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tured and jailed. The gutted R.P.O. car, rebuilt, was event-
ually wrecked again at Lowell, Oregon, in 1946; again re-
built, it is still in use.

A second Port. & San Fran, mail robbery, a $40,000 unde-


tected rifling of a registry convoy in San Francisco, remained
a mystery from 1937 to 1946, when a post-office registry clerk
was arrested as the culprit. Four bandits held up the old
Deming &: San Fran. (SP) just out of Deming, New Mexico
in 1883 by spreading the rails, killing the engineer, and fir-
ing into the mail car; they got only ^1,000 out of the mail
in lieu of an expected $100,000 pay roll, and the clerks were
instrumental in the bandits' later capture through their de-
scriptions. And on the Ogden & San Fran. (SP), in 1900 two
"hoboes" on Train 10 pulled out .45s at Suisun City, Cali-
fornia, and halted the train. By threat of dynamiting they
forced the clerks to admit them, then they seized the regis-
tered pouches and fled with them in the uncoupled engine!

The notorious Roy Gardner, too, held up his first big mail
train on the Ogden R: S.F. About 1918 he boarded a storage
car at Roseville, California, robbed the pouches therein as
well as a clerk deadheading in the car, and finally leaped
from the train. Already sought by posses, Gardner was now
vigilantly searched for in several states; hut in 1920 he boldly
climbed into the closet of a Phoenix k Parker (Santa Fe)
R.P.O. car as it left Phoenix, Arizona, attempting to hold up
burly Clerk Herman Inderlied by surprise. Inderlied "saw
red" at that; he simply knocked the robber down, seized
his club as it was poised over his head, grabbed Gardner's
gun, sat on him, and called for help! A railroad cop took
him prisoner, and was given half of Inderlied's $5,000 rcAvard
from the Postmaster General.

Clerk Z. E. Strong was killed in a most imusual robbery
of St. Paul Sc Miles City Train 2, the NP's North Const
Limited. A young supposed new substitute, with forged cre-
dentials, held up the crew^ with a sudden gunshot. Strong
was shot as soon as he made a slight nervous move; the other
clerks were disarmed and tied or locked in closets, and
$50,000 in currency taken. Near Minneapolis, Clerk H. M.
Christensen broke open the closet door with his shoulder,
noticed the bandit still in the car, and dashed the other way
into the express car. With the express messenger, rearmed,
he nearly captured the impostor as the latter hastily jumped


Tvlicn the train slowed down. He was captured a month later.

But the greatest mail-train robbery in all history netted
from $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 in an insidious holdup of
Chic, k Minneapolis (CMStP&P) Train 57 at Roundout,
Illinois, on Friday, the thirteenth of June, 1924. The band-
its hid in the engine cab, held up the locomotive crew, and
made them stop the train and flash a headlight signal. Ac-
complices in an auto then shot out a mail-car window,
forced out the eighteen clerks with gas bombs, and drove off
with sixty-four registered pouches. The best available postal
inspectors were assigned to the resulting investigation, head-
ed by Inspector William J. Fahy who was considered the
"ace of them all." Finally a certain detective got an incredi-
ble "tip" by phone from an underworld character; in a daze,
he decided to risk his whole career and bring his shady
woman informer before Chief Inspector Rush D. Simmons.
She told the chief postal sleuth a gruesome story.

Her husband was in jail for another postal theft of which
she claimed he ^v•as innocent. She had flirted with the officer
who'd arrested him in efforts to secure his release; the officer
in question had "fallen" for her, and now her retribution was
at hand— she had coaxed out of him the fact that he was the
head of the Rondout robbers' gang. "Name the manl"
snapped Simmons.

"Postal Inspector William Fahy!"

It was true; another renegade postal employee— but not
an R.M.S. man— was responsible, having connived with the
gangsters. He and his five accomplices were caught and jailed
for long terms, and all the stolen money recovered.*

In die P.T.S. itself dishonesty is so rare that only once in
a great Avhile does some clerk succumb to temptation, to the
great chagrin and anger of all others on the line thus dis-
honored. Quickly and quietly, postal inspectors will trap
such a cul])rit (usually by many test mailings), enter his car
or terminal, and escort him out of the Service forever. The

'See Professor Dennis' The Travelling Post Offire (still availahle-see Rihliog-
rapliy) for three reniarkalily humorous or interesting train-robbery stories on
pages 91, 109, and 111 thereof.


few cases quickly reviewed here are almost the only ones on
record for several years. These included (1) a clerk on a
C&NVV route who fingered over his mail for money-laden
letters when traversing a dark tunnel, later caught pocketing
some of them when another clerk lit a cigarette just then;
(2) an Eastern terminal clerk, lacking funds for his girl
friends, who found the quarters in those little cloth fdm mail-
ers sticking to his fingers (quickly detected from secret-gallery
peepholes); (3) an unfortunate clerk on a PRR run caught
with letters, money, and bills scattered over his dormitory
bed wiiere he was lying in a stupor, finally arrested in his car
by a clever ruse; (4) two clerks on different lines who em-
ployed the idea of slipping valuable letters into ofiicial or
stamped envelopes addressed to themselves or to a fake firm,
so as to never get caught taking mail from the car— they were
apprehended just the same; (5) a tobacco-chewing clerk con-
victed of stealing money out of letters (later resealed) by
James Stice, after he became an inspector, through the to-
bacco flecks on envelope flaps; and (6) a Kansas City clerk
convicted in 1915 of participating in a $25,000 theft of
money from a Chicago bank pouch which later arrived
stuffed with waste paper. Actually, in any five-year period,
only about seven or eight such cases ever occur among all
thirty thousand railway mail clerks— a top record in indus-
trial honesty!

There are, of course, some unusual, not easily classifiable
situations that challenge clerks' ingenuity. One was when
Mpls. R: Miles City (CMStPR:P, now St. Paul k Aberdeen)
Train 15 was pulling out of Minneapolis after the disheart-
ened crew had noticed the Minneapolis Dis pouch (due for
dispatch there) still nestled in the rack. But as the train
backed into its wye a few blocks farther on. Clerk Hyatt
noticed a Minneapolis post-oflice truck waiting at the cross-
ing. With a yell, he jumped out and thrust the pouch into
the startled dri\er's lap with a hurried explanation, regain-
ing his train just as it was starting up. In Illinois, R.M.S.
officials had to order the CM. Sc O. R.R. to slow down its
overnight Chicago, Springfield and St, Lou. mail train at


Lockport— where its 80-mph speed caused mails to be shred-
ded to bits in the local pouch thrown off there, the post-
master having to paste letters back together after finding the
pouch about 6 A.M.I

Of course there are the particularly odd or unusual post
offices, not to mention the great amount of mail received for
long-discontinued ones, that challenge the ingenuity of our
railway mail clerks; but in general the fascinating stories of
these situations are not within our scope here. Large suburbs
without post offices, cities and towns straddling state lines
(with one or two post offices), and the post offices named
exactly like other large localities within the state, all call for
more-than-usual genius in distribution. Clerks are supposed
to know the routes of all discontinued post offices, even if
long-forgotten at the time of their entering the Service, for
which mail is still received. Hundreds of tiny rural post
offices are discontinued annually, as has been the practice for
decades, because of extension of rural routes providing direct
box service to residents of each small hamlet.

In the P.T.S. general scheme of the state involved, the
little Greek letter delta (A) is prefixed to the name of each
doomed office immediately upon its closure— a symbol that
perhaps incorporates more pathos, more poignant sentiment,
than any other used in the Service; it is unknown outside
of it. Three years later the forgotten hamlet, symbol and all,
is stricken out of the scheme; the rural route serving it bears
only a prosaic number instead of perpetuating its name.
The village still sleeps on, even if only a tiny crossroads in
the wooded farmlands; but all have now forgotten it. All,
that is, but the veteran clerks who have given their lives to
the Railway Mail Service and the P.T.S. —to meeting the
challenge of seeing that the tiny-hamlet mails are still sent
home, as well as the "challenge of the unusual" in the great
events of national history.

Chapter 12


Over a glitter of blue-burnished steel
Singing a song of the flange of the wheel . . .
Down in the street. The milkman stays,
Halting his team for a moment to gaze;
He looks, he sees, and hears the ring
Of the onward rush of the "Green. & Spring."

— Phil Boi.ger

The 6th day of May, 1950,
marked the end of an era in
transit mail distribution so
remarkable, so unique, that
no other country even ap-
proaclied the incredible stage
of development which it
reached in America. At 7:50
P.M. that day the last true
trolley-car R.P.O.^ in America completed its final run into
Los Ang^eles, California; a big red steel interurban car with
a twenty-foot postal apartment, it had just rolled into the
Pacific Electric terminal from San Bernardino, 57.7 miles
eastward. The epic history of the American trolley R.P.O.
service, begun in St. Louis late in 1892, had come to its close
—fifty-seven and one half years later.


