Teaching Constant Motion: The Job of Railway Post Office Clerks with Primary Sources

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Teaching Constant Motion: The Job of Railway Post Office Clerks with Primary Sources NEW
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teach rpoSorting mail on a train moving 60 to 80 mph was difficult and noisy. There was little time to communicate instructions before the next stop so RPO clerks had a language all their own. From bums (empty serviceable equipment) to tie out (to stop sorting letters and tie up the separate packages made) the language of the Railway Post Office clerk would sound like gibberish to any other person. But with time not on their side, RPO clerks had to make the most of each moment to make sure the mail was delivered correctly.



Apartment Car

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


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.


Empty serviceable equipment (pouches and sacks)

Catcher Arm

The movable iron bar which issued 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.


The Post Office Department is often referred to as "the department".

Dump Up

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


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.


Combining mail for various separations because of insufficient quantity, lack of time for proper distribution, or insufficient space for proper separation.


Mail so incorrectly, illegibly, indefinitely, or insufficiently addressed that it cannot be transmitted.


Pieces of registered mail. The term "red" is an idiom of the postal service, originating from the practice of issuing a red striped pouch for registered mails.


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


A letter which has been overlooked in the letter case after typing out.


Heavy sacks of magazines or catalogs.

Tie Out

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

Working Mail

Mail that must be sorted or distributed.