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United States/Covers & Postmarks : A cover answers a question, but more remain....Rincon & Silver City RPO

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Bobstamp
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19 Apr 2009
01:36:18pm
Silver City, New Mexico, as many of you know, is where you'll find my deepest American roots. My family moved there from New York State in 1949 when I was just six years old. I rather quickly became immersed in Silver City's history, which includes the notorious killer Billy the Kid and the Apache chief, Geronimo, who led his tribe in a desperate effort to fend off the steady westward movement of American pioneers, many of whom delighted in slaughtering Apaches. You can read about my Silver City background on my web page, "An old letter takes me home".

Another of my Silver City pages, "Loy Kee writes to Jing-Zun Pan -- A cover from Vancouver’s Chinatown to Silver City, New Mexico", addresses the question of mail routes between Vancouver and Silver City in the 1940s. The airmail cover could not have been delivered by air all the way to Silver City, because Silver City didn't have an airport until 1950. I now know, because of a thoughtful gift from Roy Lingen that it must have arrived by train. I had ordered a Vietnam War cover from Roy, and he included this 1932 cover in the shipment:

Rincon rpo cover

As you can see, it's a Rincon & Silver City Railway Post Office cover. Isn't that a nice strike? This is the first such cover I've seen -- I didn't even know there ever was an RPO serving Silver City, although I remember that a daily train came into Silver City from Deming. Branch lines served the mines and smelters in the nearby mining district which was the basis of Silver City's economy.

Rincon is little more than a spot on the highway between Las Cruces and Albuquerque. This map shows the rail route between Rincon and Silver City:

map

I've found only this one reference on the Internet to the Silver City & Rincon RPO
The train ran directly to Silver City. It left Rincon around 6 a.m. and got to Silver City around 11 a.m., then left Silver City around 6 p.m. and got back to Rincon around 10 pm. We used to pouch all those little towns up there and they went out on a Star Route out of Silver City. I was just a 'Sub' at that time and almost the last person to run on it as it was pulled off soon after. It was pulled by a Steamer. On the way up they use to stop and do some switching and leave the mail car set until they got done. I never did know just what all they were doing as I was busy sorting the mail.

The route it took was going southwest down to Deming and then North West up to Silver City.

A narrow-gauge Rincon & Silver City railroad opened on May 12, 1883. It was sold to the Atcheson, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad in February 1884; AT&SF immediately began conversion to standard gauge, and on May 16, 1886 the line was reopened and presumably included a railway post office. Service to Silver City lasted until 1883.

The Rincon & Silver City RPO was discontinued June 30, 1953, when it was replaced by a Star Route. (There's that "Star Route" again. What's a Star Route? This USPS web site will answer that question for you.)

Here is a photo of an AT&SF locomotive pulling into Silver City in 1961 or early 1962.

Santa Fe locomotive

I took the photo with my (then) new Yashicamat 120 camera, which in May, 1962 suffered serious trauma in a plane crash that nearly killed me.

I'm still looking for information about U.S. airmail routes in 1932. It seems likely that Albuquerque was served by airmail at that time; mail would have been transferred to an RPO which carried mail south to Rincon.

Bob Ingraham

(Message edited by Bobstamp on April 19, 2009)
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Bobstamp
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19 Apr 2009
03:00:13pm
re: A cover answers a question, but more remain....Rincon & Silver City RPO

An apology: The "plane crash" link in the previous post is dead. Here's the correct link.

An aside: Only this last Friday did I learn the details of the death of Kirk Samsel, one of the smokejumpers who volunteered to jump to our crash site. I knew he had died, but I had no idea how. A reader who had found my web site did some research, unbeknownst to me, and sent me the result. Kirk died in 1996 when the Cessna he was flying in a mountainous region of Montana crashed after running out of fuel.

Bob Ingraham

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Pastoro
24 Apr 2009
10:59:24am
re: A cover answers a question, but more remain....Rincon & Silver City RPO

Fascinating, Bob. I lived in Deming, NM from 1987 to 1990, after being born in Vancouver, BC. about the time that you moved to Silver City. There is certainly a long and interesting history in that area including the Butterfield Stage, which opens another wonderful area of discussion.

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