locked Discontinuing Passenger Trains and Moving US Mail to Intermodal Services

George Eichelberger

Reading though passenger train-off files in the SRHA archives, I realized there was a direct relationship between the Southern wanting to reduce passenger train miles and the early development of intermodal services (sic Rail-Highway on the Southern) that I was not aware of. As with many things, the reason was money.

While passenger services, particularly dining cars, were not profitable, revenues from Railway Express and US Mail were significant enough the Southern did not want to lose them. Eliminating passenger trains in the 1960s came at the same time the Post Office was trying to reduce its own costs. Paying mail handlers at stations, moving mail to postal sorting facilities and adapting to reduced passenger train schedules were all issues to be dealt with.

As the Southern started attaching intermodal cars to passenger trains for additional revenue on those trains, the railroad asked to PO Dept if they would like to load and unload mail from containers at their facilities rather than passenger stations. Initially, the SR's intent appears to have been to add more COFC (Southern did not handle TOFC in those days) to its passenger trains. Very quickly, the PO asked to move containers between its facilities at times that did not correspond to SR passenger train schedules.

At first, the Trailer-Train (CTTX, specially equipped, only the SR and B&O used them) cars were operated in regular merchandise freights but the growth of Rail-Highway services soon led to dedicated intermodal trains and terminal facilities. As that trend accelerated, the PO was happy to eliminate RPO services and move what had been storage mail to intermodal.

Was this typical with other railroads?

I’ve attached a two-page SR memo to DW Brosnan dated 10-22-65 that discusses “diversion of mail from Trains 3 and 4” from Cincinnati to Jacksonville.