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facilities— took place September 22, 1910. At this time the
General Superintendent R.M.S. became the Deputy (2nd)
Assistant Postmaster General, Surface Postal Transport; and
the various division superintendents and chief clerks v/ere
given the new titles outlined in Chapter 8. The Bureau of
Railway Mail Service at Washington became that of Surface
Postal Transport— and the R.M.S. title was to survive in the
field for only three more years. There was much agitation
for a change therein from R.M.A. members, for the R.M.S.
had expanded to include numerous highAvay, terminal, and
air-mail facilities and ^vas bes:innins: to lose control over the
latter. But suggestions for a ne^v name varied from the
lengthy one finally adopted to such simple titles as "Transit
Mail Service"— put forth by the R.M.A.'s largest branch,
by its big Sixth Division, and by this Avriter. It ^vas ear-
nestly felt that such a brief and apt title would emphasize
that raihvay mail clerks do not just "transport" the mail
but sort it iji transit, and that it Avould be handy and in-
volve change of only one word or letter (R.M.S. to T.M.S.).
In fact, the corresponding title of "Transit Mail Association"
narrowly missed adoption by the N.P.T.A. as its new name
at the same time, due to parliamentary maneuvers. But
postal officials, pointing out that clerks handled some other
mails as well as transit mails, effected consolidation of the
R.M.S. with the semi-independent "Air Mail Service" on
November 1, 1949, under the title of Postal Transportation
Service. Corresponding name changes took place in the field,


and others in Washington; in 1950 the head ofTice became the
Bureau of Transportation, and the chief of the Service again
redesignated as the Assistant Executive Director thereof.

In 1949 the Hoover Commission on Organization of the
Executive Branch issued a report recommending a sweeping
reorganization of all postal services. Many meritorious pro-
posals were included (and some adopted); but its short-sighted
suggestion to have the post offices absorb the Terminals,
P.T.S., was fortunately disapproved. Often falsely accused of
"duplicating" post office functions, the terminals are a vital,
co-ordinated part of the P.T.S.

Another major innovation which has greatly affected the
P.T.S., though not a part of it, is our interesting new postal
zone-number system. Its absorbing history cannot be given
here, but suffice it to say that it was a railway mail clerk-
Nathan A. Gardner of the Ogden (Utah) Branch, N.P.T.A.—
who apparently first suggested zone numbers for all large
cities. He publicized a plan in the October 1940 Raihvay Post
Office calling for a system almost identical with that finally
adopted nationally by the Department in 122 large cities in
May 1943. Already in use in Pittsburgh (and, partly, in Cam-
bridge, Massachusetts) at the time, the plan— long in use in
European cities— proved popular and helpful in sorting of
wartime mails by new clerks and soon showed its value as
a permanent fixture. It permits instant sorting of city mail
to stations.

City clerks in R.P.O. trains were soon furnished suitable
lists and requested to add the zone numbers of their city to
the station case headers they used; later all P.T.C.s were asked
to make separate zoned and unzoned packages for any cities
made up direct. Veteran clerks, mostly distrustful of the Avhole
idea, often snorted and disregarded the numbers altogether;
it was freely claimed that patrons usually used the wrong num-
bers anyhow and that "zoning" was a menace to the jobs of
expert city sorters— low-paid, untrained non-distributors
would soon take over. But other city clerks, particularly new
ones just learning their assignment, were pleased at the ease
and speed with which any zoned letter could be sorted. Clerks


on state cases occasionally began making up the unzoned and
zoned separations requested, despite fun-poking from the
veterans, who still used the traditional two boxes for each
city's "long" and "short" letters instead (as many still do).

As a matter of fact, tests show that close to 99 per cent of
all zone numbers used are correct, and that there will always
be enough unzoned mail to require the usual number of ex-
pert city clerks on the lines. The zone numbers have been a
godsend to numerous R.P.O.s which formerly went "stuck"
on city mail regularly; it is the ideal assignment for the new
subs who are always being broken in.

According to the N.P.T.A., the real threat today to efficient
city-distribution assignments comes not from the zone num-
bers but from the radical new alphabetical system of sortation
now ordered used on trains working city mail for Dallas and
Milwaukee. Highly praised by Department officials as more
economical and speedier than the system of sorting direct to
carrier stations, this new method proposes an unbelievably
simple separation of the mail by alphabetical groups accord-
iuCT to street names— those besjinnins: with A-B-C to one box,
with D-E-F to a second, and so on. Only a very few downtown
streets, firms, and so on are sorted by the old method; the
bulky city scheme and complex examinations are cut out.

