Railway Express Agency
In 1929 69 railroads created the Railway Express Agency. It was formed from famous companies such as the Wells Fargo Inc, American Express Co., and Southern Express Co. just to name a few. These latter companies were formed into the American Railway Express Co. during WWI while under federal government control. In 1920 its was deemed to split this company back to its original companies. It was then approved by the ICC to continue operation as the American Railway Express but urged the railroads to begin operating their own express business.
Railway Express was much like today’s UPS. Virtually everything was shipped by REA as “LCL” (less than car load) or a full carload. Fruit, fish, flowers, bicycles, coffins, zoo animals, pets, racehorse’s motion picture film, anything and everything. Most all passenger trains carried same form of Express. Most all-secondary trains were for the purpose of express service while the 1st class trains ran through, and they too may have some express business.
Jacksonville had a big roll with Railway Express. It is believed that Jacksonville’s facility was the largest in the country with a capacity for 250 cars. Equipped with a modern covered loading / unloading platform with multiple tracks, office space and loading/ unloading docks for trucks in front. A large storage yard was needed with around the clock terminal crews pulling and spotting express baggage, express box and express reefers.
REA as it later became to be known, was not limited to railroads. Air Service and Trucks also played part in their service. In the early 1960’s Southern was the first railroad in our area to discontinue using REA. An attempt was made to replace Southern’s system wide traffic by using trucks. In 1962 REA opened its last but modern terminal in Savannah Georgia served by the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads. REA also attempted using express containerized vans on flat cars. To compete with other modes of transportation REALCO was formed as a trailer leasing pool. Railway traffic had reduced system wide and by the early 1970’s terminals were closed, Jacksonville was no exception and by 1975 REA was history.
An Overview by V. S. Roseman, Published by Rocky Mountain covers the history of the REA system wide from its beginning to its demise.
We will show examples of the various rail and rail/truck related vehicles used in the Jacksonville area.Our example of the REA 50’ welded express reefer is a scratch built SouthEast ScaleModel
Our Examples of a 50' wood express car is a Model Die Cast Kit:
An Example of one of many Railway Express Trucks: