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thus being claimed by the pro-streetcar group as being really
our last street-R.P.O. route (instead of the Towson R: Caton-
ville). But the line seemed truly "interurban" in character-
defined as connecting two sizable towns separated by open
country— and is so classed by this writer and other collectors.
Its car, No. 18, began operation about 1893.

A similar borderline case was at the nation's other extreme.
The old Haywards & Oakland traversed 14.9 miles of built-
up territory, largely street trackage, ever the Alameda Coun-
ty Electric (OSLJIH) via Oakland streets to Fruitvale, San
Leandro, and Haywards, California, in three daily 1 14-hour
trips. Operated from January 1, 1902, to March 31, 1920, it
was part of a co-ordinated mail and express system including
a C.P. branch to San Lorenzo and dubbed the "f^ay R: Oak."

A most interesting run was the old thirty-mile Doylestown
& Easton (Phila. R: Easton Elec.) in Pennsylvania, which oper-
ated two deck-roofed, double-truck, mail-passenger cars with
"ELECTRIC POST OFFICE" stenciled on the R.P.O.
apartment. This short-lived, mistitled run (for Easton is
north of Doylestown) ran only from 1904 to April 1, 1908.
The two hour run connected at Doylestown with two laps of
C.P. trolley service to Willow Grove and Olney, Philadelphia,
where city streetcar R.P.O.s provided connection to the
G.P.O. Oddly enough, only the short Willow Grove— Phila-
delphia segment of this trolley route is still operating; Avhile
practically all of the much longer Philadelphia— Norristown


— Allentown— Easton route of Lehigh Valley Transit was still
running passenger trolleys in 1950. Both lines carried C.P.
mails until very recently.

A unique combination trolley-and-boat run operated in
California until 1938— the Calistoga & San Francisco R.P.O.
(SFRrNV), or "Cal &: Val," it having operated only to Vallejo
Junction for a period. A steel mail-apartment car was used
on its forty-one-mile route from Calistoga to North Vallejo
(or South Vallejo), with connecting service via the ferry El
Capifan* the rest of the way, most of the sorting being done
thereon. The Go-Back Pouch tells of an old-time clerk-in-
charge who was once suspended for one day without pay
on this run, for some minor infraction of rules. By mistake
the office suspended him on a day he was due to work, in-
stead of withdrawing pay for a layoff day (as was customary
on one-man runs); he took to the hills for a vacation and
could not be found, so mails piled up in the trolley and boat
all that day with no clerk to work them! (The same thing
once happened on the Phila. 8: Norfolk (PRR), another
part-boat run, when the whole crew missed their train when
swimming on a layover.) In Michigan the Pt. Huron, Ma-
rine City 8: Det. (DURy) connected at least one independent
boat R.P.O. similarly.

Best known of all interurban trolley R.P.O. s were prob-
ably the two recently discontinued ones which survived until
1948. Most unique of all '^vas the Los Angeles R: San Pedro
(PE), a trolley loop route with botJi terminal points inside the
same city's limits— Los Angeles, which includes the independ-
ent post office of San Pedro (exactly as in the 'Tar Rockaway"
case). Service was by the big red cars mentioned earlier,
operating up to three Ss^-hour trips each weekday in both
directions around the 29.6-mile route. This strange R.P.O.
hauled vast quantities of mail to the Los Angeles Harbor at
San Pedro— one load brought down to the S.S. President was
the largest ever shipped out over the Pacific. It operated from
July 1, 1922, to June 22, 1948, over the spruce four-tracked,

♦Ferry link discontinued Sept. 12, 1937.


rapid-transit right-of-way south to Watts and around the
double-tracked loop via Long Beach, Gardena, and other sub-
urbs outside the city; two H.P.O.s, one of the same name, took
over upon discontinuance. The trolleys still operate as the
L.A. R: San Pedro C.P.

