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Railway Express: 1940

Railway Express: 1940

September 1940. Montrose, Colorado. "Loading express packages into Denver & Rio Grande Western truck, which takes them to points on the narrow gauge railroad where passenger and express service is not otherwise available." Acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Potatoes then, potatoes now!

That building still stands:


When the Post Office canceled its shipping contracts with the railroads in 1968, the REA likewise ceased to exist because its express cars rode alongside the mail cars at the front of passenger trains -- "head-end business," as it was known. The REA was reorganized as UPS. I'd say they've done all right in the years since.

Crate address deciphered

Father J. Lane was Joseph Francis Lane, a Catholic priest residing in Montrose.

Mrs. Rose Off___ was Rose Offerman, residing on Main Street, Ouray. She was the widow of Herman W. Offerman.

The sender was most likely Urban J. Vehr, Bishop of Denver from 1931.

If this were a Western, the crate would be labeled Bibles and contain either firewater or rifles for the Indians. We Shorpyites love us some Westerns.

I wanted one!

I remember how excited I was seeing these hand trucks in railway stations in my youth ('40s & '50s). I could easily imagine getting a couple of friends together and riding roughshod over the trikes, scooters, Radio Flyers, and Irish mails of less fortunate neighbor kids. Motive power? What kid wouldn't want to help push one of these babies?

Like Better Buggy Whips, Inc., Railway Express is no more, but while they were around, they were an American icon -- literally so, their red lozenge logo prominent on their ubiquitous delivery vans and depot carts. I'd venture to assert that the REA logo was as familiar as its contemporary, the AT&T "Public Telephone" sign that adorned cafes and corner stores all over the country.

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