Topics

Railway express agency (was LCL)

steve_wintner
 

Since LCL is being discussed in another thread, I thought I'd ask a related question - can anyone summarize REA ops, or suggest some books or resources?

I have heard it described as "UPS by rail", but struggle to understand that. Between large cities, sure, or along the lines between them. Chicago to Mundelein or Deerfield IL, for example. And often as head end traffic on passenger trains.

But how did REA go about shipping, a few parcels to small towns on branch lines? They wouldn't have an REA car full, clearly. I imagine the REA parcels got loaded in with other LCL on the railroads own cars (or trucks), as being discussed in that thread? Would it have been handled by the local passenger train, or freight, or was it simply whatever came by next?

Or would it have likely been delivered by REA trucks? 

Thanks
- Puzzled in Seattle

Stic Harris
 

Good evening,

I’ve found a pretty good education from:

Railway Express Agency: An Overview - VS Roseman


I think it’s out of print, but picked up a copy on eBay a few years ago. 

Stic Harris


Sent from Stic's iPad

On Aug 8, 2019, at 21:59, steve_wintner via Groups.Io <steve_wintner@...> wrote:

Since LCL is being discussed in another thread, I thought I'd ask a related question - can anyone summarize REA ops, or suggest some books or resources?

I have heard it described as "UPS by rail", but struggle to understand that. Between large cities, sure, or along the lines between them. Chicago to Mundelein or Deerfield IL, for example. And often as head end traffic on passenger trains.

But how did REA go about shipping, a few parcels to small towns on branch lines? They wouldn't have an REA car full, clearly. I imagine the REA parcels got loaded in with other LCL on the railroads own cars (or trucks), as being discussed in that thread? Would it have been handled by the local passenger train, or freight, or was it simply whatever came by next?

Or would it have likely been delivered by REA trucks? 

Thanks
- Puzzled in Seattle

Thomas Evans
 

Hi Steve,

From my experience Railway Express had their own offices & storage buildings in even smaller towns (but not really tiny places), always shipped on passenger trains, usually in railroad-owned "express cars" with their name often stenciled on the side, and had their own trucks for local delivery.  It was definitely a premium service & was a big operation at one time.  There were other express companies including Wells Fargo that operated in a similar way, but only one would typically have the contract with any given railroad.  I think I remember hearing that the New York Central had their own express company?  Others here can probably add more & correct my mistakes.

Tom

PS - I remember when I was a kid the local passenger train stopping in Rocky Ford, Colorado, for up to a half hour during cantaloupe season while they loaded 3 express cars full of crates of cantaloupes headed for Denver & who-knows-where-else.

Douglas Harding
 

Read “Ten Turtles to Tucumcari: A Personal History of the Railway Express Agency” by Klink Garrett and Toby Smith

Garrett worked for the REA his entire career, climbing the ladder to a VP. Book is full of personal accounts and stories.

In short REA was a consolidation of several premium shippers after WW1, which operated as an independent express shipper, who charge a premium price for premium service. Yes they had their own employees, rail cars, trucks and building in large cities. In small towns often the local railroad agent was also paid by REA to function as their agent. REA shipments were express shipments, handled in baggage cars. LCL was handled in freight cars.

 

Doug  Harding

www.iowacentralrr.org

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of steve_wintner via Groups.Io
Sent: Thursday, August 8, 2019 9:00 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: [RealSTMFC] Railway express agency (was LCL)

 

Since LCL is being discussed in another thread, I thought I'd ask a related question - can anyone summarize REA ops, or suggest some books or resources?

I have heard it described as "UPS by rail", but struggle to understand that. Between large cities, sure, or along the lines between them. Chicago to Mundelein or Deerfield IL, for example. And often as head end traffic on passenger trains.

But how did REA go about shipping, a few parcels to small towns on branch lines? They wouldn't have an REA car full, clearly. I imagine the REA parcels got loaded in with other LCL on the railroads own cars (or trucks), as being discussed in that thread? Would it have been handled by the local passenger train, or freight, or was it simply whatever came by next?

Or would it have likely been delivered by REA trucks? 

Thanks
- Puzzled in Seattle

Dennis Storzek
 

On Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 08:34 PM, Douglas Harding wrote:

REA shipments were express shipments, handled in baggage cars. LCL was handled in freight cars.