The other route, our second most recently discontinued
one, was the interesting Denison Sc Dallas on a long Texas
Electric interurban route, 76.4 miles. Three handsome big,
arch-windowed "Bluebonnet" cars contained the ten- and
fifteen-foot R.P.O. apartments used on this northeast Texas
run. Most cars used only the lettering "R.P.O." not spelled
out; two daily three-hour, one-man trips were operated. Its
end hastened by a collision between two cars (injuring a
transfer clerk), the entire Texas Electric system was discon-
tinued December 31, 1948; some months later the Denison
& Dallas H.P.O. took over the resulting star-route service.
In contrast to this railroad-enforced discontinuance of serv-
ice, the L. A. Sc San Pedro was taken off strictly at depart-
mental option; frequent passenger and freight service con-
tinues over its main routes to the beach area.

The second of the two "Beach Lines" was the compan-
ion loop route of the L.A. k San Pedro— the Los Angeles &
Redondo Beach (PE), It measured 19.3 miles via Beverly
Hills, at which place it dispatched many movie stars* mail,
and 14.8 miles via Culver City. From 1941 to 1947, when it
was discontinued, the R.P.O.'s outer terminus was at Venice,
(within the Los Angeles limits), thus constituting still a third
electric R.P.O. with both termini inside one city; it operated
largely over tracks without passenger service. Another
unusual route was Ohio's Toledo &: Pioneer (T&W), with
daily service on R.P.O. Car 52; it returned halfway, each day,
as far as Aliens junction to connect a closed-pouch trolley
for Adrian, Michigan, and then went back to Pioneer to pick
up the evening mail for way points and Toledo. There were
dozens of other similar long-abandoned interurban R.P.O.s;
some, however, like the Baltimore Sc Annapolis (\VBR:A) in
Maryland, carried busy passenger and C.P. mail service for
decades after the R.P.O. ceased (about 1910). Operated well


into 1950 as ihe B. X: A. electric, the latter carried all mail
for Annapolis and points south until 1948, and much there-
after. The New Bed, R; Providence (UnionSt.Ry, Mass. -R.I.)
used No. 34, a unique ex-horsecar with one electric truck, on
a run once reaching Onset; the car is still preserved on a
"rail-fan" line.

Besides the closed-pouch lines, we must mention the drop-
letter mailboxes which were carried on Buffalo, Knoxville,
and Grand Rapids trolleys (as well as in Des Moines and
Burlington, Iowa, and elsewhere). In 1930 mail was being
carried on seven thousand miles of route by 220 traction com-
panies at a cost of $028,000, and even in 1948 there were still
1,297 miles of such route being operated by forty-two com-
panies. In both Canada and the United States, R.P.O. clerks
have been assigned to ride trolley C.P. routes to guard the
mails, as on the old Coytesville & Hoboken C.P. (PSRy) in
New jersey.

In closing, we can but barely mention such long-aband-
oned trolley R.P.O.s as the Annapolis Jet. & Annapolis, Md.
(VVB&A); the Beaver Fls. k Rochester (or Vanport— BVT) and
Bristol & Doylestown (BCElec) at opposite ends of Pennsyl-
vania; lines from Cleveland to Garrettsville, Middlefield,
Painesville (Fairport), and Wellington, Ohio; Dallas &: Cor-
sicana, Tex. (TE); Exeter &: Amesbury, N.H.-Mass. (EH&A);
Ft. Dodge R: Des Moines, Iowa (FtDDMJlS, still CP elec);
Georgetown (Hammerville) & Cincinnati, Ohio (GPRrC);
Herk. R: Oneonta, N.Y. (SNYRy), now HPO; numerous lines
out of Los Angeles on the P.E.; Pen Van Sc Branchport, N. Y.
(PYR;LS); Peoria, Line. &: Springf., III. (ITS, now elec. CP);
Phila., Newf. & Atl. City, N.J. (WJRrSS); Portland &: Corvallis,
Ore. (PERrP-SP or OE), now H.P.O., plus lines to Cazadero
and Whiteson; Providence k Fall River, R.I. -Mass. (NBSR-
USiRy); Wareham R; Fall River, Mass. (FRR:NB?), and the
York Beach R: Portsmouth, R.I. -Mass. (SERy).

