A trio of unusual streetcars

Baltimore Glimpses

February 18, 1992|By GILBERT SANDLER

WITH ALL the talk about the return of "light rail" (or streetcars), Glimpses returns to the thrilling days of yesteryear and three of the most unusual cars that ever rode the rails in the Monumental City.

* The post office car.

This was a streetcar built as a post office. It even had its own postmark: "Railway Post Office." It carried the mail until 1929.

Norman Yingling was a postal clerk aboard the Towson-Catonsville line. "We had a canceling machine aboard," he said. "We'd pick up mail at the mail boxes along the route. We'd start out early in the morning, picking up mail and delivering it to the various post offices." With two or three deliveries a day, same-day delivery was assured.

* The funeral streetcar.

It was named the Dolores (Spanish for "sorrow") and was a traveling hearse. And it made a lot of sense; every cemetery was on a streetcar line.

A unique feature of its construction was its two interior compartments, one for the family to sit in, one for the body to lie in.

The Dolores could be rented for $20, including motorman and conductor. It passed on in 1927.

* The snow plow streetcar.

This was a hefty vehicle with a very square look and two rigs up front. One was a typical wing plow for pushing snow aside. (In the days of steam railroading they were called "cow-catchers.") The other was a set of whirling brushes.

The streetcar snow plows were out there early and long, doing their work with rugged efficiency in the days when snows were heavier and meaner. They plowered their way into the late 1940s.

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