 

Doug has it right; LCL and Express don't mix. LCL was a freight tariff, the cheapest way to ship heavy, bulky items that didn't fill a car. It was more expensive than carload rate, but carload rate didn't do the store that needed to ship ONE stove to a customer much good. It wasn't particularly fast, but in the days before trucks, was as fast as any other method.

Express was premium service. In the days before FedEx and air freight, if it absolutely positively had to get there quickly, it went express. Express moved at passenger train speed, because it moved on passenger trains. While REA owned their own cars for large shipments, they also leased space in the baggage cars of at least one train on every possible route. Very common in the Midwest were mail & express cars, a 15 or 30 foot postal apartment, with the rest of the car dedicated to express and whatever baggage there was. The RPO clerks handled the mail, and the baggage man handled the express, with his salary partially paid by REA. Where LCL and express finally came together was in the freight room of the small local depots, where both waited to be claimed.

Dennis Storzek

Charles Peck
 

The REA shipments that I remember were flowers and live day old chicks. 
For Valentines Day lots of small town florists would be getting boxes of roses. At the REA building back behind Louisville KY Union Station there would be fragrant carts of boxes to be distributed to this local and that.
Springtime also brought boxes of live chicks, 100 to the ventilated box.  They had to be kept warm and delivered within 48 hours as I recall.  I saw baggage carts stacked high with chicks.  PEEP  PEEP PEEP!
I recall being told that these shipment were often COD, cash on delivery.  If not picked up in 24 hours, the agent was authorized to sell the chicks for the REA charge.  Better than disposing of dead chicks. 
Chuck Peck 

On Fri, Aug 9, 2019 at 12:19 AM Dennis Storzek <destorzek@...> wrote:
On Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 08:34 PM, Douglas Harding wrote:

REA shipments were express shipments, handled in baggage cars. LCL was handled in freight cars.

 

Doug has it right; LCL and Express don't mix. LCL was a freight tariff, the cheapest way to ship heavy, bulky items that didn't fill a car. It was more expensive than carload rate, but carload rate didn't do the store that needed to ship ONE stove to a customer much good. It wasn't particularly fast, but in the days before trucks, was as fast as any other method.

Express was premium service. In the days before FedEx and air freight, if it absolutely positively had to get there quickly, it went express. Express moved at passenger train speed, because it moved on passenger trains. While REA owned their own cars for large shipments, they also leased space in the baggage cars of at least one train on every possible route. Very common in the Midwest were mail & express cars, a 15 or 30 foot postal apartment, with the rest of the car dedicated to express and whatever baggage there was. The RPO clerks handled the mail, and the baggage man handled the express, with his salary partially paid by REA. Where LCL and express finally came together was in the freight room of the small local depots, where both waited to be claimed.

Dennis Storzek

Bob Webber
 

Get Ten Turtles to Tucamcari - a book that will explain REA concepts, work and methods the best. (Also the REA equipment book by Rossman)

At one time, REA was the Parcel Post, FedEx, UPS, and messenger service rolled into one. In many cases, more important than the USPO. You wanted chicks to Babylon? They hauled live chicks throughout the country. This is one reason I strive to to make people understand - a baggage car and a mail baggage car are usually not that simple. That's one reason the designation for most was either BE or MBE. Folks who should know a lot better, term any car with mail apartments an RPO - completely dismissing the Express component.

A package would be sent via a passenger train - usually the first leg would be a primary or secondary train - then the package would be moved to another car/train for continuation -. At the station, it would be given to the agent, Then a delivery man would take the package via wagon, truck, feet to it's destination. Anything and everything from live stock to sewing needles were sent this way.

Note that the REA messenger would not necessarily be the messenger within the BE - there might be two or the two components (baggage and company mail vs express) would be separated within the car. *MOST* baggage cars were not used for baggage, they were used for express. In the era of this list, there were huge mail order businesses, remnants of which sort of exist today - Sears, Montgomery Ward, J. C. Penny and others - used REA as much as Amazon used to use Fed-Ex & UPS. And it went everywhere. The green trucks were ubiquitous. Today, Amazon has fulfillment centers around the country, but originally they were centered in Memphis & Louisville (among others) so that they were near the hubs of Fed-Exx & UPS. The concept is no different today, although trucks have a far larger component than do the planes (rail in this era).