It is not disclosed how the mail ever reaches its carrier sta-
tions under this strange system, and Association officers claim
that at least one rehandling of all mail must take place and
that specific reports of delayed mail have been unearthed as
a result. On the other hand, postal officials claim that less
handlings are involved and that Texas clerks particularly are
much pleased with the innovation. Wisconsin clerks have
protested vociferously, however, and are anxious to retain the
former system of "expeditious delivery of important mails
direct to patrons ... at the earliest possible moment after
arrival . . ." and to continue to study their city examinations
to qualify for such service. If expanded, the alphabetical
method will at the very least constitute a threat to handy zone-
number distribution, and it is to be hoped that the obvious
advantages of the zoning system will prevail in the end.


Another improvement in the Postal Service, not primarily
a P.T.S. function, nevertheless affects its clerks markedly—
the Postal Suggestion Program. Clerks are no\v publicly pre-
sented with cash awards or certificates for approved sugges-
tions for improved postal devices or operations. Railway mail
men have been at the forefront in submitting Avorth-while
proposals, and the first nine cash awards to P.T.S. officials
and clerks were made in 1948. At impressive ceremonies W,
L. Lanier (a clerk-in-charge at the Air Mail Field, Washing-
ton, D. C.) was awarded $375 for his suggestion of additional
uses for an existing form, eliminating entry of registered
pouches on a second form. Second prize went to A.A. Chiccitt,
a Pittsburgh office clerk, for proposed discontinuance of an
unused space form. The most recent award was one to Clerk-
in-Charge William F. Leutwyler of the Philadelphia Termi-
nal, P.T.S.

A more specific recent P.T.S. improvement is a co-operative
safety program involving the N.P.T.A., service officials, the
Compensation Bureau, and even Congress. Honorable George
D. Riley, staff director of the Senate's postal committee, even
made a tour of the country exclusively in R.P.O. cars in 1947;
he had numerous unsafe or unsanitary conditions corrected
on the spot and others reported. N.P.T.A. officers have made
special surveys of many lines and terminals, too, and have
provided new detailed forms for special reports. Inadequate
medical facilities in terminals are being publicized; a national
N.P.T.A. survey of all mail cars was completed in February,

Experimental installations of devices for automatic ex-
changes at "catcher" stations have been tried out for years.
One of these appliances w^as invented by Albert Hupp, of
Kansas City, and was tried on the old Hyattsville k Chesa-
peake Beach (CBRR) at the Chesapeake Junction (D.C.) sta-
tion—attracting so much official attention to the ceremonies
that even President Taft turned up, and for the first time in
history a United States president rode in an R.P.O. car! But
this experiment of 1912, using six cranes with special catcher
arms which engaged a three-pronged device on the car, failed


to make a hit despite its apparent success. Officials have often
examined the ingenious English catcher apparatus but do not
feel it is adaptable for our usual exchange of one small pouch
only. Other experiments were tried even back in the Gay
Nineties and earlier. Our newest such device, at last report,
was still being operated— but only on one line, the Eastport 8c
Spokane (SIRy., Ida.-Wash.). The car has a dispatching arm
which makes a half turn as soon as the crane shears off the
pouch, thus causing the same arm to hook the incoming
pouch from the crane. But if there is too much or too little
mail in the pouch, it does not work, and the ideal device is
still to be found. Although not automatic, an ingenious im-
provement of the conventional catcher hook has been modeled
by Joseph Goodrich, formerly of the Eureka Sc San Francisco
(NWP); it can be reversed instantly without removal. Lloyd
A. Wilsey of the Elroy R: Rap. City (C&;N\V) has launched a
new campaign for automatic or improved catchers and restora-
tion of catcher and R.P.O. service.

Electric warning devices for approach to the crane are an
improvement needed even more, and the first experimental
installation was probably an electric bell in the car, rung by
the engineer, which ^vas installed in R.P.O. service on the
Rock Island in 1940. While this was succcessful, clerks prefer
an automatic device; and after many other experiments such
an appliance was invented by the Minneapolis-Honeywell
Regulator Company. Its earliest model appeared in 1942 and
was later successfully tested on Milwaukee Road runs. (An
installation on the rails, near stop points, actuates an elec-
tronic circuit when train wheels engage it.) It has been ap-
proved by the N.P.T.A. Board of Directors, but officials have
still not accepted is as a "satisfactory device." The newest
proposed installation is one invented by Ben B. Kirby, a
Kansas City clerk, and demonstrated at the 1949 Convention;
it has a film tape which indicates distance between stations,
buzzes automatically a mile from the station, and also indi-
cates which side of the train it is on.

