Travel on Government Pay
At its height, Railway Post Office cars were used on over 9,000 train routes covering more than 200,000 route miles in North America. While the majority of this service consisted of one or more RPO cars at the head end of passenger trains, many railways operated solid railroad mail trains between major cities; these solid mail railway trains would often carry 300 tons of mail daily.
After 1948, the railway post office network began its decline although it remained the principal intercity mail transportation and distribution function within the Post Office Department (POD). There were 794 Railway Post office car lines operating over 161,000 miles of railroad in that year. Only 262 RPO routes were still operating by January 1, 1962.
Later mail was sorted by large machines, not by people, and the remaining railway post office routes, along with all highway post office routes, were phased out of service. In September 1967 the POD cancelled all "rail by mail" contracts, electing to move all First Class mail via air and other classes by road (truck) transport. This announcement had a devastating effect on passenger train revenues; the Santa Fe, for example, lost $35 million in annual business, and led directly to the ending of many passenger rail routes.
After 113 years of railway post office operation, the last surviving railway post office running on rails between New York and Washington, D.C. was discontinued on June 30, 1977.
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