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Photo of the Month - January 2011

The Varnish

 line truck

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       Old timers referred to passenger trains as the “the varnish”.  Why? Because after a passenger car was painted it was varnished to further preserve the paint.  Even though this ca. 1900 photo is black and white you can tell the car finish is shiny thanks to those coats of varnish.   While most everything about a railroad was dirty and grimy the passenger train stood out clean and pristine.
       This Pennsylvania Lines open vestibule combination Railway Post Office (RPO)/baggage/coach has it all.  Add a locomotive, preferably a 4-4-0 American type, and it’s ready to handle light branch line business such as the Sandusky Branch.  If business is good just add a second coach.
               Judging from the truss rods under the car body, this car has a wooden underframe.  Without the trust rods the wooden car body would sag.  There is a mail slot in the RPO door for mailing letters something that might be done when the train stops at a small village depot.  Where the train wasn’t scheduled to stop the mail bag hook in the doorway would grab a mailbag on the fly.  There is a windguard for the RPO clerk in the doorway. The windguard protected the clerk from cinders and soot. It also kept him safe from any pieces of coal that might fall off the tender.
       The photo was taken in Columbus by the Bierberg brothers, from the Galen Gonser Collection.