Legacies

We stand on the shoulders of the great men and women who have gone before. Their legacy is a gift that lights our way forward.

The first in our Legacies series of videos features the work of William Henry Jackson who lived from 1843 to 1942 and was one of the first photographers to extensively record the early days of railroading. For a little more background information, see here.


If you haven’t visited our YouTube channel, check it out. We are just getting started but plan to have more video content in the coming months. If you enjoy seeing this type of work, let us know by subscribing to our channel.

Last Train to Pikes Peak

Sitting on a siding, we see a train descending the line not far from the peak. We got to wave at the other passengers, as they passed by us on our siding.

Last summer, during our Colorado summer vacation, we made a stop in Manitou Springs to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad.  This is an amazing trip to the top of Pikes Peak, at an elevation of 14,110 ft.

As our train ascended the mountain, we saw a beautiful high mountain lake that is used as a reservoir for the city of Colorado Springs.

Along the way, the train passes through four different terrains ranging from high plains to alpine tundra. The route is 8.9 miles long, with very steep grades, and takes a little over three hours to reach the top. In addition to the usual two rails, the cog railroad has a rack mounted in the center of the rails. The locomotives use a cog, or gear to power the train along the track. This allows the cog train to traverse grades far steeper than traditional railroads. Read more

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.

Read more

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