The Railway Mail Clerk and the Highway Office
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RMS clerks were exempt from the draft due to the large increase in mail for both the domestic camps and the men overseas. Thousands of clerks enlisted anyway, resulting in the undermanned RPOs frequently turning dozens of unworked pouches over to the terminals for distribution. In , the Post Office Department effected a complete turnabout in its policy in dealing with postal clerks.
Beginning in , RPO clerks were required to carry revolvers, surplus W. I Army Colt 45s. Due to their size and weight, it was not necessary that the revolvers be worn by the clerks, but they had to keep them handy should they be needed. Because these guns were of a smaller size and of lighter weight, clerks were required to wear them at all times while on duty. By the s, the RMS was organized into fifteen divisions. The s also brought an improvement in working conditions; e.
Very few workers in the private sector had some of these benefits at that time. There were also some dark clouds showing up in the s for RPO clerks. The railroads had a monopoly on transportation for years; now they were being challenged by motor cars and trucks on newly paved roads. Transcontinental airlines had begun operation, carrying premium priced domestic air mail.
Railroads began to abolish both passenger and freight service, many of the short feeder lines cutting service and some trains on other lines being removed. This was only the start of what was going to intensify in the s and immediately after W.
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II, as other forms of transportation improved. The depression years increased the rate at which trains were removed. Due to the withdrawal of RPO trains, leaving some areas with poor mail service, the Department decided to experiment with the distribution of mail on large buses, equipped somewhat like RPO cars. It was a success from the start, but due to W.
II, expansion of this service was delayed for several years. After the war, HPO service increased rapidly. Clerks worked a minimum of 48 hours, but often much more, either on the road or at a terminal during their layoff. RPOs everywhere ran out of standard pouch and sack equipment, as it channeled overseas. To augment the stock of No.
By December of , 3, clerks were in the armed forces. In , of the 32, clerks assigned to the PTS, only about 16, actually worked on trains. During the preceding decades, only one or two clerks per year had lost their lives in wrecks and several years saw no fatalities. 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 routes connecting the RPOs, maintained very good mail service through the s.
In the s the Post Office Department turned the supervision of what had been the PTS Terminals over to the postmasters where the terminals were located.
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. In , the Sectional Center concept of transit mail service was announced, along with the ZIP coding of mail to make it work. Now it was just a matter of educating the public to use ZIP Codes on all mail.
This made it possible to distribute all mail by numbers, a far cry from the knowledge that was necessary before. 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.
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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 stated that RPO cars on passenger trains in the nation would be phased out of service prior to the end of the year, affecting 2, postal workers. With one exception, the phasing out was a success. The Post Office Department continued to use regular scheduled Amtrak passenger trains for hauling of mail on this line. The RPO clerks who were furloughed in , when the RPO service was discontinued, either retired or were placed in post offices at or near their homes.
If there was no assignment in his grade at the post office assigned, the clerk was permitted to keep his higher grade for two years, after which he had to take a reduction.
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Clarence R. Your article was very interesting. Thanks Leonard. Great post — very interesting how fast changes take place sometimes and how slowly at other Times. Many thanks for this article. Map Galbraith's railway mail service maps, Kansas.
The Railway Mail Clerk and the Highway Office
One of eight large-scale pictorial maps of midwestern states showing routes and post offices of the Railway Mail Service. Designed by Chicago railway mail clerk Frank H. Galbraith to help employees of the Railway Mail Service quickly locate counties and post offices. The maps were rented for practicing or prospective workers who numbered over 6, and traveled over a million miles a year on Date: Results per page 25 50 Original Format Map 6. Online Format Image 6.
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