American Railway Express Office

The American Railway Express Agency building and the new Southern Pacific Railroad Depot were dedicated in civic ceremonies on February 8, 1926. From 1918 until that day, Reno’s American Railway Express operations had been located inside the depot. As a rail hub, Reno had high enough demand for parcel shipping that a separate building for the Railway Express was warranted. In his dedicatory speech, Railway Express general manager C. B. Graham expressed his hope that the new building would quickly be outgrown by demand.

American Railway Express, Inc. was established by the United States Railway Administration in 1918, as part of the federal government’s takeover of the country’s rail system as a safety precaution during World War I. American Railway Express consolidated the parcel-shipment services of Wells Fargo and Company and other parcel shippers, essentially creating a monopoly. The agency’s main competitor was the U. S. Post Office, which introduced its parcel post service in 1913. After the war, the government returned control of the railroads to their owners, and Railway Express was controlled by the numerous railroads in proportion to the amount of express traffic on their lines. In March 1929, the assets and operations of American Railway Express Inc. were transferred to Railway Express Agency (REA).

With the construction of the interstate highway system following World War II, motor transport of large and small goods surpassed that of rail. Companies such as United Parcel Service—today’s UPS—offered quicker and cheaper parcel services, and in early 1975, the REA filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy laws. By November of that year, it was clear that the company would not recover and on November 7, 1975, the Reno Evening Gazette announced “REA Express quits, Reno office Included.” Locally, four REA employees were put out of work and the building that had opened with enthusiasm and optimism in 1926 was sold. In the intervening years, the building has housed privately-owned commercial businesses.

Images

Previous location, ca. 1918

Previous location, ca. 1918

Prior to 1926, the American Railway Express office was located in Reno's main railroad depot, pictured here ca. 1918. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

West facade, 1936

West facade, 1936

The streamliner City of San Francisco pulls up alongside the Railway Express Office in this 1936 photograph, looking southeast across Lake Street. Image courtesy of Jerry Fenwick View File Details Page

Railroad row

Railroad row

The Railway Express Office was conveniently located between the Depot and the SP Freight House. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Virginia & Truckee Railway, 1950

Virginia & Truckee Railway, 1950

Looking to the west in May 1950, a V&T train passes the east side of the Railway Express Building. The train would be coupled together shortly before leaving time so that Lake Street would only be blocked for a short time. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Steak House, 1983

Steak House, 1983

After the Railway Express Agency filed for bankruptcy, the building was converted to commercial use. Paul Kennedy's Steak House was a popular dinner house in the 1980s. Photo by Ana Beth Koval. Image courtesy of City of Reno Planning Department View File Details Page

Men's Club, 2004

Men's Club, 2004

Presently, the Railway Express Office houses the Men's Club, a cabaret and restaurant. The business was closed for several years during the construction of the railroad trench, but its clientele remained loyal. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

Street Address:

270 Lake Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “American Railway Express Office,” Reno Historical, accessed July 26, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/42.

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