Express in the original mode started dying when Congress allowed the Post office to take parcels. Once that happened - given the point to point route mail has (from a shipper perspective) and cheaper rates, it was natural to use USPO. REA then started COFC & TOFC as well as dedicated reefers and special cars (horse, for example) to attempt to gain back share - but it was a slide from the mid 50s on. If you are modeling in the steam era, REA should be a major component - wether in trains (both freight & passenger) or simply in the scenery. Look at ANY station or depot plat and you will see an REA building or room. Look at urban scenes, you'll likely find the van. REA also initiated the hated ads on the sides of trucks.

Often, baggage cars that had gone west in passenger trains, returned in all local trains or even freight trains. Same with mail cars. Those who should know better continue to simply call them "baggage" or RPO" cars when the truth is, in the era they are modeling, Express was a HUGE component. Note most such cars included the name on the side of the "baggage" compartment. Fans & modelers get into sloppy habits of calling things incorrectly and are willfully ignorant - Express cars, Mail Cars, Single Sheathed, running boards, etc. are all known well enough to term things correctly.



At 08:59 PM 8/8/2019, steve_wintner via Groups.Io wrote:
Since LCL is being discussed in another thread, I thought I'd ask a related question - can anyone summarize REA ops, or suggest some books or resources?

I have heard it described as "UPS by rail", but struggle to understand that. Between large cities, sure, or along the lines between them. Chicago to Mundelein or Deerfield IL, for example. And often as head end traffic on passenger trains.

But how did REA go about shipping, a few parcels to small towns on branch lines? They wouldn't have an REA car full, clearly. I imagine the REA parcels got loaded in with other LCL on the railroads own cars (or trucks), as being discussed in that thread? Would it have been handled by the local passenger train, or freight, or was it simply whatever came by next?

Or would it have likely been delivered by REA trucks?

Thanks
- Puzzled in Seattle
Bob Webber

Nelson Moyer
 

My one and only experience with REA was in 1974, well toward their demise. I was discharged from the Air Force at Little Rock Air Force Base and moving back to Florida. The Mayflower driver loading my belongings refused to accept responsibility for my Altec Lansing stereo speakers, which were rather large. After arguing with him and losing the argument, I called REA to ship them to Jacksonville. I would have done better using a trucking company. A month after I arrived in Jacksonville, the speakers were delivered to my apartment. I uncreated them to fine that they hadn’t been packed properly, and the top had been ripped off one speaker, and both walnut veneer cabinets were badly damaged. I filed a claim, and an adjuster came out to expect the damage. He was less than sympathetic, and at first insisted that REA wasn’t responsible for the damage. He told me to have them repaired. I told him that it was impossible to restore speaker performance on speakers that were that badly damaged, and I expected full replacement costs as they were less than two years old. After much bitter argument, I ended up with 75% if replacement cost. The speakers went into a dumpster. Frankly, I was glad to see REA go bankrupt.

 

Nelson Moyer

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of Charles Peck
Sent: Friday, August 09, 2019 6:33 AM
To: main@realstmfc.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Railway express agency (was LCL)

 

The REA shipments that I remember were flowers and live day old chicks. 

For Valentines Day lots of small town florists would be getting boxes of roses. At the REA building back behind Louisville KY Union Station there would be fragrant carts of boxes to be distributed to this local and that.

Springtime also brought boxes of live chicks, 100 to the ventilated box.  They had to be kept warm and delivered within 48 hours as I recall.  I saw baggage carts stacked high with chicks.  PEEP  PEEP PEEP!

I recall being told that these shipment were often COD, cash on delivery.  If not picked up in 24 hours, the agent was authorized to sell the chicks for the REA charge.  Better than disposing of dead chicks. 

Chuck Peck 

 

steve_wintner
 

Thanks Gents, that's exactly what I was wondering. 

Nelson, as a fellow music fan, I sympathize!

James SANDIFER
 

Before trucks took over LCL, it was common for the combine on a branch line to have the mail, LCL, and Express in the same car. It was also common to have an old reefer or box in front of the combine to carry the LCL. On occasion there would be a LCL stock car to pick up or deliver livestock LCL on a branch. Later most live stock was crated and carried in the express car.