—Courtesy Postal Markings

'See Chapter 15 for trolley R.P.O.s still operated in France and Swilzeiland
(there mn\ he others); also see Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, Netherlands,
Spain, Sweden (same chapter). Trams in Leeds, England, carry public mailing



Yes, an era has ended— unless, that is, one considers the
electric suburban R.P.O.s of the Eastern states, with multiple-
unit electric cars, to be in the same class. Or unless, by chance,
the P.T.S. should once more authorize electric-car R.P.O.
apartment service on one of several modernized interurban
trolley routes which still operate in Illinois, Iowa, Pennsyl-
vania, and else^vhere.

Trolleys still play an important part in P.T.S. operations,
for there are still numerous trolley-operated closed-pouch
routes— the Wilkes-Barre R: Scranton (LRrWV) and Phila. &
Media (PST) C.P.'s in Pennsylvania, the Carlinville R: St.
Louis C.P. (ITS) in Illinois, and others. And until 1948 there
were still three true trolley R.P.O.s operating; but while the
other two were actual holdovers of traction-era mail-car op-
erations, the San Bernardino R: Los Angeles was then a brand-
ne^v route! Operated for only tAvo and one-half years, it tra-
versed the longest route of the still-operating Pacific Electric
system, once the world's largest interurban net^v'ork, via
Covina, San Dimas, and Fontana. At first the San Bernardino
k Los Anoeles also connected with the abandoned L. A. &:
San Pedro trolley R.P.O., to be described a bit later.

The unsung final trip of the San Bernardino service, re-
placed immediately by an identically named H.P.O., was
marked only by the cancellation of collectors' covers for this
never-to-be-repcated event. But, in contrast, the line was first
inaugurated with impressive ceremonies on September 1,
1947. Car No. HOG, cleaned and shiny, had just been com-
mandeered from the much shorter L.A. Sc Redondo Beach
(PE) run, which ceased operation the previous day; and 8th
Division General Superintendent T. L. Wagenbach was in
charge of the special observances at the Sixth R: Main Streets
Depot. Pullman-built, the big trolley contained express and
baggage sections, as well as the mail unit, and was fifty-five
feet long. It operated separately from passenger and freight
units on its three-hour run— the majority of its route furnish-
ing no passenger service. Earlier the route had been a busy
passenger line whose express cars exceeded even the present
railroad streamliners in speed between the same two points.


and with C.P. mail service. The new route greatly improved
the handling oE local mails, formerly delayed by dispatch to
Los Angeles and back, and expedited through mails by direct
connection to main-line R.P.O.s at both termini. The same
service is now furnished by the new H.P.O., which -^vas placed
in operation at departmental option as an "economy" meas-
ure after P.E. had announced long-range plans to convert the
route to Diesel freight operation if granted permission.

The Postal Transportation Service, to be sine, still lists
one existing R.P.O. in the same "Electric" category as the
Los Angeles lines mentioned. This is the Washington &
Bluemont (WR;OD) in Virginia— which, however, has oper-
ated gas-electric and Diesel units exclusively for years now.
Long a busy interurban trolley line with big green-and-gold
cars, it was in its very earliest days a steam road starting from
Alexandria (the Alex., Loudon R; Hamp. R.R.) which became
the Alex. & Round Hill R.P.O. Its termini were later shifted
a few miles (to Washington and Bluemont) upon electrifica-
tion in 1912. It now operates only for the 44.6 miles from
Rosslyn, Virginia (station of Arlington, opposite Washing-
ton), to Purcellville, due to a seven-mile track abandonment.
Its last trolley-operated R.P.O. service was gradually replaced
by Diesel operations about 1942, during a two-year suspen-
sion of all passenger service. Two roimd trips of R.P.O.
operations are furnished daily in fifteen-foot apartment
facilities inside streamlined gas-electric and Diesel units; it
is a busy one-man rim, and nimierous collectors seek its post-
mark. {Other details in Chapter 10.)

But the East also boasts several other busy suburban
R.P.O.s operated by electric cars coupled to form trains.
Although these cars do not travel singly, the head car is
operated by a regular motorman despite the fact that the
track is part of a regular railroad system on which the trolley
wire is contacted by "pantagraphs" instead of trollev poles.
In fact, two of these lines vie for the title of "second shortest"
R.P.O. in the United States.

