EIU Teaching with Primary Sources

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Railway Post Office Lingo

Sorting mail on a train moving 60 to 80 mph was difficult and noisy. There was very little time to communicate instructions before the next stop so RPO clerks had a language all their own.

In their own words...

RPO Lingo video logo

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Accommodation Distribution - The sorting of mail before it reaches the final point where it would have to be distributed in order to advance delivery or relieve congestion.

Advance Time - Time that employees are scheduled to perform duty in railway post office cars before scheduled time of departure from terminals.

 Apartment Car - A railway car, a part of which is used for mail distribution.

 Back Stamp - The impression made by postmarking the back of a piece of mail.

 Bin - A movable box which is a part of the standard equipment of a full RPO car, and used for a supplemental separation.

 Blank Slip - A slip of paper placed on the bottom of all direct packages of letters and circulars. Shows only name or sub. number, section, date and organization.

 Bums - Empty serviceable equipment (pouches and sacks).

 Case - A piece of furniture containing boxes (pigeonholes) into which letters or other pieces of mail matter are sorted.

 Catcher Arm - The movable iron bar which is used to hook the catcher pouch from the mail crane at the nonstop station.

 Catcher Pouch - A type of mailbag used exclusively for exchanging mail by means of mail cranes and catcher arms.

 Close Connection - When railway post office run connects with another run with very little time to spare, the situation is referred to as a "close connection".

 Department - The Post Office Department is frequently referred to as the "Department".

 Drop - Final receipt of mail before departure of train.

 Dump Up - To empty mail from sacks and pouches on work table for sorting.

 Jackpot - Mail for distant separations which the clerk does not immediately have room for on his case or rack and which he masses together in one box or sack to be distributed subsequently.

 Kill A Pouch - To intercept, open, and re-sort contents of a pouch of mail. Usually done in case of missed connections where there is an opportunity to advance the mail.

 Letter Chutes - Built in chutes in side of mail car for use by the public for dropping letters into postal car.

 Massing - The practice of combining mail for various separations because of insufficient quantity, lack of time for proper distribution, or insufficient space for proper separations.

 Nixie - A piece of mail so incorrectly, illegibly, indefinitely, or insufficiently addressed that it cannot be transmitted.

 Red - Pieces of registered mail are often referred to as "red". The term "red" is an idiom of the Postal Service, originating from the one time practice of issuing a red striped pouch for registered mails, but is not ordinarily used in official correspondence.

 Scheme - The official printed guide showing the correct supply or dispatch of mails.

 Sleeper - A letter which has been overlooked in letter case after tying out.

 Slugs - Heavy sacks of magazines or catalogs.

 Stringer - A pouch or sack hung loose on outside of regular racks.

 Stuck - Having more mail due to be sorted than can be finished. Unable to work up all mail received.

 Thumb Stall - A rubber cover for thumb to aid in sorting letters.

 Tie Out - To stop sorting letters and tie up the separate packages made.

 Trip Report - Detailed report to Mobile Unit Manger, prepared by supervisor of each trip or tour.

 Way Car - A storage car containing mail for local points. In contrast to "through" cars containing mail for distant destinations.

 Working Mail - Mail that must be sorted or distributed.

Guide and Glossary of Terms for Mobile Unit Substitutes
Railway Mail Service Library
Frank Scheer