In the field of administrative and personnel relations, too,
some very welcome innovations have actually take place. In


1947 a joint R.M.A.-R.M.S. committee revised the 314 com-
plex questions and answers of the standard annual P.L. & R.
examination to eliminate twenty-four obsolete or confusing
queries, and in 1949 officials made many clarifying revisions
and substitutions therein and reduced the total questions to
only (!) 284. However, much remains to be done in further
amelioration, especially in connection with the many compli-
cated registry queries which affect very few clerks. The secret
"rating" of clerks by their clerks-in-charge on forms known
only to the office, much resented by the rank and file, has been
eliminated— clerks are advised of rating now and permitted to
inspect report forms. In 1947, Senator William Langer made
a personal survey of R.M.S. working conditions, pay scales,
and operating practice, writing letters to each clerk; welcomed
by all of them, they replied in frankness and in detail, with
considerable benefit resulting.

Efforts to publicize the Postal Transportation Service to
our citizens generally have been redoubled in recent years.
The radio, particularly, has been put to good use. A series
of numerous outstanding talks on the Postal Service, mostly
on the (then) R.M.S., was given by Charles A. Kepner (late
6th Division R.M.A. president) in Chicago for several years
over WJJD, beginning in 1936. Three of his principal R.M.S.
addresses (later duplicated and broadcast elsewhere) were The
Journey of a Letter (the detailed handling of an R.F.D.-
mailed letter as sorted by Chicago city clerks on the Chicago &:
Carbondale— IC Train 26); Examinations in the R.M.S. (part-
ly in verse form); and The Story of a Raihvay Postal Clerk,
based on Clarence Votaw's book mentioned later. Some pro-
grams took the form of short plays by Clerk C. W. Edwards
and others, and fan mail displayed marked interest. In De-
cember 1946 a fifteen-minute R.M.S. interview was broadcast
to Californians by office clerk Lyle Lane, of Los Angeles, over
KGER's Civil Service News program; and in April 1948 the
new 6th Division president— Joe Baccarossa— revived Kepner's
idea by talking on the R.M.S. and Postal Service over WCFL.

Of probable interest to readers is the fact that a program
based particularly on one part of this book (the saving of an


express train from wreck by Clerk Reed— see Chapter 1 1) was
broadcast two years before publication by the state of NeA\
Jersey (Department of Economic W^elfare) in 1948 over a series
of a dozen different stations— W'N J R, Newark, and others
—on "This is New Jersey," December 20, 1948-January 31,
1949. On May 19, 1949, 8th Division N.P.T.A. leaders put on
a program over KRKD, Los Angeles, which also proved very
popular. One commercial program recently referred humor-
ously to the "college cheer of the railway mail clerks: 'Swing
and Sway on the Santa Fe'!" But perhaps the most dramatic
of all railway mail broadcasts on record was the one from an
actual R.P.O. car in motion, on New York & Chicago
(NYCent) Train 47 at Schenectady, New York, April 12, 1938
—the direct sounds of the train and a greeting from C-in-C
Bert R. Decker were sent over a national network via Station
\VGY on a "Postal Service at Work" program. Railway mail
clerks have also made an outstanding showing in popular
intercity quiz programs; Memphis clerks bested a team of
engineers by the highest score ever made (23 to 3) on
WMC's "It's a Hit" program, while several "Quiz of Two
Cities" programs (Los Angeles-San Francisco and Dallas-Fort
Worth) have featured PTCs.

There have been several motion-picture films dealing at
least in part with the P.T.S. One of them— Here Comes the
Mail, featuring railway mail clerks and other postal men at
work— was produced in 1935 by H. L. Hanson (and Gil Hyatt)
of the St. Paul post office, for a postal employees' joint coun-
cil; but the St. Louis Branch, R.ALA., doubtless made the
most use of the film. It ^vas shown 281 times to over forty
thousand people between 1935 and 1947, including clubs,
churches, and colleges as well as postal groups; it drew high
praise from prominent Americans. Bret Callicott acted as
narrator for this film, showing a thirty-foot R.P.O. car in full
operation. A second film of this same title was planned in
1947 by Carl Dudley Productions at Beverly Hills, California;
but unfortunately the footage then shot had to be scrapped.
It contained a dozen R.P.O. scenes showing a full Southern
Pacific R.P.O. car, with seven clerks loading and distributing


mail; R. A. Norris, the C-in-C, even exhibited a "clerk-in-
cliarge badge" (ink spot on pants from sitting on postmark
pad) to make it authentic! Los Angeles area clerks were used.

