Friday, October 16, 2015

Railway Post Office service on the Berkshire

Authorized service

The U.S. Postal Transportation Service had an authorized space allocation of 15' per scheduled train for the transportation of mail on the Berkshire line in the mid 1950's. Official New Haven Railroad passenger train consist lists of the era indicate the assignment of one 15' apartment RPO car to each of the four scheduled weekday passenger trains over the length of the line. This scheduled mail service was maintained by two RPO's each making daily round trips that originated from opposite ends of the line, one originating at and returning to Grand Central Terminal in New York City and the second originating and returning to the northern Berkshire line terminus at Pittsfield MA.


The New Haven had five 15' apartment 45' baggage RPO's on the roster. These 60' cars numbers 2790 - 2794 were all built by Bethlehem Steel in 1930. In the photo below car number 2792 with it's original baggage doors is on the station track at Danbury CT. in the late 30's. This particular car had an electric heater to augment the temperature in the postal section during the cold Berkshire winters on the north end of the line.

Courtesy Bob's Photo

Modeling the Bethlehem built RPO's

Although additional finely designed and manufactured state of the art New Haven Railroad models in all scales have become more readily available as time passes, the lack of available RTR models or kits for some of the railroads rolling stock and most of the railroad owned structures can still offer a pleasurable modeling challenge. As described in the journal introduction, I most enjoy building models of prototypes that are ether unavailable or have not been built before. To date, there are no available RTR models or kits for the Bethlehem 15' or 30' apartment RPO's in HO scale, therefor I decided to scratch-bash this required equipment for my railroad model.

Fortunately for the New Haven modeler there is much information, official drawings and photos available from the New Haven Railroad Historical & Technical Association Inc. thru it's publications and on line forum at  The organizations quarterly magazine SHORELINER ran a two part series authored by Wayne Drummond in Volume 26 issues 3&4 featuring all the New Haven postal equipment. These issues, still available from the organization, proved indispensable in the construction of the model RPO's.

The below official New Haven Railroad plan is for the 15' apartment Bethlehem built RPO.

Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by Permission

Bethlehem Steel also built ten 30' apartment 30' baggage RPO cars in 1930 for the New Haven. These cars were the same overall dimensions as the 15' apartment cars but with an enlarged postal interior arrangement, visibly different on the exterior with two additional windows and two same size baggage doors on each side.

The below 1965 photo shows that 30' apartment car 2788 is out of service and condemned to the scraper, note the "C" stenciled before the car number. Interestingly, this photo reveals that this car received one flat plywood replacement baggage door in its' serviceable life. This would be a third generation baggage door for this car, but at what date it was installed is unknown.

Courtesy John Kasey collection

At times a 30' apartment RPO was subsututed for the 15' version on the Berkshire. Needing two RPO's for the layout, a decision was made to model one of each version.

Below is the completed 15' apartment 45' baggage RPO model of car # 2792, the second generation baggage doors are appropriate for the mid 50' era.

Next post will describe how the two cars were scratch-bashed.


  1. Beautiful work, Joe - and a terrific photograph of your model. The lighting and white background look just right - and I'm glad we talked about this at the NERPM this year.
    - Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

    1. Thanks Trevor - Our discussion was great, like all facets of this wonderful hobby, I'm still having fun learning thru experimentation!

      Regards, Joe

  2. Very nice work Joe. The car looks great just as your DEY-2!

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