The Railway Mail Service

Part Two

Letter Case end of standard 60-foot Railway Post Office car.

Standard 60‑Foot Full RPO Car (1928)

All 60‑foot RPO cars built after 1912 were of all‑steel construction. These cars were used for the distribution and handling of mail only; the interior had built‑in letter cases and pouch and paper racks, plus overhead boxes.

The cars were heated by steam heat, with long protected steam pipes along the baseboard on each side of the car, except near the doorways where there were large upright protected radiators. During the advance distribution of the mail at the initial terminal, the car’s steam line was connected to permanent terminal steam lines, when needed. En route, the steam was furnished by the locomotive, whether it was diesel or steam powered. Read more

The Railway Mail Service

The Railway Postal Clerk
A Vanished Breed

Part One

The first record of rail transportation of mail in the United States was in 1831, when a mail contractor utilized the service of the South Carolina Railroad. It was in the shift from stage to rail that a new job or profession appeared—that of the “route agent,” the forerunner of the railway postal clerk. On the old stage lines, a local postmaster, who usually had his office in the tavern, opened the carrying case containing the mail and exchanged “mails” while the stage driver changed horses. On the railroads, this could not be done, and a man was soon assigned to accompany the mail on the train; a separate compartment was set aside for the mails, beginning in 1835. This agent usually rode in the baggage car, and was at first the baggage man or other employee of the stage company or railroad.

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Editor’s Notebook

Samuel Morse Day


Last Saturday (April 28, 2018) I attended the Samuel Morse Day celebration at the former N&W depot in Boyce, Virginia. Samuel Morse was the inventor of the telegraph which was adopted by the railroad in its earliest days.

Mr. Abram Burnett, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was on hand to demonstrate the early telegraph and he graciously agreed to let us make a video as he demonstrates the telegraph and relates some of its history. In the video, we are inside the N&W depot in the trainmaster’s office overlooking the current Norfolk & Western tracks. The office retains much of its original furnishings and looks very much like it would have looked nearly one hundred years ago. Read more

Saving the Fredericton Train Station

This is the story of the slow, lingering death of a train station in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada… and its miraculous rebirth.

Introduction

The York Street station was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1923 in Fredericton, in the West Platt area outside of the downtown core. The station is made of brick, with sandstone trim. It has a hip roof and is one of the few remaining brick stations in New Brunswick. The York Street side has a covered portico and the rear of the station was attached to a freight shed, added well after the station was built.

The station served Canadian Pacific (CP) trains only at the start. Canadian National (CN) had a station close to the train bridge across the Saint John River for many years, but in the latter years of passenger service, CN also used this station.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a CP passenger train ran between Fredericton and Fredericton Junction, where a passenger could take one of the trains between McAdam and Saint John. On the CN side, a Railiner (Rail Diesel Car, or RDC) ran between Newcastle and the York Street (“Union”) station via McGivney.

The station had two waiting rooms, one for men on the north (York Street) end, and the other for women, closer to the baggage room, with an agent/operator office in between. The washrooms were along the back wall. At the far (south) end of the station was the CP Express office. Read more

The Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad

The historic Colorado & Southern passenger depot is still serving its original purpose.

In the summer of 2017, my family and I were on a big train-cation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. As part of our trip, we visited Leadville, one of the highest incorporated cities in America, at an elevation of 10,152 feet above sea level. Leadville was founded in 1877, as a mining town. Read more