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Book Review
Express, Mail & Merchandise
Express, Mail & Merchandise Service
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Mail, Express & Merchandise Service is a new book by Kalmbach Publishing. Authored by Jeff Wilson, this well researched and excerpt presented book introduces model railroaders to that essential business of railroads, and how to model it, "From package handling to delivery - and everything in between".
    Express, Mail & Merchandise Service describes rail express service and merchandise traffic on railroads from the early 1900s through 1960s when railroad personnel handled packages and merchandise everything from baby chicks and cornflakes to money and machinery and got them to their final destination. A wonderful historical reference for modelers and railfans alike.

    This book covers:

    Depots, freight houses, and terminals.
    Dedicated trains, special cars, and delivery vehicles.
    Train operation and car movement.
    And much more!
    - Kalmbach

Mail, Express & Merchandise Service is part of the Model Railroader series of hobby books. It is a standard softcover format with 95 pages of content, and catalogued as ISBN 978-1-62700-378-0. Kalmbach's company item number is 12802.

Mail, Express & Merchandise Service is written by Jeff Wilson, an author and modeler who has penned dozens of books and articles for Model Railroader during his 10 years on the MR staff, as well as many other publications. Shipping by freight is explained through seven chapters:
    Chapter 1
    History of express, merchandise, and mail service 4

    Chapter 2
    Railroad LCL traffic 11

    Chapter 3
    Railway Express Agency 19

    Chapter 4
    Head-end cars and merchandise equipment 37

    Chapter 5
    Depots, freight houses, and transfer terminals 53

    Chapter 6
    Train and car operations 70

    Chapter 7
    Moving mail by rail 82

    Bibliography 94

    Thanks and acknowledgments 95

The text is interesting and educational to read. Mr. Wilson does a fine job of explaining how anything from a post card to an automobile was transported by railroads. In History of express, merchandise, and mail service and Railroad LCL traffic he introduces the first express companies, starting with William Hernden in 1939, and agencies before rail, i.e., the Pony Express. More than trains are presented - everything from trucks to handcarts. Even early "intermodal" containers are discussed.

Model railroads spanning many decades can host the Railway Express Agency, and the chapter of that name is very informative. Amazing scenes of REA trucks servicing trains and planes are intriguing.

Modelers will be gratified by Head-end cars and merchandise equipment. Those varied from standard rolling stock, to purpose-built and modified cars of both passenger and freight designs. The physical plant is covered in Depots, freight houses, and transfer terminals. From huge terminals to whistle stops, this is a fascinating chapter. (Of course, that can be said of the other chapters.)

How all that came together to get a pair of shoes from Boston, Massachusetts to Ely, Nevada, is explained in Train and car operations and Moving mail by rail. Amazing objects like Missouri Pacific Speedboxes are covered, as are better know mail cranes.

Express, Mail & Merchandise is an informative book whether one is a historian who cares little about trains, or a focuses operations-oriented model railroader.

Graphics, Photographs, Artwork
Kalmbach possesses an immense collection of photographs to draw from and liberally populate their books with photos. This book continues that trait of their books. Despite advertising 160 color photographs on the book's page at the Kalmbach site, the vast majority of photos are black-and-white. There are several color photos spanning the decades and they enhance the gallery even more. Photos illustrate everything including interiors of vehicles and buildings, they also present portraits of specific and general rolling stock. Included is an original map illustrating Illustrated Fast Mail Routes in the 1950s.

Many sidebars and tables are included:
    1. LCL carloadings, 1928-1971
    2. AAR head-end car classifications
    3. Express cars in service: Baggage express cars; Total passenger cars (5-year increments, 1915-1960).
    4. Express reefers-major owners, 1933, 1940, 1947, 1955, 1961.
    5. Converted troop cars in express service
    6. LCL in refrigerator cars
    7. Missourri Pacific Kansas City LCL cars, mid-1950s: inbounds and outbounds by railroad, and truck service.
    8. Express/mail train consists: Union Pacific train 6 and train 17, 1950.
    9. AAR mail car classifications
    10. Highway Post Office

This gallery of photographs and graphics are worth obtaining the book.

Mail, Express & Merchandise Service is a book that should be on the shelves of even casual model railroaders. It features exceptional photographs and expert information. It spans the era from the first trains through recent memory when the mail came off in favor of airplanes and trucks. It shows how easily and authentically one can model these operations on even small, basic layouts.

This book is an excellent resource for model railroaders and historians. I have no complaints and recommend this book.

Please remember to tell Kalmbach and retailers that you saw this book here - on RailRoad Modeling.
Highs: Exceptional photographs and expert information.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: This is a book that should be on the shelves of even casual model railroaders. It is an excellent resource for model railroaders and historians.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 12802
  Suggested Retail: $21.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Nov 07, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Kalmbach Publishing Co.!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.



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