Two other railroad films dealing in part with the R.M.S.
were shot by Dudley during the same year for the Association
of American Railroads— A/o/n Line, U.S.A. and Big Trains
Rolling, relating mostly to trains in general. However, they
also produced a film strip Railroads and Our Mail (for still
projector) dealing exclusively with railway mail opera-
tions—also in California, in Technicolor, in 1948; it shows
all phases of mail handling by R.P.O. trains, with Los
Angeles Branch President Moyes and three other clerks fea-
tured therein. Two or three Hollywood feature pictures, in-
cluding 7oe and Ethel Tiirp Call on the President and Sj)ecial
Investigator, have contained fictional sequences based on
R.P.O. operations; also 20th Century-Fox's "March of Time"
film, Watch Dogs of the Mail (1948-49), dealt largely with the
same subject. The New York Central Railroad produced a
film for its employees in 1948, Within the Oval, which showed
Clerk Ray Smith, of their N.Y. k Chi. R.P.O., on duty in the
Century's postal car; and Clerk Gil Mereweather of the N.Y.
& Chic. (NYC) produced a complete film. Take a Letter (1948
—shows all stages of a letter's trip). Filmosound, Inc., has
issued The Mail, sho^ving a letter's journey on a fast stream-
lined R.P.O.; and the Educational Film Service (Battle Creek,
Mich.) a film Post Office— the. "complete story of mailing a
letter," with train scenes.

And the P.T.S. has just made its debut over television! On
October 19, 1949, WOW-TV at Omaha televised Hugo Palm-
quist and R. Matthews of the Omaha &; Denver (CBR;Q) and
Omaha R: Ogden (UP) working mail in the N.P.T.A. Con-
vention exhibit car (Chapter 13).

But in the field of literature no full-size printed, descrip-
tive book dealing primarily with the R.NLS. or P.T.S. -other
than this volume— has appeared since 1916. The Saturday
Evening Post for February 1, 1947, featured tAvo pages of full-
color photos (not too authentic) and much additional text in
its absorbing article "Postman on Wheels" by Ricliard


Thriielson; it featured Ed Nemeth on the N.Y. R: ^\^ash.
(PRR). Simi\:ir]y, the San la Fe Ma gnzine (July 194G) printed
a feature "R.M.S." by Gordon Stratclian— dealing wiiii their
Albuquerque R: Los Angeles run— which was so popular that it
was reprinted and expanded as a booklet with many photos.
Considerable other material on the Service, including this
writer's "Mail-Key Railroaders," will be found listed in the
Bibliography along with many pamphlets and miscellany.

The government has issued no public literature on the
P.T.S. since the 1880s, when its big technical book. History
of the Railway Mail Service, was prepared by the Department
as Senate Executive Document #40,'* followed by a handsome
leatherette pamphlet, the Raihvay Mail Service (by Post-
master General Thomas Jones; embossed gold stamping, ex-
cellent text and photos). With the exception of bound vol-
umes of government R.M.S. reports and clerks' data, techni-
cal books on railway mail pay, and general postal books with
incidental R.M.S. mention, there have been only about five
real bound \oIumes ever issued on our subject. They include
C. E. V'^otaw's Jasper Hunnicutt of Jimsonhorst (a delightful
humorous fiction story, 1907); General Superintendent |. E.
Wiiite's Life Sjmn and Reminiscences of the R.M.S., far more
readable and interesting than the History (1910); Professor
W. J. Dennis* The Travelling Post Office (1916); Earl L.
Newton's The Nixie Box, consisting of R.M.S. poetry only,
of a most enjoyable type (1927); and possibly S. D. Spero's
Labor Movement in a Government Industry (nearly half
R.M.S. matter, 1924). Except for the last, all these \'olumes
were written by onetime clerks and were more or less privately
published— as was one sizable mimeographed book, \V. F.
Kilman's Two Million Miles on the Railroad (printed covers,
194G); and a paper-bound printed book of Postal Service inci-
dents, James L. Stice's Free Enterprise (about one third
R.M.S.matter, 194r)).

Only two known published short stories of the R.M.S., as
it then was, have appeared— £. S. Dellinger's entertaining "T-

■Forly-cighih Congress, 2nd Session; by Maynard.