 

 

J. Stephen Sandifer

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of Thomas Evans via Groups.Io
Sent: Thursday, August 8, 2019 9:31 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Railway express agency (was LCL)

 

Hi Steve,

From my experience Railway Express had their own offices & storage buildings in even smaller towns (but not really tiny places), always shipped on passenger trains, usually in railroad-owned "express cars" with their name often stenciled on the side, and had their own trucks for local delivery.  It was definitely a premium service & was a big operation at one time.  There were other express companies including Wells Fargo that operated in a similar way, but only one would typically have the contract with any given railroad.  I think I remember hearing that the New York Central had their own express company?  Others here can probably add more & correct my mistakes.

Tom

PS - I remember when I was a kid the local passenger train stopping in Rocky Ford, Colorado, for up to a half hour during cantaloupe season while they loaded 3 express cars full of crates of cantaloupes headed for Denver & who-knows-where-else.

s shaffer
 

Bob Webber writes:

Get Ten Turtles to Tucamcari.
Tucamcari New Mexico USA is in Northeastern New Mexico. On the old RI/SP line from El Paso Texas and on US Route 66. Not to be confused with Tumacacori in Southern Arizona.

Steve Shaffer
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Alex Huff
 

The REA commission revenue a local railroad freight agent received was a consideration when bidding to hold a particular station.  A PRR agent, who never had the seniority to hold the job, told me about a highly desirable one, Harbor Springs, MI.  On the end of a short branch, which connected at Petoskey, MI, there was quite a bit of traffic of people able to spend summers in the cooler climate near the top of Michigan's Lower Peninsula next to Lake Michigan.  This was in the days before air conditioning.  Seasonal stores catering to higher end clientele expressed unsold inventory to a sister store in Florida for the winter season.  Several baggage cars were placed at the depot to handle the business.
           

roy wojahn
 

My only experience with REA was when I shipped my belongings from Ames, Iowa to Southern California.  My question is since C&NW at that time had no passenger service to Ames would a truck take it to Des Moines and then route it via the Rock Island to Kansas City and then Rock Island/ Espee to Los Angeles?  As passenger service disappeared did REA trucking become more common?

Tim O'Connor
 


Trucks by the 1950's. If you ever watch reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies on
Amazon Prime (streaming video) they INCLUDE the original commercials for cigarettes
at the beginning of the show - and it is a shot of a RAILWAY EXPRESS truck trailer
with an ad for the cigarettes on the side of the truck!

Winston tastes good like a cigarette should! :-(



On 8/9/2019 9:41 PM, roy wojahn via Groups.Io wrote:
My only experience with REA was when I shipped my belongings from Ames, Iowa to Southern California.  My question is since C&NW at that time had no passenger service to Ames would a truck take it to Des Moines and then route it via the Rock Island to Kansas City and then Rock Island/ Espee to Los Angeles?  As passenger service disappeared did REA trucking become more common?


--
Tim O'Connor
Sterling, Massachusetts

Bob Webber
 

Remember - 90% of us only saw REA in its decline. At one time it was the premier service organization. By 1954, with train-offs and reduction in trackage (and a lot of worn out cars that had been used for Express due to overuse in the war) - and the implementation of trains that no longer would serve Express save for terminals or long stops, the death was imminent. Unlike Fed-Ex & UPS today - they could not go out and purchase their own trains to haul Express - cars, yes, trains no.

By the time of your scenario (Ames to LA), REA was no longer the force it had been. But they always had large fleets of wagons, then trucks - so by that time, yes, they'd simply truck it to an open agency. And...even in that scenario, if all you have on other lines is premier passenger trains that no longer stopped for any length of time (say, to unload a large crate, or trunks, or...) the construct that REA was based upon could not work. You had to have the local trains or at least trains that had to stop anyway (see water & coal refreshing) for it to work. Most premier trains didn't make countless stops.

REA's decline was mostly due to the USPO being allowed Parcel Post. The decline of passenger service didn't help of course - but by that time *ALL* rail service was on a downward spiral. The ability to get a package from anywhere to anywhere in the US in the three-five days stipulated was nearly impossible. The loss of secondary, tertiary and mixed trains on the main and trains on branches were a problem - less frequency always ends up translated as less service. You could no longer put a package on a train headed to some place just outside commuter territory and expect same day service (which is what department stores did in New York, Chicago and other large cities).

