Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rail Post Office Car (RPO)

A Philo, IL, posting ended up describing RPO operations. Post office service was by no means unique to Philo. In fact, towns that were too small for passenger service still had postal service because the mail could be delivered and received without stopping the train. The Illinois Railway Museum did a demo of this that someone videoed.

Jason Jordan shared Larry Eastwood's photo
Update: Larry's comment:
Was working with some photos today, and came across this one taken on June 13, 1963 at Port Kennedy, PA of the Railway Post Office on Train #6, King Coal between Shamokin and Philadelphia, catching the mail sack off the hook at that location.
You can see the step ladder the agent used to lift the bag high enough to mount it on the rack.

A video (no sound) showing a car on a Rock Island train snatching a mail pouch. The incoming mail is supposed to be tossed just before the pouch is snatched, but the train is moving so fast that I don't see it. Edward Hoover posted this link.
John H Nelson More interesting is the Alco on the front end! Nice
Jim Richardson The 'IMPERIAL" was NOT a " ROCKET"! It was a secondary train, A local that was carded for conditional stops at almost every station and rarely missed more than a few. Over time it lost it's diner and sleepers and even it's name.....It was just 39 & 40. Toward the end it didn't even carry passengers east of Kansas City. It was an interesting train in that it was where a lot of old, beat up heavyweight equipment ran of it's last miles.
Bill Pollard Jim Richardson could you elaborate on the detail that 39-40 didn't carry passengers east of Kansas City? Did it operate east of KC as a mail and express train? I thought that the train itself was discontinued east of KC, about the time that RPO and mail contracts began to be canceled.

A 1956 RPO video produced by the U.S. Postal Service. Service for a non-stop station starts at -4:05.

Francis Otterbein posted
Inside a Railway Post Office, pre-1912
Railway mail clerks sort mail in a traveling Railway Post Office. Railway mail clerks had one of the toughest jobs in the Post Office Department, sorting mail on swaying and lurching trains from 1864 to 1977. Although electric lighting was installed in some cars beginning in the 1890s, oil lamps continued to be used for decades. Coal and wood stoves were also sometimes used, posing another hazard. Many clerks survived crashes and derailments only to die in fires that engulfed the cars afterward from overturned stoves. (collection of United States Postal Service)

Francis Otterbein posted
Shown is a side view of Railway Post Office No. 71 on the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad in Nebraska, with its catcher arm grabbing a pouch of mail “on the fly” from a crane and a pouch of mail for local delivery being tossed out for pick-up by a local mail messenger or postal employee. Exchanging mail at small towns without stopping speeded delivery to those communities without disrupting mail schedules between major terminals.
collection of United States Postal Service

KevandSus Dickman posted
Mail car interior, Southeastern Railway Museum Atlanta, GA, 6/19/21

Paul W. Faust posted two photos with the comment: Two views of the interior of a PRR Postal Car that is in the collection of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg
© Paul W. Faust""


Metrotrails posted
Historic mail car on display at Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton PA. Postal workers within our group claims the car is set up not unlike post offices still are today.

Metrotrails added
Historic 1910 post office rail car, which originally belonged the Pennsylvania Railroad, now on display at the Danbury Railway Museum of Danbury Connecticut
M'ke Helbing shared

Carl Venzke posted
Restored interior of a railway post office (RPO), NRM York
Bill Molony posted
In a ;little car like this, enroute from West Quincy to St. Joseph, Missouri, over what is now a part of the Burlington main line from Chicago to Kansas City and St. Joseph, United States Mail was first sorted while in transit. The purpose was to speed the departure of the overland stage coach from St. Joseph to California. 
At the right is the modern standard Railway Post Office, in several of which the California and other western mail is now sorted nightly on the Burlington fast mail trains between Chicago and Omaha.
The old and the new mail cars for a part of the Burlington's exhibit at A Century of Progress Exposition in 1934.
Marty Bernard posted
1. A Railway Mail Service clerk on a Great Northern Railway Post Office car sorts mail for individual towns at the St. Paul Union Depot. March 23, 1949
Photographs and captions from the Minnesota Historical Society

Eric Larsen posted three photos with the comment: "A tour of R.P.O AT&SF 60. At the orange empire railway museum Perris California."



Frank Reeder Scheer posted
If anyone sees a photograph or other information from the 1920s about the "Bandit Proof Railway Mail Car," I would like to see it. 
John Young: I'm looking at the wages. This is shortly after Ford made big news by paying his factory workers $5 a day. That is about $1000 a year. These were high paying jobs for the time at $2700 a year.
Frank Reeder Scheer: Yes, the wages were high, John. A person had to have a high score on the Civil Service Exam to be appointed. Many people who planned to be teachers or even doctors and lawyers worked for the Railway Mail Service during the Depression because of "steady work and good pay."

Andrew Lawson Carranco commented on Frank's post
That’s not a mail car. That is a armored military car built by the Mexican government late in the Mexican revolution (after 1915). The photo is of my great grandfather who lived in Veracruz in 1920 when the car was in the yard as part of a celebration of Mexican advancements that year.

Mark Locke commented on Frank's post
Found this photo on the Internet about two years ago.

Marty Bernard posted
4 and 5. Mail car, possibly on the Milwaukee Railroad from Minneapolis to Chicago circa 1900. [Both photos have the same caption.]
Photographs and captions from the Minnesota Historical Society
Robert Wanner: Would have loved to work on that one. Peach baskets unusual.

Marty Bernard posted
4 and 5. Mail car, possibly on the Milwaukee Railroad from Minneapolis to Chicago circa 1900. [Both photos have the same caption.]
Photographs and captions from the Minnesota Historical Society
Robert Wanner: Good employment when mail moved by rail. Baskets held tied bundles of letter mail.

George Oswald, Nov 2022
This photo was taken at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library Flickr
[If you click to the left, I think John took photos of some other RPOs.]

Skip to about -0:30 in this video (alternative link) of an Illinois Railway Museum RPO weekend special complete with a steam locomotive pulling the train.

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