Regarding the Los Angeles lines, at least four or five of
them (or their connections) are still operated as busy trolley
C.P. routes; and until May 28, 1950, most of them centered
at a unique interurban electric terminal, the only one of its


kind— the Pacific Electric Terminal, P.T.S., in the traction
depot at Sixth and Main. It pouched on nearly 100 subur-
ban offices by trolley and on all outgoing R.P.O.s including
the electric ones; but its work was taken over by the Term-
inal Annex, Los Angeles P.O., on May twenty-ninth. Hence
even today, Los Angeles— the motors of whose last trolley
R.P.O. are hardly yet cool— most nearly symbolizes the his-
toric "age that is past" of our forgotten railway mail traction
lines, with its white-and-gold city streetcars which only this
great metropolis (and Detroit) never had.

Chapter 13


I really like that run I'm on, it's usually just "tops";

But when the train-mail bags come down, it's "Slim, come hit

these 'drops'."
And scores of jumbled letters in each frequent, bulging pouch
Must needs be canceled clear and clean, as o'er the pile I crouch;
For bids with "date illegible" may bring us legal woes—
And smudgy markings mean we've R.P.O. "fans" as our foes!

- B.A.L.

—Courtesy Postal

Railway Post Ofiice operations, long a
topic of mystery or fascination to many,
have in one short decade become the
subject matter of a popular new hobby
now sweeping over the English-speaking
world. For many years before, there had
been a scattered few such hobbyists
(mostly philatelists who liked postal
markings or history as much as stamps);
but now himdreds of other collectors, rail
fans, and even railway mail clerks themselves are joining in
the fun. Collectors long ago became curious about those odd
postmarks, with no hint of a state name, reading "FLAX. &
WHITE./R.P.O." (a MStPR.SSteM short line into Montana)
and so on. They soon ferreted oiu lists of such lines and
learned that by mailing a self-addressed stamped envelope
inside a larger cover addressed, for example, "Clerk-in-
Charge on Duty, Flax. & Whitetail R.P.O. , via Flaxton,


THE "R.P.O. HOBBY" 255

N. Dak.," one could obtain most current R.P.O. postmarks.
(The title of the nearest R.P.O. or H.P.O. serving any to^vn
can be obtained from the post office, or proper Division office-
see Chapter 3, footnote.)

A few ran into trouble with overzealous inspectors, who
questioned the right of clerks to cancel such covers (in
Canada they cannot); but careful study of the P. L. Sc R.
passages covering that subject reveals that only the placing
of extra marks or endorsements thereon, by the clerk, is pro-
hibited. As leading collectors expanded their researches,
many wrote articles dealing with the more unusual R.P.O.
routes— operations as well as postmarks— which were pub-
lished in philatelic journals along with check lists of lines.

About 1928, when such literature was becoming increas-
ingly noticeable in stamp journals, a Glasgow collector named
James H. Tierney ^vas \valking through the Central Railway
Station there one evening— but, like most Scottish collectors,
he then knew nothing of railway post offices. Noticing a
train with the wording "ROYAL MAIL" and a red letter
box on the side, he stopped to investigate. He learned that
letters could be posted therein if prepaid with an extra half-
penny stamp, and that they would be handled in the
"traveling post office" which occupied the car. He dropped
in an envelope addressed to himself and eagerly awaited the
postman next morning— who duly brought him his first Brit-
ish R.P.O. postmark. That not only started Tierney's inten-
sive interest in collecting railway mail cancels, photos, and
information (to the extent of eight albums)— it also provided
the impetus for establishing the first and only general society
of R.P.O. "fans" anywhere, even todayl