Series Mail Key," in Railroad for June 1936, and this writer's
"By Return Mail" (Our Youth, July 17, 1949). Many news-
paper stories of the Service have appeared; on an inspection
trip on one R.P.O., Doug Welch, of the Seattle Post-Intelli-
gencer, relates how he dared not touch even one letter in th.-
awesome presence of this heavily armed "relatively small and
select group of postal employees"! Within the P.T.S. we have,
of course, the Postal Transport Journal; a frequently issued
News Bulletin, likewise published by the N.P.T.A.; the De-
partment's monthly Post Haste and its divisional General
Orders; and many N.P.T.A. regional periodicals, such as the
Open Pouch and the Sth Division News-Lettd -th ? latter in-
cluding, until recent years, a colorful historical su'?plement
founded in 1941 by Monroe Williams as the Go-Bi k Pouch
(from which we've quoted liberally). There ar • scores of
others (Note 21). The N.P.T.A. also publishes an .. Kcellent
illustrated booklet. The N.P.T.A. and the Postal Transpor-
tation Clerk (formerly The R.M.A. and the Railway Postal
Clerk); and there are the stamp and R.P.O. hobby journals.

Railway mail clerks have made outstanding records as dis-
tinguished Americans. The late Senator Clyde M. Reed, for-
merly governor of Kansas and prominent newspaper publish-
er (Parsons Sun), was a clerk on the old Sedalia &: Denison
(M-K-T, Mo-Texas), appointed in 1889 at $800 yearW. Later
a division superintendent, he saved the lives of three clerks in
a safety campaign, saved the government huge sums in mail
pay by exposing railroads' false weight divisors, and •"as later
elected to the Senate and was active on the Post Office and
Post Office Roads Committee (although strictly following
Departmental viewpoints on legislation). Several other ci ;rks
have attained seats in Congress, including Carl Van Dyke (as
noted) and, just recently, A. C. Multer (New York) and G. L,.
Moser (Pennsylvania)— who have assisted in beneficial legis-
lation, as Van Dyke did.

Railroad president Harvey C. Couch, of the Kansas City
Southern, was appointed as a clerk on the St. Louis Sc Tex-
arkana (MoPac) in 1899; he organized a telephone company
in spare time, resigned from the Service in 1905, sold out to



Bell, and acquired control of nearby gas and electric com-
panies and eventually of two small railroads. Merging them
with the K.C.S., he became president of the consolidation in
the late 1920s and was active also, as we know, in putting
air-conditioned R.P.O. cars thereon. All his life he was active
in installing other benefits for the clerks, riding and chatting
with them and entertaining them royally at his summer home.

Theodore Newton Vail, distinguished former president of
American Telephone and Telegraph, was a former Omaha &
Ogden (UP) clerk who later became general superintendent
of the R.M.S. In his telephone career he originated the
coveted Vail Gold Medal, still awarded to phone employees
for outstanding devotion and loyalty. In more recent times
the brilliant and checkered career of Peter J. Schardt, retired
high Southern Railw^ay official was still making history up to
his recent death (April 19, 1950). Appointed in 1900 from
Sauk\ille, Wisconsin, to the C&NVV's Ishpeming & Chic.
R.P.O., he soon began his spectacular rise to innumerable
high positions as outlined in Chapters 9 and II; he was chair-
man of the National A.A.R. Committee on Railway Mail
Transportation and a very popular speaker. A Brigadier
General when assigned to Germany in 1945, he was awarded
the coveted Medal of Freedom for his "exceptionally meri-
torious achievement" in postal work there. H. C. Forgy and
F. W. Hickson, former and present Managers of Mail and
Express for the UP, 'vvere both ex-clerks.

Still in the Service at last report were Frank Cumisky,
Olympic gymnastic champion, and James W. Garnett, who
served as president of the world's largest Bible class. Cumisky,
a clerk in New York's West Side Terminal, P.T.S., has
been American gymnastic champion for years and an Olympic
star since 1932; while Garnett, whose class met at the First
Baptist Church of Kansas City, was a leader in the R.M.A.
and M.B.A. there and later an assistant district superintend-
ent. Many other clerks are active in religious ^vork, and quite
a few, like Reverend C. T. Wilhelm and Reverend Lawrence
Fuqua, have become ministers eventually.

A remarkable number of railway mail men have attained


prominence as writers. Karl Baarslag, of Silver Spring, Mary-
land, the distinguished Reader's Digest contributor and
author of four popular books (one from Oxford University
Press), such as Robbery by Mail, was once a sub on the old
Grand Rapids &: Jackson (MC) in Michigan. Samuel Bias,
still employed in the Penn Terminal (New York), sells first-

Online LibraryBryant Alden LongMail by rail : the story of the Postal Transportation Service → online text (page 31 of 38)