ATSF-60

Railway Post Office Car
At the San Bernardino Station for a 2007 movie appearance. John Smatlak photo
Car Specs
Car Number: 
60
Type: 
Postal Car
Builder: 
PC&M
Built / Retired: 
1924 - 1967
Construction: 
steel

The Railway Post Office, or RPO, was literally a traveling post office. RPO cars were attached to regularly-scheduled passenger trains, and were operated under contract to the US Postal Service. Mail was picked up and dropped off at cities and towns along the route, and sorted while the train sped down the track. By the mid-1940’s, there were 1,500 RPO routes criss-crossing America with 30,000 men working in more than 4,000 RPO cars. More than 90% of the nation’s mail was handled in RPO cars.

This car was used to sort and distribute mail between Los Angeles and Kansas City on Santa Fe trains No's. 7 and 8, the "Fast Mail and Express”. An average crew numbered 12 men. The US Postal Service discontinued the route in 1967.

The inside of  the car has been restored to look as it did in service, including letter cases, sorting racks and pouches of mail. The large hook next to the door on the side of the car is a catcher arm, and was used to grab pouches of mail off of a special platform (called a mail crane) at stations where the train was not scheduled to stop. Dropping off mail at these stations was accomplished by tossing mail bags out the side door as the train passed.

During the 1990s - 2000s, Car 60 underwent an extensive exterior restoration. Final exterior painting and lettering were completed for a Hollywood movie appearance in October 2007. Some additional work remains to be done on the car's doors, but this popular exhibit is now looking better than ever. 

Links

http://www.railwaymailservicelibrary.org/

http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2c1_railwaymail.html

http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/fall/fast-mail-1.html

http://www.philatelicdatabase.com/travelling-post-offices/railway-post-office-demonstration/

Special thanks to Frank Scheer and the Railway Mail Service Library for the historic footage used in

Additional Images

Catching mail with RPO 60 - June 2005
Catching mail with RPO 60 - June 2005
Catching mail with RPO 60 - June 2005
Catching mail with RPO 60 - June 2005
Interior- Brindlecat photo
Interior- Brindlecat photo
At the San Bernardino Station for a 2007 movie appearance
At the San Bernardino Station for a 2007 movie appearance
ATSF 60 Interior
ATSF 60 Interior