Norfolk & Western Railway Post Office Routes

compendium on CD-ROM plus RPO movies on DVD

The study of mail transportation is a fascinating niche within railway and post office history. For more than eleven decades, mail moved with celerity, certainty, and security aboard passenger trains. Even though comparatively little mail bore Railway Post Office (RPO) postmarks, substantially all intercity first class mail and newspapers between 1880 and 1960 were distributed within RPO cars. Railways also carried mail on many branch-lines that did not have RPOs, and rented space at many terminals and junction stations for sorting or connecting mail. Much of the detailed information regarding these operations was purposely shielded from public knowledge to protect mail security. Indeed, RPO and facility space was controlled by the Post Office Department which prohibited entry by unauthorized individuals. Consequently, historians often have few resources available for understanding RPO operations.

The principal purpose of this monograph is to provide a framework for railroad and postal researchers to understand Norfolk & Western’s (N&W) role within the mail transportation network. Equally important is a demonstration of the documentation that can be prepared for any railroad. The 340-page book is included on a CD-ROM as a Word 2003 document with all illustrations inserted. The total file size is 48 megabytes. All individual graphics files used in compiling the monograph are included on the CD-ROM as .jpg files, totaling 400 megabytes. The CD-ROM can be considered as a tool-kit for RPO research.

Here is an abbreviated table of contents:

Principal Functions of a RPO

RPO Documentation

Alphabetical listing of RPO routes operating over the N&W:
ABINGDON, VA & TODD, NC
ABINGDON, VA & WEST JEFFERSON, NC
ANAWALT & WELCH, WV
BALTIMORE, MD & BRISTOL, TN
BALTIMORE, MD & ROANOKE, VA
BLUEFIELD & ELKHORN, WV
BLUEFIELD, WV & ESTONOA, VA
BLUEFIELD & FLIPPING, WV
BLUEFIELD, WV & HONAKER, VA
BLUEFIELD, WV & NORTON, VA
BLUEFIELD & RODERFIELD, WV
CINCINNATI, BATAVIA & PORTSMOUTH, OH
COLUMBUS, OH & ASHLAND, KY
COLUMBUS, OH & KENOVA, WV
COLUMBUS,OH & NORFOLK,VA
DOTT, WV & POCAHONTAS, VA
EAST RADFORD, VA & KENOVA, WV
EAST RADFORD & NORTON, VA
HAGERSTOWN, MD & ROANOKE, VA
IAEGER, WV & CEDAR BLUFFS, VA
KENOVA & BLUEFIELD, WV
KENOVA & DUNLOW, WV
KENOVA & WILLIAMSON, WV
LECKIE & WELCH, WV
LOVELY MOUNT & POCAHONTAS, VA
LYNCHBURGH, VA & BRISTOL, TN
LYNCHBURGH, VA & DURHAM, NC
LYNCHBURG & NORTON, VA
LYNCHBURGH & POCAHONTAS, VA
LYNCHBURGH, VA & ROXBOROUGH, NC
LYNCHBURGH & SOUTH BOSTON, VA
MARTINSVILLE, VA & WINSTON, NC
NEW RIVER DEPOT & POCAHONTAS, VA
NORFOLK, VA, & BLUEFIELD, WV
NORFOLK.VA & CINCINNATI, OH
NORFOLK & LYNCHBURGH, VA
NORFOLK & RICHMOND, VA
NORFOLK & ROANOKE, VA
NORFOLK, PETERSBURG & RICHMOND, VA
PEEBLES & CINCINNATI, OH
PETERSBURG & ROANOKE, VA
PITTSBURG, PA, KENOVA, WV, & CINCINNATI, OH
POCAHONTAS, VA & DOTT, WV
POCAHONTAS, VA & ELKHORN, WV
PORTSMOUTH & CINCINNATI, OH
PORTSMOUTH, OH & WILLIAMSON, WV
PULASKI & GALAX, VA
PULASKI, VA & MOUNT AIRY, NC
PULASKI CITY & ETHELFELTS, VA
PULASKI CITY & FRIES, VA
PULASKI CITY & GALAX, VA
PULASKI CITY & GOSSAN, VA
PULASKI CITY & IVANHOE FURNACE, VA
PULASKI CITY & MONARAT, VA
RADFORD & ESTONIA, VA
RADFORD & NORTON, VA
ROANOKE, VA & CHARLOTTE, NC
ROANOKE, VA & FLORENCE, SC
ROANOKE, VA & KENOVA, WV
ROANOKE, VA & WINSTON, NC
ROANOKE, VA & WINSTON SALEM, NC
WASHINGTON, DC & BRISTOL, TN
WASHINGTON, DC & CHATTANOOGA, TN
WELCH & JENKINJONES, WV
WILSON & CINCINNATI, OH

