Conrail former-NYC RPO car at Jackson, MI in early 1989

In early 1989, I drove to Jackson, Michigan to do an interview for a university journalism assignment. Afterwards, with a few frames left on the roll of film to use up, I drove by the Amtrak depot looking for something to shoot. In the distance I spotted an old passenger car sitting by itself. I drove down and found this un-numbered Conrail maintenance-of-way car, a former-New York Central railway post office (RPO) car.  I remember being surprised that, upon close examination, the mounting bracket near the door that would have held the mail catcher hook had “LS&MS” (Lake Shore & Michigan Southern) cast into it.

I shot a photo of the car, and the negative was later filed away for 34 years, until recently uncovered.

Without a car number to check, I contacted former Jackson resident and NYC modeller Tom Bailey. He was able to fill in some details:

I certainly remember the rather desolate postal-baggage combine you photographed in Jackson nearly a half century ago. I photographed it too and kit bashed an HO model of it using a Rivarossi combine as a start.

I’ve dug through all the stuff I have to try to answer your questions, but the little cast identification plate remains a mystery. Here is a short summary of my findings.:

  • The car was a NYC standard design built in large numbers (about 200) in 12 different lots between 1911 and 1924. All had 30 foot baggage and mail sections. The mail sections were in conformance with USPS standards. The cars were 60’3” long with 4 wheel trucks, with two doors and three windows on each side – just like your photo. All cars used the same diagram in the 1943 diagram and classification book I used. None were listed as being built in railroad shops.
  • The LS&MS was merged into the NYC&HR in 1914 and is not listed separately by the roads covered by the diagram book, but all the other roads in the greater NYCS, including the B&A, MC, CCC&StL P&LE, P&E are.
  • Since the series manufacture began in 1911, there is a 3-year overlap between the formal merger of the LS&MS into the system, so it is possible that the car in question was built and labeled before the formal merger. But the LS&MS was well along the road to disappearance by 1911. I’ve found no reference to assignments of any lot to a specific road.
  • Did the car in question ever run on former LS&MS track? I’d be astounded if it didn’t. NYC headend cars were run wherever they were needed, including on foreign roads. The LS&MS was the western end of the New Your-Chicago mainline, so it is highly probable that it ran there multiple times over the years.

My information was mostly from the 1942 date on the classification book. I also have the 1960 version. About 10 PB combines are still on the list, but downgraded to “express cars” with heating, lighting and other services for possible riders removed.

I’d like to thank Tom for researching and sharing information on this interesting car. It’s certainly long-gone to the scrap yard, but it reminds us of how much interesting old equipment was still around in the 80s.


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