The railway post office (RPO) was once common on passenger trains across the country. It was a railroad car used to sort mail en route, in order to speed up delivery. These cars were staffed by special Railway Mail Service employees.
Railway Mail Service dates back to 1869, inaugurated by the United States Post Office Department. Thanks to lucrative contracts, many American railroads earned substantial revenues carrying the mail. Even after the substantial drop-off in passengers after World War II, many routes were maintained because the mail contract offset any losses.
This would change with the advent of modern jet transportation. The Post Office cancelled most of the railway mail contracts in September 1967, choosing instead to move most mail by jet or by truck. Many passenger trains across America were cancelled following this announcement, as the railroads could no longer offset the passenger loss. The last surviving RPO was operated by Conrail between New York and Washington, D.C. It was discontinued on June 30, 1977, ending more than 110 years of railway mail service.
Our Railway Post Office was built for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1910 as part of their class BM70nb. It was subsequently purchased by the Rochester Refrigeration Corporation and stored at their facility for many years. In 1996 the car was donated to the museum and was moved to Industry.
Currently the car is being cleaned out to be used as additional display space. Our long-term plan is to perform a cosmetic restoration and restore the car to traditional PRR paint and lettering.
- Railway Post Office Car