Highway Post Office

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Highway Post Office.jpg

Now obsolete, Highway Post Offices once were a familiar sight on the
 nationís highways. This one is preserved in the Smithsonianís collection.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

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For years the Post Office used specially equipped railroad cars where clerks could
 sort mail while passenger trains were chugging along the tracks. By the late
1930s, highways were stretching across America, and the U.S. Post
 Office Department began to consider creating Highway Post
Offices (HPOs), bus-like vehicles designed to operate
like the Railway Post Offices (RPOs).

The first HPO entered service on Feb. 10, 1941, traveling a 149-mile
 route between Washington, D.C., and Harrisonburg, Virginia.
 Two more HPO routes opened later in the year, one
between Indianapolis and South Bend, Indiana,
and one between San Francisco and
 Pacific Grove, California.

The outbreak of World War II interrupted the addition
 of new routes. After the war ended, HPO service
was revived with hundreds of new routes open

On April 30, 1956, an HPO route was established
 between Parkersburg and Huntington.

The interior of the HPOs was very similar to RPOs. Each vehicle
 could hold about 150 mailbags. To keep the mail safe, there
was a locked gate between the postal clerks and the driver
 (often a hired contractor rather than a postal employee).
 There were also bars on the windows.

Just as on the RPOs, the HPO clerks sorted the mail while the
vehicle was in motion. But while trains moved at a mostly
steady pace, HPO clerks had to deal with poor roads,
 potholes and frequent stops and starts. Their job
wasnít an easy one. The routes themselves
were typically less than 150 mile in
 length to avoid stops for refueling.

But the HPO era proved short. In the 1960s, the Post Office
underwent a sweeping reorganization which saw the
 introduction of ZIP codes and the establishment of
sectional centers, which meant HPOs
 no longer had a role to play.

Itís not known when the Parkersburg-Huntington route
 was ended, but the last HPO was parked in 1974.

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Note:  This Article and picture appeared in the Herald-Dispatch Newspaper on May 24, 2022..

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