What a beauty – this is a 1941 White 700 Series Transit coach, modified as a Suburban model, and outfitted as a mobile postal sorting facility. If you haven’t heard of these Highway Postal Buses, they have quite the interesting history – let’s take a quick look…
Rail transportation was just seeing the very tip of its slow, unfortunate decline as the decade of the 1940’s began. The US Postal Service, which had used the rail system to transfer and sort mail in specially designed rail coaches for over 80 years, was looking for alternatives.
They chose to purchase a fleet of buses, outfitted very similar to the railcars – and for their first models they chose truck and bus manufacturer White. We previously looked at these White coaches and can likely understand why they were selected. Stoutly built, they had the company’s unique and powerful 464 cubic inch 12 cylinder opposed piston (flat) gas engine. That certainly helped get the mail delivered quickly…
At 96 inches wide and 35 feet long, they were no doubt a little more cramped inside that the larger railcars. And as the stains on the shirts show, this was before the advent of portable A/C units for buses.
Most runs were around 150 miles, as that was the typical unrefueled range. They’d make stops at on average 25 cities and towns along their routes, dispensing and picking up mail.
The Whites served well for over 10 years, but as the company exited the bus business in 1953, the Post Office looked to a variety other manufacturers for replacements – here a GM Old Look.
Fageol provided a version of its trailer-bus hybrid, made in conjunction with Fruehauf.
Flxible offered its popular Clipper.
And Southern California bus and fire apparatus maker Crown, known for readily modifying its products to meet customer’s requirements, had this model. There’s likely a big 779 cubic inch Hall-Scott SOHC gas six cylinder laying on its side amidships under the floor.
In the 1960’s, automation brought sweeping changes in mail sorting and delivery. By the early 1970’s, the Postal Buses were no longer needed, and the last run was made in 1974. Fortunately two of these buses have survived – a beautifully restored model is located at the Crawford Museum of Transportation and History in Cleveland – fitting as that was the hometown of White. And the model in the photo at the top of the article is at the Virginia Museum of Transportation, awaiting its restoration.