One is the picturesque twenty-two-mile Summit &r Glad-
stone (DL&W) in New Jersey. Its "multiple-unit" strings of


cars connect at Summit with main-line electric commuter
trains to Newark and New York. Our second-shortest inde-
pendent R.P.O., its scenic single track winds through attrac-
tive towns and luxurious suburban estates. The forty minute
R. P.O. -passenger run is but one of numerous busy daily com-
muter trains and has a fifteen-foot mail apartment and motor-
man's booth at the front end. Nicknamed "The P. 8: D."
(Passaic & Delaware branch), its clerk has to round out his
working time in Hoboken Terminal or on the connecting
N.Y. & Branchville (DL&:\V). Don Steffee tells of the time
Substitute Leslie Sheridan drew this combination assisrnment
one hot summer day; he had all the doors open and got the
motorman to call out the stations. Near one, Sheridan quick-
ly locked out its light skin pouch and threw it down to the
end of the car— whereupon the breeze through both doors
quickly Avhipped it outside! Fortunately the motorman oblig-
ingly backed up to retrive it, amid shouted explanations to
the deafish but schedule-conscious conductor, to the amuse-
ment of the passengers and to Sheridan's embarrassment.

The Summit & Glad., like the N.Y. & Far Rock. (Chapter
10), is a true electric-car R.P.O.— a// passenger and mail
service is by M.U. electrics. But a perplexing borderline case
is the so-called Phila. & Paoli (PRR) in Pennsylvania, which,
if truly a separate R.P.O., is the second shortest of them all
(twenty miles). This is the famed Paoli Local of Philadel-
phia's fashionable "Main Line" suburbs. In fact, it actually
does traverse the Main Line of the PRR, being simply a short
run of the N.Y. & Pittsburgh R.P.O. thereon; it uses clerks
and postmarkers of the latter line and is not even separately
listed in P.T.S. schemes or schedules. But, on the other hand,
it uses its own tracks exclusively (alongside the others) and is
named independently in the List of Official R.P.O. Titles!
A hot run, it is about the busiest of all multiple-unit locals,
perhaps, with its three daily fifty-minute trips each day.
Mountains of mail, including that of colleges at Haverford
and Bryn Mawr, must be sorted by only one or two clerks
in a fifteen-foot apartment. And "The Paoli" has no terminal
to do its advance distribution! A similar case is the M.U.-


electric W. Trent. & Phila. (Rdg., N. J. -Pa.), with steam trains
of the N.Y., Bak. & Wash, using its route.

There is at least one other true all-electric-car R.P.O.,
however— the PRR's nearby Phila. &: West Chester. Formerly
the Phila. &: Perry, (with a long steam-operated segment to
Perryville, Maryland), it serves Lansdowne, Swarthmore,
Media, and other busy suburbs on a 27.5-mile run. The
R.P.O. includes within its organization a more direct nine-
teen-mile closed-pouch run on real interurban trolley cars of
the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company, be-
tween pretty much the same two termini (its Philadelphia
end is at suburban Upper Darby); but no clerks serve on
these streamlined trolleys. Two clerks work in the apartment
car on the actual multiple-unit R.P.O. run on the PRR, ex-
cept on holidays— as Paul Wisman discovered to his dismay
when he was ordered to make the first road trip of his life
thereon one Christmas. It was almost leaving time when he
arrived, mail was stacked high in the doorway, and his helper
left the car as the train pulled out. W^isman could not even
secure a time table until the third station, and knew nothing
of the line; with a station flashing by every fifty seconds on
the one-hour run, he could work nothing but a few registers.
Duly putting off empty pouches at each station, to keep rec-
ords straight, he "carried by" two full storage pouches for
local points. At West Chester, trying to get receipts for his
reds, he found the post-office registry clerk in Christmas
services at church. On the equally hectic return trip all the
unsorted outbound and inbound mail had to be hastily baled
into six pouches for 'Thiladelphia GPO Dis."

We have already mentioned the local runs on the electri-
fied N.Y. 8: Washington (PRR), a route also shared by
main-line trains. On one of its Philadelphia-Trenton M.U.-
car locals, one harassed substitute found himself in the same
predicament as Wisman, It was his first run and he had no
idea of the requirements; taking no chances, he locked all
doors and sat on the mail to ride both ways of the whole trip
—disregarding all frantic poundings on the door. Investi-
gating officials finally decided they could not penalize him


when he pointed out he had followed orders to "stick right
with the train, even if you can't do anything else." There
are many other suburban electric runs on main-line railways
out of New York and Philadelphia and perhaps elsewhere,
but they share the tracks with steam or Diesel through trains
(except for the northern electric segment of the PRR's N.Y.
& Phila.-see Chapter 10). The N.Y. k Wash. (PRR) is evi-
dently the only main-line R.P.O. electrified from end to end,
although others use electric engines in mountain areas only
(in Virginia and the Far West).

