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

Stations and Old Stories

When my parents had to drop off a package at the Railway Express Agency at the now long-gone New Haven Railroad station in Bridgeport, Connecticut, that’s when I got hooked on trains. I was five years old then, but the sight of an express train roaring by toward New York City had me riveted. From that day through my childhood, I would beg my folks to stop by the station so I could stand where so many travelers to up and down the East Coast trod upon those old wooden platforms. The place reeked of cigarette and cigar smoke, diesel fumes from idling locomotives, the noise of baggage carts and porters moving across the platforms, and those great, green REA trucks coming and going from their part of the station.

But as I became an adult, it wasn’t just the old country depots and big city stations that fascinated me. It was and still is the stories and even history that moved through them. Read more