Mail at Bluefield - 1912

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Thu Oct 13 10:19:49 EDT 2011

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
February 9, 1912

New Arrangement Makes Trains 15 and 16 Run Late

Yesterday trains Nos. 15 and 16 transferred mail here and the new arrangement took considerable time, sending the trains from this city quite late. According to the present plan of shifting mail the Norfolk and Western will lose more money annually than if it were to run the sixty-foot mail cars instead of the compartment cars.
A suggestion has been offered which should facilitate the change and which provides for the extension of a movable platform of the endless variety similar to that used on a treadmill, from one car door to another, the power for revolving on the same to be furnished by a motor, which could be placed on wheels and be moved so that it could serve both trains Nos. 15 and 16, which transfer at extreme ends of the trainshed. The motor could be housed and a pulley arrangement attached to the movable platform so that sacks of mail could be thrown on it and carried from one car door to another, the speed of the platform being regulated so as to provide for quick transferring, thereby saving the rehandling on trucks which requires the services of several men, whose time costs money, as well as getting out of the way of train No. 17 at night in quicker time. The same plan could be adopted at other points on the line where mail is transferred from one car to
The electricity could be easily furnished and connection could be made with the current at either end of the platform by means of plugs and switches.
[I wish the article had explained more about the reason and nature of the mail transfer instead of the proposal for facilitating it.]

Gordon Hamilton

October 13, 2011

During the 1910s, two Postmaster Generals --Frank Hitchcock and Alfred Burleson-- embarked upon various cost-reduction approaches because of reduced congressional appropriations for the Post Office Department. One goal was reducing the distribution space in Railway Post Offices. The result was 60-feet RPO units were downgraded to 30-feet; some 30-feet RPOs were changed to 15-feet, and a few 15-feet apartment cars were replaced with closed-pouch mail in the custody of baggage masters. Mail on branch line routes that were only closed-pouch were diverted to Star Routes (trucks operating over roads). Also, limited postal funds were shifted to promoting fledging air mail services. In summary, the issues at Bluefield were a manifestation --and a microcosm-- a difficult decade for postal services.

Frank Scheer
f_scheer at

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