LCL was winding down as well - for many of the same reasons.. When your frequency and scheduling reliability take a hit, service does too. The MP was losing money on every attempt, they shifted the service to their own trucking company. They were relatively innovative with the Eagle service, speed pack (containers of sorts that could be pre-packed, wheeled onto a car, wheeled off and unpacked at destination - a lot less handling & damage claims), refrigerated goods, etc. The bottom line is that at the edge of the era, service of all types was declining. One could debate endlessly as to why and how it came to that, and what solutions were available. One could also debate if the railroads intentionally killed the very thing that set them apart.

But the equation for LCL & REA was the same - fewer trains on fewer tracks with less reliability while trucks enjoyed more & better roads coupled with the railroad's desire for fewer stops and longer trains meant decline and end.

Inability to return empties and unwillingness to serve smaller customers was certainly a part of it. Traffic managers trying to get their smaller charges cars were frozen out in the attempt. The result is unit trains and very few mixed lading trains. Try to figure out how an LCL business would work now...The very nature of LCL business was against the railroads. It was, for the most part, local business. As trackage was torn up, as slow orders became more frequent, as congestion became worse in terminal areas, competing for local business just was not possible.



At 08:41 PM 8/9/2019, roy wojahn via Groups.Io wrote:
My only experience with REA was when I shipped my belongings from Ames, Iowa to Southern California. My question is since C&NW at that time had no passenger service to Ames would a truck take it to Des Moines and then route it via the Rock Island to Kansas City and then Rock Island/ Espee to Los Angeles? As passenger service disappeared did REA trucking become more common?
Bob Webber

Lee Thwaits
 

Was  REA legally tied to the railroads?  I always wondered why it didn't become a trucking competitor to UPS.
Lee Thwaits

Dennis Storzek
 

I believe REA was owned by a consortium of railroads same as the Pullman Company in its last years.

Dennis Storzek

Charles Peck
 

REA was owned by the railroads.  The Interstate Commerce Commission had rules about carriers competing against themselves and regulated other carriers as well.  Although they did at times make exceptions on a case by case basis, generally they watched out for anti-competitive situations. 
A barge line could not own a railroad and vice versa.  This largely kept the railroads out of the interstate trucking business. In many places they were allowed to do local delivery but even this was often done on a contract basis.
The rules were lawyer-complex but this is the best understanding I have of it.
Chuck Peck

On Sat, Aug 10, 2019 at 12:54 PM Lee Thwaits <leeoldsa@...> wrote:
Was  REA legally tied to the railroads?  I always wondered why it didn't
become a trucking competitor to UPS.
Lee Thwaits



Tim O'Connor
 

Lee

In those times, interstate regulation was very extensive. Ever see the ICC building
in Washington? It's MASSIVE.

But from 1929 onwards REA was owned by a consortium of railroads with shares proportional
to the amount of express revenues of the 69 owners. From 1961 onwards the REA leased space
on railroad trains and kept 50% of the profits (previously 90% of profits went to the owner
railroads) and the ICC (in the 1960's) prohibited REA from operating all-truck services and
only allowed them to use trucks in conjunction with rail service. This prevented REA from
becoming UPS or Fedex. :-(

As the first major "corporations" in America the railroads were subjected to the greatest
amount of regulation as corporate and anti-trust laws (and unions) were invented during the
100 years after the Civil War. These conditions really circumscribed the railroads' business
and severely limited them. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tim



On 8/10/2019 12:52 PM, Lee Thwaits wrote:
Was  REA legally tied to the railroads?  I always wondered why it didn't become a trucking competitor to UPS.
Lee Thwaits


--
Tim O'Connor
Sterling, Massachusetts

Tony Thompson
 

Charles Peck wrote:

A barge line could not own a railroad and vice versa.  This largely kept the railroads out of the interstate trucking business. In many places they were allowed to do local delivery but even this was often done on a contract basis.

  This was true, but not impossible to circumvent. SP's Pacific Motor Trucking held franchises in several adjoining Western states, and though a trailer could not be hauled across state lines in a single move, it could be dropped off near the line and attached to a tractor of the arrival state to continue its route.
     At the time of World War I and the USRA, there were seven major and a few minor express companies (already hurting when the postal Parcel Post had been expanded in 1913) were combined under USRA auspices into a single company, American Railway Express Co. During the 1920s, the ICC urged railroads to acquire ARE, and in 1929 they did, and 69 major railroads owned the REA stock, while minor railroads participated in REA though owning no stock.
     You may have noted that builder photos of express reefers in the 1920s showed the ARE lettering.

Tony Thompson