Terminal Railway Post Offices

Transfer Offices

N&W Railway RPO Equipment Roster

Modeling N&W RPO Equipment and Operations

Listing of Route Agents and Railway Post Offices by Predecessor Railroad

Frequency Notes and Arbitrary Signs for Schedules of Mail Routes

1913-1945 Timeline of N&W RPO Equipment

System-wide Passenger Train Consists in 1954

Each of the RPO routes listed above in upper case lettering include information from John Kay's RAILWAY POST OFFICE DIRECTORY. When specimen postmarks have been recorded in the UNITED STATES RAILWAY POST OFFICE POSTMARK CATALOG, these are shown. Route timetables and maps for various years are included from TRAVELERS OFFICIAL GUIDE and the OFFICIAL GUIDE OF THE RAILWAYS, as well as Railway Mail Service schedules.

Also included with the CD-ROM are two videos to aid a reader's comprehension of basic RPO functions. A 28-minute movie, MEN AND MAIL IN TRANSIT, was produced by the Post Office Department as a training film in 1956. It shows all aspects of how Railway Postal Clerks did their work aboard a RPO car. MAIL IN MOTION runs 18 minutes. It is a 1956 educational film developed by the National Postal Transport Association (NPTA). The NPTA was the successor to the Railway Mail Association (RMA) after 1949. In addition to RPOs, MAIL IN MOTION describes the work performed at Terminal RPOs, Air Mail Facilities (AMF), and Highway Post Offices (HPO). Most of the railway scenes in both movies were filmed on the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad between Washington, DC, and Cumberland, Maryland.

Here are some sample video clips from these films at http://www.railwaymailservicelibrary.org/videos/

MEN AND MAIL IN TRANSIT

introduction to the Postal Transportation Service

hanging the catcher pouch at Kensington, Maryland

making the catch aboard a train

demonstrating a throw and catch

a substitute's first catch

MAIL IN MOTION

the substitute clerk's first trip on a RPO

making a non-stop exchange

These video clips aren't the same high resolution as the digital recordings on this disk, which are broadcast quality. They only hint at the interesting material that rail historians and postal researches will find in these programs. The DVD has a menu but is also designed so that it will play as a continuous loop without prompting. This makes it suitable for hands-free video displays at rail museums.

The DVD is professionally produced by Sony DADC in Terre Haute, Indiana. It has been prepared from the best available prints of these 16 mm films, copied to beta masters, then converted from analog to digital recordings. There is no region code on this DVD, so this disk is guaranteed to work on a DVD player anywhere in the world. Your complete satisfaction is guaranteed. If not pleased, you may return the DVD in good condition and receive a full refund including your return first class mail postage.

The purchase price covers the preservation of the original films and document files at the Railway Mail Service Library. It also includes the conversions and all costs to produce the high-quality DVDs and prepare the CD-ROM. Remaining proceeds benefit restoration of the Boyce, Virginia, railway station as well as monthly utility expenses. This former 1913 Norfolk and Western Railway station is shown before repairs and repainting commenced in a 2003 photo . You may learn more about the Railway Mail Service Library at its website or on the RMSL "AboutMe" page.

Price is as follows:
$47.99ea plus Shipping, Costing $2.01 for the first and $1.00 for each 
additional DVD purchased for Domestic Shipping and $3.01 for International with $2.00 extra for each additional.

You can Make payments using PAYPAL by making payments to fscheer@railwaymailservicelibrary.org or you can use our Mail in order form

You can make payments via www.PayPal.com to fscheer@railwaymailservicelibrary.org or mail a check to:

RAILWAY MAIL SERVICE LIBRARY
117 EAST MAIN STREET
BOYCE, VA 22620-9639