Fast Mail Trains - Page 1

The Postal Cars of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company


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 Probably no branch of the public service shows such marked improvements as does the Post Office Department. The contrast between what it was when the Federal Government was first formed in 1789 and what it is at present is so striking as to be almost incredible. Then lumbering wagons, stagecoaches, slow sailing‑vessels, horseback‑riders, and sometimes pedestrians, were the means used to carry the mails from place to place, and what with the delay of transportation and the lack of system in the whole management of the Post Office, our worthy ancestors must have had but a faint gleam of the inestimable value of the system that in our day works so smoothly and effectively, and makes the mail our most useful and trusted servant. Step by step postal reform and improvement have been advancing, until perfection has almost been reached.

The railway mail service began in 1836, but it was not until 1864 that Colonel Geo. B. Armstrong suggested the plan, which was subsequently adopted October 2, 1876 of putting "post‑office cars" on the principal railroad lines. On the 28th day of August, 1864, the first postal‑car left Chicago for Clinton on a trial trip, and on the 31st of the same month it began running regularly. In October, 1864, improvements were made in the postal‑car, and a force of expert clerks from the Department at Washington were placed in the cars running between New York and that city. On the 9th of November post‑office cars were placed upon the lines between Chicago and Davenport, Ia., and Chicago and Dunleith, Ill On January 17, 1865, the Chicago‑ Burlington and Galesburg‑Quincy lines were established, and on May 22nd, the first railway post‑office service was put in operation on the Philadelphia‑Pittsburgh route. About the same time, or a little later, postal‑cars were placed upon all the principal lines leading out of Chicago, and also upon the Hudson River and New York Central Railroads, between New York, Albany and Buffalo, carrying and distributing along the line the Northern and Western mails.


The establishing of fast mail trains has been a pet scheme of the Post Office Department for several years, and Colonel George S. Bangs, General Superintendent of Mail Routes, has worked industriously to perfect the system. He met with much opposition from railroad officials, who complained that the compensation for running postalcars was insufficient. So strong was the dissatisfaction of the companies, that in the Winter of 1873 the' presidents of some of the leading lines threatened to withdraw the postal‑cars. The grievance of the railroad companies was the law which limited the compensation of mail‑carriers to $375 per mile per annum, no matter how much weight of mail matter was carried. By talking with the various representatives of the dissatisfied roads, Mr. Bangs became instrumental in averting the calamity which a withdrawal of the postal cars would certainly have been. Subsequently, after a great deal of legislation, the basis of payment for the transportation of mails was changed by Congress to something more equitable, and the new law rendered a concentration of mail matter on any one line mutually profitable to the line and to the department. This is easily understood. The settlement opened the way for pushing the subject of fast mails, and after long discussions with railroad officials, a plan for lightning postal trains between the East and the West was perfected.

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