July 26, 1958, Appleton Post-Crescent
How often have you seen trucks on the highway that say "US Mail carrier" on the trailer? Perhaps it's not as evident anymore because of security, but today, mail transportation by motor carrier is the norm. But go back fifty or more years and you enter a then-declining age of railway post offices or RPOs, which were railroad cars that were normally operated in passenger service as a means to sort mail en route, in order to speed delivery. From the middle of the 19th century, many American railroads earned substantial revenues through contracts with the U.S. Post Office Department to carry mail aboard high-speed passenger trains. In fact, a number of railroad companies maintained passenger routes where the financial losses from moving people were more than offset by transporting the mail. I'm sure you've witnessed scenes in many old movies of a train "grabbing" a leather or heavy canvas sack of mail from a hook hanging on a track-side mail crane at smaller towns where the train did not stop. That was just one, though memorable, aspect of railway postal service.