Head End Railroad Equipment: Mail Cars


We like to write about Head End Railroad Equipment. We even have a whole WebSite!

Our picture at the top which we bought from noted photographer Charlie Gunn, shows head end cars at New Haven, Connecticut. Now we have some cool notes from The New Haven Railroad Forum.

Like the REA express contracts the USPS had its own rules regarding the transportation of Sealed Cars of bulk mail. On a regular daily basis NH cars ranged far and wide to Dallas Tx. St. Louis Mo. and all points in between. What was available was used. The cars were designated as sealed Pouch cars.

To elaborate a little more, if the USPO in Boston or Providence or New Haven had enough bagged mail for Las Cruces, New Mexico and a New Haven car was available, then that’s what took the trip to the Land of Enchantment.  Specific routing?  That, if it existed, was determined by the USPO, not the railroad.

As for transferring en route, I suppose a sealed car to Omaha, Nebraska partially offloaded there could have its load then transferred to another partially-full car.  Again, that was a USPO determination.  Sealed cars stayed sealed to their destination.  Partially-loaded cars might continue onward until emptied or filled along the way.  As confusing as the mail and express moved over the nation’s railroad, before the age of computerized routing, it worked.

One of the major factors in the wholesale train-off petitions of the ‘60s was the Post Office’s cancellation of all rail contracts for the movement of mail in favor of air and trucks. With the lose of that head end revenue, formerly profitable, or at least break even runs became back breakers for the railroads. There were several proposals to save the national passenger system after that including returning mail to the rails. Amtrak was the worst of the lot, so of course that was the one Nixon chose.

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