REA Baggage Cars

“Not so many years ago, shipping a valuable package anywhere in the world merely required phoning Railway Express. The public knew the big green trucks with the red emblems and the advertising billboards on the side, for there were literally thousands of them. Perishables, fragile items and things that you wanted picked up at your house would have traveled by Railway Express. REA industrial customers could deal with this single entity that would handle the package through as many modes of transportation as necessary to get through to San Francisco, or Augusta, Maine, or Bremerhaven, Germany. And all of this with the proud claim that no parcel had ever been lost without compensation to the customer, for every Railway Express package was insured.” 1

Today, REA is gone, replaced by the likes of UPS™, but many of the structures and equipment for REA are still in existence.  

For example, in Washington, D.C., the REA building, located on 2nd St. just down from Union Station, is still in use as an office building by Amtrak.

DCNRHS also has three former Richmond Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad Baggage cars that were used for REA service.  The cars are former RF&P, #171, #174, & #186. DCNRHS’ REA Agency baggage cars were built by the American Car & Foundry Company in the 1930s for the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac (RF&P) Railroad. A forerunner of UPS, the REA provided shipment of individual parcels, goods and money, quickly, securely, and safety between parties in different parts of the country.  When the cars were retired from REA service, RF&P used them in maintenance of way trains before donating them to DCNRHS.

The cars are on static display and used as storage and to support the part of our larger program to preserve and teach America’s rail history, and to provide people a chance to experience railroading first-hand through opportunities to ride vintage railroad cars or even do hands on restoration and operations. The cars are currently static and not currently serviceable or operable.
In 2017 DCNRHS began a project to restore the exterior of the cars. In early 2018 the UPS Foundation provided DCNRHS a $15,000.00 grant which was used to complete the preservation and restoration of the exterior color and appearance of the cars. The restoration project used a combination of contract and volunteer labor to clean and power-wash the car bodies and under carriages, scrape the car exterior, repair weakened body panels and roofs, caulk exposed seams, and prime rusted metal.  Then the cars were painted in a Pullman green color to match their appearance during operations during the 1930s and 1940s. Each car had its original RF&P marking number restored to its exterior on both sides and the doors in gold paint using the correct Railroad Roman Font. UPS volunteers helped with the painting of the project alongside DCNRHS’ dedicated volunteer corps. The project was completed in the spring of 2019. Photo by J. Lilly
Team UPS Volunteers work painting the side of the an REA Baggage Car - August 12, 2017

1 “RAILWAY EXPRESS an Overview” by V.S. Roseman, Rocky Mountain Publishing, Denver Colorado, 1992.