Postal Transportation Service

Postal Transportation Service

= Postal Transportation Service =

On October 1, 1949, the Post Office Department renamed the Railway Mail Service as "Postal Transportation Service" (PTS). Although this branch of the service had been in charge of all transit mail, some parts had little to do with railroads, although they were still the most important part of the service. In 1950, of the 32,000 clerks assigned to the PTS, only about 16,000 actually worked on trains. The remainder were in terminals, transfer offices, Air Mail Facility, Highway Post Offices (HPO), administrative offices, etc. Boat Railway Post Office (Boat RPO), Streetcar Railway Post Offices, and the Seapost Service had already been discontinued. The name of the Chief Clerk's office was changed to District Superintendent's office.

During the preceding decades, only one or two clerks per year had lost their lives in wrecks and several years saw no fatalities. When Pennsylvania Railroad's crack "Red Arrow," New York City, New York & Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Railway Post Office (RPO) Train 68, derailed in 1947 at Bennington Curve (West of Altoona, Pennsylvania), killing six clerks and badly injuring others, the whole country was shocked.

Even with all the trains that had been discontinued, the several round trips of RPO service on trunk lines, along with the expanded service and the star route highway services connecting the RPOs, maintained very good mail service through the 1950s. In the 1950s the Post Office Department turned the supervision of what had been the PTS Terminals over to the postmasters where the terminals were located.

Discontinuance of the Mobile Units

The HPO and RPO routes were collectively referred to as Mobile Units. The next move by the Post Office Department, in 1960, was to put each PTS District Superintendent's office under a postmaster, calling it the Mobile Unit Section, c/o Postmaster. This put all RPO clerks under postmasters. When there was no longer a surplus of RPO clerks from discontinued lines to fill vacancies on lines still operating, both subs and regulars from the post office roster were used. This eliminated the need for PTS civil service examinations.

In 1963, the Sectional Center concept of transit mail service was announced, along with the introduction of a ZIP Code on mail to facilitate mechanized processing. The ZIP Code made it possible to distribute all mail by numbers with machines holding the routing associated for each address. This was a far cry from the knowledge that was necessary before when Mobile Unit distribution clerks were expected to know the routing for several thousand post offices in their assignment. There was no place in the new set-up for an RPO service.

This development gave the railroads, knowing they were going to lose the mail revenue, an excuse to get out of the unprofitable passenger train business, something that they had wanted to do for years. After that, when a train was discontinued, instead of moving the RPO car on to another set of trains still operating, the RPO service was also discontinued. Within about four years there was only one round trip of RPO service left on practically all the trunk lines, and their value was minimal.

It came as no surprise to the railroads or to the remaining RPO clerks when, on April 21, 1968, Assistant Postmaster General Hartigan issued a news release concerning RPO service. It stated that RPO cars on 162 passenger trains in the nation would be phased out of service by the end of the year, affecting 2,224 postal workers. The RPO clerks who were furloughed had a choice: they were placed in post offices at or near their homes, or they retired. If a clerk found no assignment in his grade at the post office assigned, he could keep his higher grade for two years, after which he had to take a reduction.

With one exception, the phasing out was a success. The New York City, New York & Washington, DC RPO, which covered the highest populated corridor in the nation, continued to operate until 1977. On a part of this same line, between Philadelphia and Washington, the first recorded "route agent" had been assigned to accompany the mail, 140 years earlier. The Post Office Department continued to use regular scheduled Amtrak passenger trains to haul the mail on this line.

On October 30, 1984, a "mail-only" train service was inaugurated between Washington, D.C., and Boston, Mass., with a timetable tailored specifically to meet the postal service requirements. The northbound train was named "The Fast Mail" and the southbound "The Mail Express." Eventually, all mail transportation on Amtrak was discontinued on October 1, 2004.

External links

* [ Clarence Wilking, "The Railway Mail Service", Railway Mail Service Library (1985)]
* [ "Mail by Rail", The National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution]


1. Wilking, Clarence. (1985) "The Railway Mail Service", Railway Mail Service Library

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • United States Postal Inspection Service — Infobox Law enforcement agency agencyname = United States Postal Inspection Service nativename = nativenamea = nativenamer = commonname = Postal Inspection Service abbreviation = USPIS patch = United States Postal Inspector.jpg patchcaption =… …   Wikipedia

  • postal system — System that allows persons to send letters, parcels, or packages to addressees in the same country or abroad. Postal systems are usually government run and paid for by a combination of user charges and government subsidies. There are early… …   Universalium

  • Transportation in the United States — is facilitated by road, air, rail, and water networks. The vast majority of passenger travel occurs by automobile for shorter distances, and airplane for longer distances. In descending order, most cargoes travel by railroad, truck, pipeline, or… …   Wikipedia

  • Postal history — is the study of postal systems and how they operate and, or, the collecting of covers and associated material illustrating historical episodes of postal systems. The term is attributed to Robson Lowe, a professional philatelist, stamp dealer and… …   Wikipedia

  • Postal administration — is an umbrella term used to collectively characterize all the functional entities within a country that participate in the regulation and operation of domestic and international postal services. The term is widely used in diplomatic documents and …   Wikipedia

  • Postal Operations Manual — (POM)  This directive details the internal operations of post offices, including retail and customer service; collection and delivery service; mail processing and transportation; fleet management; and special services and supplemental mail… …   Glossary of postal terms

  • Transportation —    Commercial and military needs triggered the development of modern transportation networks in the Austrian lands of the Habsburg Empire. By the beginning of the 18th century, the dynasty’s ministers knew well that overseas trade had enriched… …   Historical dictionary of Austria

  • Transportation and Communications —    During Roman times the Brussels area was bisected by secondary roads. A bridge over the Senne River indicates important trading activity being carried out as early as the 10th century. Early economic growth stemmed in large part from the town… …   Historical Dictionary of Brussels

  • Postal marking — A postal marking is any kind of annotation applied to a letter by a postal service. The most common types are postmarks and cancellations; almost every letter will have those. Less common types include forwarding addresses, routing annotations,… …   Wikipedia

  • Transportation coils — The Transportation Coils series is a set of definitive stamps issued by the United States Postal Service between 1981 and 1995. Officially dubbed the Transportation Issue or Transportation Series , they have come to be called the transportation… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.