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Union Pacific RPO #5901

GGRM Collection 

The Union Pacific 5901 was one of seven cars, UP 5900-5902, Chicago & North Western 8225-8226 (American Car and Foundry) and Southern Pacific 5003-5004 (Pullman Standard), built in 1949 to provide a pool of cars to add RPO service to the SP-UP-C&NW streamliner City of San Francisco operating between Oakland Pier and Chicago. Painted in the Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray passenger colors, the car fit right in to the look of the sleek streamliner. The car is 85 feet long with a full 60-foot post office apartment. The rest of the car is space for worked storage mail.
On October 13, 2007, UP 5901 was spotted at Sunol Depot help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the last run of an RPO on the Southern Pacific system.
Streamliner City of San Francisco Train 101-102
The City of San Francisco, Train 101-102, began service between Chicago and Oakland Pier on June 14, 1936 making five round trips a month, on a swift under 40 hours schedule. It was among the first diesel streamliners in an era of custom built aluminum and stainless steel trains. The train was a joint operation of the Southern Pacific (Oakland - Ogden), Union Pacific (Ogden - Omaha) and Chicago and Northwestern (Omaha- Chicago). The train was so successful a larger train replaced it in 1938. In 1941 a second train was added and frequency was increased to 10 round trips a month. After the war, railroads ordered thousands of new cars to replace older equipment worn out by the huge transportation burden placed on the railroads during the war. Many orders for new streamlined passenger equipment included a matching RPO with regulation interior appointments. Enough equipment arrived by 1948 for the train to run daily. RPO cars were added in 1950 and ran until October 13, 1967.
Snowbound Train - January 13- 16, 1952

The winter of 1951-52 brought record snows to Donner Pass and Southern Pacific struggled to keep the line open. On January 13, train 101, the westbound City of San Francisco streamliner with 226 passengers aboard struck a snow slide between tunnel 35 and 36. The train attempted to back out, but was unsuccessful. Snowplows tried to reach the train from both sides and they soon became stuck, an avalanche knocking the locomotive over and killing the engineer of the snowplow. By the morning of the 14th, the route was blocked and the storm was raging. Highway 40 had been closed since the 11th when an avalanche buried a truck and trailer rig. Newspaper stories were going wild running the story of the original Donner party and the gruesome fate that had befallen them. They wondered if the same was not happening on the stranded train high up in the blizzard covered mountains. Troops of the Sixth Army attempted to reach them with motorized Weasels, but they sank in the snow. On the morning of the 15, a Truckee doctor with a dog sled was able to reach the train and offer medical help. A break in the storm allowed a Coast Guard helicopter to drop medical aids, supplies and food. On Wednesday the 16, the skies had cleared. Rotary snowplows were able to get close to the stranded train, and evacuations could begin. Fuel had run out of the steam locomotive that had been providing heat. Toilets and water pipes had frozen and burst. Passengers had wrapped themselves in the extra Pullman blankets, Dinner linens and window shades. It took several more days to free the locomotives and cars from the ice and snow. The line was closed for 13 days.

The last surviving car from the snowbound train is the U.P. RPO #5901. There was only one RPO clerk on 101 that day. The reason is that the normal crew's eastbound train had been annulled due to the storm, so there was no crew at Lovelock to board 101's RPO. Instead, one crewmember from the East Division, E. Wayne Loveland, continued on west of Lovelock on 101 to stay with the registered mail.

UP 5901 at Hunters Point
UP 5901 went into MOW service for the bridge and signal gangs. The upper paper bins were painted silver and labeled for the different nuts, bolts and washers the gang needed. Most mail/baggage cars going into MOW service had the postal equipment stripped out, so we are very fortunate the car is as complete as it is. The major missing items are the mid-car sorting tables. The car needs truck and body work, and will be repainted into Armour Yellow/Harbor Mist Gray streamliner colors.
The letter cases have headers made up by retired RPO clerk Jim Briggs. One side of the car is set up to display eastbound sorting of central California towns, mountain states destinations and eastern states, the other side is set up to display westbound sorting of central California towns, Bay Area towns and San Francisco neighborhood destinations.
The pouch and sack racks dressed for service. The upper bins were painted silver by the MOW department and are hand lettered for the parts stored in them. These will be stripped of paint and returned to the natural wood finish.
A case used to test RPO clerks on speed and accuracy.