But to return to the true trolley-car R.P.O.s, most people
are amazed today to learn that such service was operated on
city streetcar lines for nearly forty years. These cars sorted
mail in transit between the main city post office and its
stations, "pouching" on each other just as the steam R.P.O.s
did; extensive night "circuits" were developed to cover a
wide area in loop fashion. This unique service utilized at
least a hundred ornate white-and-gold "ghost cars" (as they
were known) on city streets alone, on which letters were
neatly machine-canceled or hand-stamped as well as sorted.
In 1895 all street railways were made post routes by Act of
Congress, and by 1898 there were forty street R.P.O. lines
operating over 379 miles of route, on which 1 12 clerks sorted
1,889,090 pieces of mail daily. The trundling little cars put in
some 1,745,000 miles of travel annually and usually carried
a boy to reset wire-jumping trolley poles and fix switches.

As early as 1862 a patent was taken out for collecting and
conveying mails to city post offices by "street railway cars"
(horsecars), but no action was taken on the idea until about
1890, when closed-pouch mails were first handled by trolley
(on Minneapolis— St. Paul intercity lines, now Twin Cities
Rapid Transit, and on the little Dunkirk k Fredonia Railway
in New York State). In Germany trolleys reputedly carried
pouch mail at Berlin as early as 1881.

But in June 1891, Major J. B. Harlow-postmaster at St.
Louis, Missouri— made a more detailed proposal: to use
streetcars for delivery and collection of mails to and from
postal stations, stores, offices, and carriers. The first trial runs


of this closed-pouch route were made in cars of the Lindell
Avenue Electric Railway in either August or September,
1891; it carried a motored car and trailer that was preceded
by a bell-ringing passenger car to warn postal stations to pre-
pare their mails.

On March twenty-third, orthodox R.P.O. service had been
authorized on the steam West End Narrow Gauge branch of
the St. Louis Cable &; Western Railroad (later St. Louis Sub-
urban Railway) out to suburban Florissant, Missouri. Called
the St. Louis & Florissant R.P.O., this route was gradually
electrified to become a trolley line (as the city grew rapidly
in that direction) between October and December, 189L
And in one month or the other— sources vary— the first trolley
R.P.O. in America came into existence, making its inaugural
run of two daily round trips under the same title as its steam
predecessor, but serving the suburban post offices only. The
18.1 -mile route averaged eighty-one miles' service daily event-
ually; its first R.P.O. compartment occupied half of a thirty-
four-foot, open-platform mail-express-milk car (St. Louis Car
Company), with four windows and a long door on each side.
It contained a canceling table, pouch rack, and letter case.

AlthouQ;h some have denied that true mail distribution
was performed on the line at this time, records show that
some new twenty-eight-foot R.P.O. cars were introduced on
December 5, 1892, and the round trips increased to three
daily, arrangements being made to serve substations and com-
mence "city" sorting. No cancels of the steam line are known.

On February 3. 1893, the St. Louis & Florissant R.P.O. was
established as our first real city "Street R.P.O.," it is true;
for not until that date did clerks begin canceling, sorting, and
exchanging city mails between stations en route. Most ex-
perts agree that it was this line which first used the cancel
"ST. LOUIS, MO., STREET R.P.O. No. 1" and a simi-
larly worded flag; the oldest existing example of the postmark
is dated }uly 4, 1893, and o\vned by John Snow. The new
cars carried a daily average of 1,000 pounds of mail as com-
pared with but 150 on the old steam route; the cars were
mounted on huge diamond-truck wheels.


In a dramatic test, mail from one substation was posted,
sorted, transmitted, and delivered to a typical addressee with-
in less than one hour— service such as intracity mailers can
look for in vain today. A dozen other successful St. Louis
routes were established soon afterward on many lines, which
long outlived the Florissant route; the latter succumbed to
closed-pouch service as early as 1904 and eventually became
the St. Louis Public Service's Piodiant— Ferguson car line (on
which buses were just recently substituted).

The second route was the 14-mi. Grand Avenue Circuit,
established May 16, 1896, and operated (after consolidation

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