Tierney contacted several like-minded philatelists during
the next ten years and wrote many articles on the "T.P.O.s";
and on January 6, 1938, he and they organized the "Trav-
elling Post Office Society" in commemoration of the British
railway mail services, then exactly one hundred years old.
Norman Hill, an English school instructor in Rotherham,
was chosen secretary, and they soon began to circulate by
mail, scrapbook "bulletins" of news clippings, postmarks,


and general information among all members. Scores of mem-
bers, from tiie United States and elsewhere as well as in
Britain, were gradually admitted under the very high re-
quirements for eligibility. But the membership consisted
entirely of R. P.O. -minded philatelists and included no British
railway mail clerks.

While Britain is thus credited with organizing the new
hobby's first society, America brought forth its first journal.
This was Transit Postmark, founded at Jackson Heights,
New York City, in July 1942, and now published at Ral-
eigh, Tennessee.' Its founder, railway mail clerk William
Koelln, had a herculean task on his hands, for not even a
list of R.P.O. fans was in existence at the time. Nevertheless,
his first issue was in sixteen pages of neat offset printing. It
featured the first installment of Koelln's pet project: a col-
lossal proposed list of all the R.P.O. titles and variations ever
used. Primarily philatelic. Transit Postmark nevertheless
featured articles on unusual R.P.O. operations, history, and
service changes from the start. Publicity in other stamp jour-
nals printing occasional R.P.O. articles or columns— such as
Cancellations, Linn's Weekly, and others— helped to get sub-
scribers. Some interested railway mail clerks also joined in
supporting and subscribing to the project, with L. N. Van-
divier, of the Indpls. & Louisville (PRR) , becoming assist-
ant editor and taking over the Koelln list project.

Ben L. Cash, retired from the Omaha & Kan. City
(MoPac), and a leading R.P.O. collector and writer for years,
pitched in to help, as did many others. In 1941 and 1942
attempts to organize an R.P.O. society were made by Dick
Bush of Schenectady, New York, L. E. Dequine of Long
Branch, New Jersey, and others. But Koelln persuaded most
enthusiasts to join the Postal Cancellations Society (then the
"I.P.S.S.") instead. Both the Rnilumy Post Office and Linn's
published articles in praise of Transit Postmark's appear-
ance and of its contents, however, the former describing it
as "a publication of value and interest." Both journals re-

'Edited by H. E. Rankin, Box 152, Raleigh, Tenn.; $1 a year.

THE "R.P.O. HOBBY" 257

printed a paragraph from it which advocated collecting
R.P.O. cancellations as "a hobby in reach of all; if time is
limited, collect only certain states, a division . . . if cash, col-
lect only current markings . . . had for next to nothing."

Koelln, a clerk in the Penn Station Transfer Office in
New York, accomplished some of the most intensive railway
mail research work on record in his insatiable quest for facts
and data on every R.P.O. run in history. He soon published
the first complete list of all operating R.P.O.s (Department-
al lists consist of abbreviations only, and omit some runs).
And yet he found time to be an active R.M.A. and M.B.A.
officer, attending many conventions, and meanwhile writing
for other publications and building up his huge collection
of covers, schedules, and R.P.O. miscellany. Victimized by
a dread disease, he had to give up Transit Postmark after
issuing its delayed February 1944 number; mourned by all
who kncAV him, he passed a^vay in March 1945. (His untimely
death followed shortly that of his warm supporter, Rnilway
Post Office Editor Henry Strickland, and just preceded that
of Carroll Frost, an ardent R.P.O. collector and contributor,
of the N.Y. Sc Wash.— a triple blow to the hobby.)

Suspended for two years. Transit Postmark was revived in
January 1946 by Stephen Hulse of Glenshaw, Pennsylvania,
R.P.O. column editor of Linn's and Cancellations, assisted by
Vandivier and this writer. R.P.O. -minded rail fans were re-
cruited from the ranks of railroad hobbyists for the first
time. In November 1947 another mail clerk — Hershel
Rankin of the Memphis k New Orleans (IC)— took over as
editor and has issued it since then. Some printed pages,
photographs, and specialized lists have been added to the
publication, now supported by more R.P.O. fans than ever.

