Fast Express : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

I read somewhere that the Fast Express was "high profile" for a railroad. What exactly is a "Fast Express" or "Fast Mail Express"? What kind of cars (and how many) comprise a Fast Express and what kind of steam locomotive headed these for the SAL.

Thank you for your assistance.

-- John B. Hill (, December 03, 2002


John, the names "Fast Express", "Fast Mail" and "Fast Mail Express" were descriptive terms given to trains that were dedicated to the conveyance of priority mail, packages and other items that were time sensitive. These trains were rated as first class trains and had priority over other trains, including secondary passenger trains and freight trains, because they provided a means of getting mail and other items from place to place in the fastest time. Their equivalent today is Overnight Mail Delivery by the U.S. Post Office, Fed. Ex. and UPS.

In their time, these trains carried priority mail for the U.S. Post Office and also time-sensitive materials for the Railway Express Agency (REA). The REA was sort of an early comparison to the Fed Ex and UPS of today. Generally, these trains consisted of mail and express cars, with a train's car consist ranging from 4 or 5 to over 25 cars, depending on the volume of mail, etc. to be carried. Locomotives were often the larger, fastest engines available for the assignment. On some railroads, these trains also included a limited form of passenger service, in the form of expedited time schedules and limited passenger conveniences. Since these trains only stopped at major stations, and in some cases, at no other stations between their origins and destinations, they were the fastest way to travel from major city to major city.

Unfortunately, some railroads attempted to capitalize on the name that implied fast, expedited services, but assigned the name to normal passenger service trains. Their schedules weren't expedited, and they ended up with a sizeable amount of front-end mail and express cars, including a few priority mail/express cars that didn't travel at overall high speeds, based on the time of travel from "end to end". However, when most railroads advertised " Fast Mail", they truly delivered on their word, as these trains often had the most timely point-to-point time schedules, with stops only for crew changes and coaling/water stops, and with train speeds as fast as posted (and sometimes more!). I hope this satisfactorily answers your question. Bes wishes! Aaron Dowling (

-- Aaron Dowling (, December 04, 2002.

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