c) Haarlem

Haarlem was assigned two-letter idents from BM to CQ.

Bergen to Haarlem, June 20, 1939

Two-letter ident (sans-serif) CA

2. United Kingdom : Brighton

The first foreign sale of the Transorma was to the British Post Office. Two machines were purchased and installed in Brighton with trials starting in September 1935. The inauguration day for the machines was October 7, 1935. The machines were used successfully until 1968.

In 1985 the Postal Mechanisation Study Circle produced a souvenir cover to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the installation of Transormas at the Brighton Post Office:

Brighton, October 7, 1985








3. United States : Silver Spring, Maryland

The Transorma installed at the Blair Station Silver Spring post office was on display at the 1939 New York World Fair. The machine was taken out of storage and put into operation on May 2, 1957. Pitney-Bowes sold and serviced the machine in North America.

First Day of Operation

Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield (left) and Silver Spring Postmaster William E. Bowman pose with a “First Day Cover”, cancelled May 2, 1957 that was just routed through the TRANSORMA mail-sorting machine at the Blair Station Post Office.

The Blair Station Silver Spring Post Office where the Transorma was installed has been torn down and replaced with condominiums. However, the Transorma has not been forgotten as Jerry A. McCoy of the Tacoma Voice writes:

"Incorporated into the plaza that replaced the corner post office is a raised circular brick planter featuring bi-lingual signage that briefly relates the history of Transorma and Blair’s Silver Spring mansion. Seven undulating lines of dark brick pavers set into the lighter colored brick sidewalk, positioned to one side of the planter, allude to a postal cancellation when viewed from above. On the west side of the plaza is a 30 ft.-long abstract “art glass wall” titled Transorma/Transforma by artist Heidi Lippman."

Transorma/Transforma, Heidi Lippman


A very early Silver Spring Transorma cover
Ottawa to Silver Spring, May 2, 1957 (Transorma inaugurated May 2, 1957)

"AC" ident

Ottawa to Silver Spring, September 5, 1957

Sans-serif ident "BB" red ink


Geneva to Silver Spring, July 16, 1964

"AP'" ident black ink


Ottawa to Silver Spring, February 23, 1966

"BM" ident black ink

4. Canada

a) Mail from Canada processed by foreign Transormas


Garneau Junction to Minas Gerais, December 1, 1947

Rio de Janeiro Transorma Ident "AL"

United Kingdom

Sanitorium of Lake Edward. Que., February 20, 1949 to Hove
Redirected to Sutton Coldfield

Brighton Transorma ident "26"

CFO 5050 Werl Germany to Brighton, March 9, 1961

Brighton Ident "C"


Sarnia to Haarlem, August 30, 1951

Haarlem Transorma ident "CZ"

Montreal airport to Rijsijk ( a suburb of s'Gravenhage), July 3, 1957

's Gravenhage Ident "WP"

b) Peterborough


CFPO 106 Zweibrucken Germany to Peterborough, November 28, 1955

Probably "BB"


Peterborough to Toronto, December 7, 1957

A lovely ident!


Peterborough to Ottawa, June 13, 1958



Kingston to Peterborough, March 5, 1959



Peterborough to Toronto, July 21, 1960