Railway Post Office Service - [Telecom]

The other issue is what other modes were available for speedy

> transmission. As mentioned, the post office offered air mail and > special delivery which may have been overnight in 1960 and a heck of > a lot cheaper even with premium postage. There may have been air or > railway express services that delivered overnight; I know overnight > rail service was available from NYC to Chicago via the 20th Century, > though I don't know the cost.

The cost was first class postage appropriate for the weight. A letter posted in a special mail box at LaSalle Street Station in Chicago around 4 PM was delivered the next day in New York or intermediate cities such as Cleveland and Albany. There were many other Railway Post Office routes which provided similar next-day or second day service for first class mail. A letter moving more than 2,000 miles would likely arrive faster via air mail --but much of this mail was distributed in Railway Post Offices for the beginning and/or end of a letter's journey.

If one wants a cut-away view of the Railway Post Office on the 20th Century Limited, please send me a request with your email. The file size is about 1 mb.

My address is fscheer at railwaymailservicelibrary dot org (which you such convert to an email format). The railway station at Boyce, Virginia, which is home to the Railway Mail Service Library, was a Western Union office as well as a Railway Express Agency - and later became the town's post office.

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I know the RPOs had mail slots for the public and mail could be sent via the premier trains, but I wasn't aware that it was at the regular rate. Overnight NYC-Chicago at the First Class basic rate is excellent service, and I'm not sure that's available today.

I have a question about railway postal operations: In addition to RPOs, where mail was sorted on board the train, there were also many trains where mail was simply carried. Mail was carried on fast passenger trains and was profitable for the railroads. But in the late 1960s the post office pulled the mail off. That sudden loss of business hurt many trains and the railroads ceased running them. Would anyone know where I could find out more information about the Post Office's decisions in that era? (I wrote the Postal Service but got only a very general booklet in response.)

Also, when the post office claims "two day delivery", sometimes that's for delivery to the final postoffice, not delivery to the ultimate destination. If mail arrives at the delivery post office after the carrier has left, it will sit for another day.

Back when long distance was expensive people wrote letters. The letters of older presidents (ie FDR, Truman) to their families provide a critical insight into history of the times. Histories fret that later presidents who use the phone won't leave behind such a legacy.

In WW II servicemen and their families exchanged letters and today those old letters are part of the historical record. Today soldiers in the field overseas have cell phones and call home as they please. (I have trouble picturing the images of "The Longest Day", with soldiers huddled down, telling their captain to wait because they're on their cell.)

Older people, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, were not comfortable communicating over the telephone. ER did not like the phone and her phone calls were short and terse; she much preferred to communicate by letter.

I should note that earlier presidents got to choose what letters became public and what did not; their records were considered their personal property. Letters on very sensitive issues were burned. Today it seems every utterance of the president becomes "official public record", something I don't think is fair nor healthy for the truly free exchange of ideas. When advisors discuss a problem, to properly do so they must consider all possibilities, including extreme ones. But subsequent news media and authors will blast the advisor for suggesting something extreme and play it totally out of context.

IMHO, things like text messages and informal email should not be considered public property and forcibly archived.

I strongly believe the privacy of telephone conversations and messages ought to be strictly enforced. But today's technology, as opposed to telephony of the 1960s, allows that call log data is easily recorded and distributed and even the conversations and messages themselves easily digitally recorded and later accessed and distributed.

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In my childhood (the 1930s) the cost of a long-distance call was large enough that I clearly recall my parents writing letters to relatives across the country, alerting them that we'd be telephoning them some specific evening at some specific time.

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The increasing use of jet engines in commercial airlines at about that time may be at least partially to blame.

That is, I believe that beginning in about that era, jet engines became so powerful, efficient, and reliable that airliners of any given size could readily lift and transport a total weight substantially larger than the total weight of all the passengers that could conceivably be stuffed into the total volume of the fuselage,

That left a lot of additional volume that was, and still is, ideally suitable for carrying relatively dense, easily handled, and regularly scheduled freight -- like regular mail, (Of course, this also helps in accounting for the unpleasantly overcrowded airline passenger accommodations that prevail today.)

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For decades my mother and her sister sent frequent postcards to each other; they were about 60 miles apart. My mother occassionally did call, but used a 3 minute egg timer to ensure she kept to the minimum time, or even used the corner pay phone since when the money dropped time was up. It was 40 cents for three minutes, about $4.00/3 minutes in today's dollars.

In the 1990s the toll rates went down so much ("5c a minute Sundays") that stopped writing cards and talked on the phone for an hour even though they were now 1,000 miles apart. (Lowered airfares allowed visits from time to time, as well.)

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