Twenty-five years after the last Kansas City railway post office employee sorted mail on board, the Midland Railway Historical Assn. will commemorate the days when the U.S. mail was carried, sorted and delivered by rail.
Railway Post Office Days will get under way at 11 a.m. Saturday in and around the historic Santa Fe Depot in west Baldwin.
Wayne Kuchinsky, president of the historical association, said the "RPOs" played a major role in the success of passenger trains because the lucrative business helped fund other endeavors by the railroad. When President Lyndon Johnson called for an end to the rail mail service in 1967, the passenger service also suffered.
"The removal of RPOs was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back," he said.
Railway Post Office Days activities will revolve around Midland's former Kansas City Southern Railway Post Office Car No. 30, which was restored and added to the historical railway's operating collection in 1990. The car will return to service for the day, making 7-mile roundtrip runs to Nowhere at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Riders will receive a free commemorative cancellation cover, which also will be available for purchase.
Former railway mail service clerks will give talks and answer questions. They'll reminisce about the days when the railroad mail cars were the major means of transportation of the mail. In those days, mailbags were snatched from their hanger on the station platform, the mail was sorted on the train as it traveled between stations, and the bags of sorted mail were dropped off at each station along the route.
Railway Post Office Days also will feature displays of railroad stamps and other exhibits aboard the post office car and in the historic Santa Fe Depot.
Midland's post office car was built by Pullman Standard in August 1931 as No. 60 for the Kansas City Southern Railroad. It was rebuilt in 1963 as No. 30, and is 74 feet long and weighs 142,000 pounds. The car is owned by Midland's Allen Maty and Charles Pitcher, who restored the car with its mail service fixtures and other displays and unveiled it at the Topeka Railroad Days in 1990 in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Kansas City Southern's "Southern Belle." It then joined Midland's other operating historic railroad equipment in excursion and display service in Baldwin.