Rock Island 720 – RPO
We believe this is Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (CRI&P) RR car No. 720, a Railway Post Office car (RPO). Rock Island No. 720 was originally built in 1929 by the Pullman Car Company as Parlor car No. 3500. One of the parlor cars in this series survives at Stoby’s Restaurant in Russellville, AR.
Two cars of this series, Nos. 3500 and 3501, were extensively rebuilt in 1952 by the Rock Island RR, becoming RPOs No. 720 and 721 respectively. The rebuilds were intended to modernize the cars for Golden State service, evident by the addition of roller bearing wheelsets and tightlock couplers. They were used on the Memphis to Tucumcari services, McAlester to Amarillo services, and other routes all across the Rock Island network.
In January 1969 the cars were stored in Pulaski siding in Little Rock, AR, along with many other heavyweight cars awaiting conversion for Maintenance-of-Way service at the Rock Island shops in Biddle, AR. RPO No. 720 was converted to a shower car at the Biddle shops later in 1969, becoming MOW 96182. RPO No. 721 was scrapped at this time due to fire damage.
Rock Island No. 96182 had migrated to the yard in El Reno, OK by 1983, when it was sold to Sunbelt Railway Services, a railroad maintenance company based in the yard there. After the Rock Island’s collapse, the Union Pacific RR gained control of the former Rock Island line through El Reno as well as the yard there. No. 96182 remained there until it was acquired from the Union Pacific RR by the Oklahoma Railway Museum in 2011. It is currently in poor condition, stored at Owanda Siding just south of the Museum proper.
Special thanks to Bill Pollard for providing information and photos for this car.