In direct contrast to the situation in America, the R.P.O.
hobbyists of Britain (although long in touch with United
States "fans") were completely out of touch with the actual
sorting clerks on British lines until December 1946. In that
year the British sorters' union corresponding to our N.P.T.A.
began to issue its small clerks' journal called the Traveller.
Through contacts made with a United States clerk who


served in our Army in England, copies were exchanged with
the New York Branch's Open Pouch, and this fact was men-
tioned later in the Raihuny Post Office. Transit Postmark's
newest associate editor, another railway mail clerk, saw the
notice and undertook to bring the two English groups into
contact in his capacity as a United States member of the
T.P.O. R: Seapost Society (as it had now become). Subscrib-
ing to the Traveller, he was able to insert a notice about the
society therein— and British clerks learned for the first time
that some Englishmen had railway mail operations for their
hobby! Several interested British sorters joined at once, con-
tacting United States clerks and hobbyists also in the process.
As Secretary Hill of the society learned of the "T.P.O.
sorters' " union and journal for the first time, he immediately
contacted Editor Ron Smith of the Traveller (who had just
joined the society); and many enthusiasts on both sides of
the Atlantic subscribed to the little joinnal. So ended a
"double surprise" in which news of each development had to
cross the Atlantic twice!

During the very next month (January 1947) the T.P.O.
& Seapost Society issued the first copy of its own ne^v bi-
monthly journal, T.P.O., featuring a pictorial cut (by courtesy
of the Traveller.) This interesting little journal contains ex-
cellently reproduced postmark illustrations and photos of
R.P.O. equipment and operations as well— for the society
now welcomes non-philatelic R.P.O. fans in addition to col-
lectors. Society membership doubled within little over a
year, resulting in the formation of a new American R.P.O.
Section of the group late in October 1948, which was formal-
ly organized in January 1949 to cater to the many new United
States members. Eventually, on July first, it became techni-
cally an independent affiliate of the parent body.

Popularly known as "AMERPO" for short, the American
Section and the Headquarters Section in Britain are still
closely linked in a fraternal sense to form one international
brotherhood of R.P.O. and H.P.O. enthusiasts— the Travel-
ing Post Office and Seapost Society, still the only such group
in the world. Dick Bush, of whom we have heard, was elected

THE "R.P.O. HOBBY" 259

secretary,^ and L. O. Ackerman, president. In 1950 the Na-
tional H.P.O. Society was organized (for H.P.O. postmark
collectors only) by V. J. Geary, J. S. Bath, and H. E. High-
tower; it publishes a monthly, H.P.O. Notes.' (Note 22.)

Spearheaded now by both "AMERPO" and Tramit Post-
mark, the hobby is at present gaining headway in America
with increasing momentum. The Section Supplement,
AMERPO's own newssheet, appeared in July 1949, and at-
tractive membership cards are furnished, while the journal
T.P.O. is duplicated and mailed both in Britain and America.
A printed journal, the R.P.O.-H.P.O. Magazine, is planned
for 1951 by Michael Jarosak, former managing editor of
Transit Postmark (Note 22). The rise of the hobby has been
a source of particular amazement. to the average railway mail
clerk, who considers that his occupation is just one more little-
known job and nothing to get excited about.

