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The 1939 Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth

With war looming on the horizon, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured Canada in 1939 to rally and unite the country for the coming war effort. This was the greatest tour ever seen in Canada and people travelled hundreds of miles in some cases to line up for a glimpse of the Royal Couple.

For the majority of the Canadian and United States tour, the Royal Train was home for the King and Queen. This lavish train, refitted and decorated at the Angus Yards in Montreal, was the first engine to have made a journey of this length, some 3000 miles.

Preceding the Royal Train by approximately a half-hour was the pilot train which was home to the non-official tour participants which included railway officials, the press and the Royal Train post office. The Post Office Department of Canada's Financial Branch Philatelic Division announced on April 13, 1939 that a Post Office would be operated in conjunction with the Royal Train. This special Post Office was operated for the convenience of the Royal Couple, officials and other personnel accredited to the Royal Tour. It was to be known as the "Royal Train Post Office" and was provided with special postmarks. No unauthorized persons were to have access to the Royal Train or its pilot train during the tour. There was however an opportunity for interested parties to secure the special postmark of the Royal Train Post Office on philatelic covers sent by themselves, either to their own address or to any other legitimate address they specified. It should be noted that only selected copies of current issues were allowed to be used on these covers. These were the following:

  • Royal Visit, 1939 - 1, 2, 3
  • King George VI, 1937 - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8
  • Pictorial, 1938 - 10, 13, 20, 50, $1.00
  • Air Mail, 1938 - 6
  • Special Delivery (Green, 1939) - 10

On May 15, 1939 Canada issued a set of 3 stamps, Scott #'s 246-248 to commemorate the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. These stamps, perf. 12, depicted:
Scott #246 - 1 HRH Elizabeth & Margaret Scott #247 - 2 War Memorial Scott #248 - 3 George VI & Queen Elizabeth

This issue was the first to have combined two separate plates, one for the frame and one for the printing of the black of the heads and monument. Each stamp therefore has a combination plate number, 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, etc.. For the plate block collector this means that there are 176 "possible" plate number combinations.