Filed Under Transportation

American Railway Express Office

The Railway Express Agency handled parcel shipping for the railroad from 1926 to 1975.

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

West façade, 1936
West façade, 1936 The streamliner City of San Francisco pulls up alongside the Railway Express Office in this 1936 photograph, looking southeast across Lake Street. Source: Jerry Fenwick Date: 1936
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. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1918
Railroad row
Railroad row The Railway Express Office was conveniently located between the Depot and the SP Freight House. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
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. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1950
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. Source: City of Reno Planning Department Creator: Ana Beth Koval Date: 1983
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. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2004

Location

270 Lake Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Mella Rothwell Harmon, “American Railway Express Office,” Reno Historical, accessed June 17, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/42.