Express messenger safe

NW Modeling List nw-modeling-list at
Fri Jan 26 02:55:11 EST 2007

From: "William Sheild" <wsheild at>
To: "Frank Scheer" <f_scheer at>
CC: "Taylor, James F." <jftaylor at>
Subject: Re: Car lighting
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2007 23:05:38 -0500


I did not know that there was a difference [between an
express car and a baggage car]. Did AAR have
different Classification Codes?

Interesting tid-bit [that an express messenger car had
a stand-up desk with a small distribution
(pigeon-hole) case with a wall-mounted light above
it]. I never considered a stand-up desk. I assume
that there must have been some type of seating for the
messenger as well?

That appears to be correct [that a messenger car had a
toilet and wash basin]. And in turn, there was a gold
star on the sides of the car. Our car has the basin
but the toilet is missing. Our leads to
procure one have been fruitless so far. Also in the
bathroom is a clothes closet or locker. This locker
is between the outside wall and the back of the
electrical cabinet. The electrical cabinet opens into
the main aisle.

Thanks to you, we now know a little more about the
desk. Next we need to find out something about the
safe. If we keep picking at this project, we may get
the car completely restored.

Do you ever get to Fredericksburg, VA? If so and if
you would have some time, we'd like to show you our

Thanks again for your help.


January 26, 2007

Good morning, Bill:

I had forgotten about the clothes locker in an express
car. There would have also been a water cooler. The
reason these and other fixtures were present in a
messenger express car is that it was often sandwiched
between inaccessible cars in a train consist
--purposely so, to reduce the possibility of en route
robbery. A baggage car lacked toilet facilities is
because it was always adjacent to a passenger car
through which the baggage master could gain access to
the rest of the train. Thus, a passenger car toilet,
wash basin, drinking water --and perhaps even a crew
dormitory car-- were all available.

There was ordinarily no fixed or stationary safe in an
express messenger car, at least during the 20th
Century. There were three sizes of heavy steel boxes
called messenger safes that were locked with a key and
had loops on the door and door frame for a wire seal
to be attached to detect opening. Railway Express
sold these during bankruptcy sales at its Jersey City
facility, so they turn up at railroadiana shows.

Railway Express also used similar cars that didn't
have the star on the sides. Those lacked the fixtures
and were designed --like storage mail cars-- to be
loaded and unloaded at terminals, but not be occupied
en route.

I'll look forward to visiting the car in
Fredericksburg sometime. Who takes care of
maintenance on RF&P 103 and the coach in Henrico
County? I wish it were a historical society such as
yours. I have about 70 percent of a 60-feet RPO
interior's fixtures I'd be willing to provide on a
long-term loan to restore RF&P 103 (or another worthy
car) to a semi-working appearance. These are from an
Illinois Central RPO that is facing scrapping at
Harlingen, Texas.

Best wishes,

Frank Scheer
f_scheer at

Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator
Railway Mail Service Library, Inc.
f_scheer at
(202) 268-2121 - weekday office
(540) 837-9090 - Saturday afternoon
in the former N&W station on VA rte 723
117 East Main Street
Boyce VA 22620-9639

Visit at

Also, if you have an interest in RPOs, please visit the RailwayPO group at

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