The collection of R. P.O. -canceled covers, and sometimes
of photos of the trains or cars invoked, is still the backbone
of the hobby's activities. Both can be mounted in albums,
and the photos usually are; but the largest cover collections
can be filed only in boxes or drawers. As we know, Koelln
and Cash had two of the largest cover collections; leading
collectors of today include Hulse, Vandivier, Rankin, jaro-
sak, Dequine (all mentioned earlier) and many others-
such as Elliott B. Holton of Irvington, New Jersey (author
of the former column "Our Vanishing R.P.O.s" and other
philatelic writings), and X. C. Vickrey of Chicago, not to men-
tion eminent specialists spoken of later. Postal Markings,
an offset-printed periodical, featured hundreds of R.P.O.
articles and postmark illustrations while edited by W. Stew-
art of Chicago and by Stephen G. Rich of Verona. N. J.,
himself an authority on many R.P.O. markings, and hence
has been one of the most helpful publications for all rail-
road-cover collectors.

*The secretary is located at Brandywine Box 96, Schenectady 4, New York;
membership is presently fifty cents per year for accepted applicants.

"Address Secretary, Box 342, Dayton I, Ohio; about $1.50 a year.


Thus, Richard S. Clover, a leading collector and writer,
once listed four distinct variations of our single current
standard R.P.O. postmark in that publication. In general,
hou'ever, this standardized cancel applied on R.P.O. trains
consists of a single circle about I'/^q inches in diameter
(variations from 28 to 31 millimeters), containing the word-
ings, plus an elliptical or lens-sect bar-killer for canceling the
stamp. The killers of all postmarkers made before November
1, 1949, contain the letters "RMS" (in new ones made since,
"PTS"). Three removable slug lines are provided for train
number, month and day, and year; the letters "R.P.O." are at
the bottom. All steam and electric R.P.O.s, as well as some
boat lines, use this type cancel.

Standard (not First Day) Highway Post Office cancels are
identical, except that "H.P.O." is substituted for "R.P.O."
and the letters "RMS" in the killer omitted (from the very
start— in anticipation of a future title change); periods are
also often omitted from abbreviated H.P.O. names, and
^vhen not abbreviated the state or states of its location are
often included. For example: (1) "BALT R: WASH/HPO"
VA. /H.P.O." New H.P.O. killers, however, read "PTS."

R.P.O. line titles change frequently as runs are shortened,
lengthened, or rerouted; the old Reforin k Mobile (ATRrN)
in Alabama was once designated, at least in part, by nine
different earlier titles. Therefore there are thousands of old
titles to collect, as well as numerous "varieties" of wording
and design— official abbreviations are seldom used. Some col-
lectors specialize in narrow-gauge and old boat routes or vari-
ous nineteenth-century markings.

True R.P.O. markings of the past century reveal a rich
variety of sizes and types. From 1875 to 1905 many extra
wordings, such as "FAST MAIL," "LIMITED MAIL" (with
handsome target-style killer), "BALTO.MD.," are found in-
serted in R.P.O. cancels, as well as the clerk's name in some
cases. The most recent known example of the latter was the
postmarker used by Wilson Davenport of the St. Lou. &
Little Rock (MoPac); he had a private elliptical killer at-

THE "R.P.O. HOBBY" 261

tached to it, tipped vertically to contain his name and a star
in the center, and his postmark impressions are collectors'
items today. (Davenport, mentioned earlier, has been a
N.P.T.A. officer or national delegate since 1904 and is still
active in "retirement" with his St. Louis postal-supply busi-
ness). Train numbers (and even year dates) were often
omitted on such early cancels; the words, DAY, NIGHT,
NORTH, SOUTH, and so on, were usually substituted— or
even TAW (for "Train A, W^est"). The earliest true R.P.O.
cancel, of course, was the rare "CHICAGO TO CLINTON"
used on Armstrong's first 1864 run; specimens are said to
exist, but no collector seems to know who has them (the
same thing applies to the e\en rarer postmark of the 1862
"Hannibal R: St. Joe" route). One of the earliest R.P.O. can-
cels in collections is "CHICAGO TO DAVENPORT" (1868).

Of remarkable interest are the errors and oddities in word-
ing that appear in some cancels. Two are (1) the "WAY-(- &
LAKELAND" (now the ACL's Waycross & Montgomery,

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