The Railway Express Agency (REA) was a national monopoly set up by the United States federal government in
1917. Rail express services provided small package and parcel transportation using the railroad infrastructure much as
UPS functions today using the road system. The United States government was concerned about the rapid, safe
movement of parcels, money, and goods during World War I and REA was its solution to this problem.
As the population of the nation moved west following the expanding network of railroads, early package express
companies, and then the REA, along with innovative mail order enterprises like Sears, Robuck & Co. and their
awesomely complete mail order catalog, the rural community could begin to enjoy all the luxuries of their city cousins.
In the larger towns, separate businesses provided the delivery service. In smaller towns, many railroad station agents
supplemented their income by becoming local REA franchisee operators. Typically they provided local delivery direct to
homes and businesses, first by horse and wagon and later by truck.
REA ceased operations in 1975, when its business model ceased to be viable.
Pictures Clik on thumbnails to enlarge
2 images of restored REA trucks courtesy of Ken Heyl
My pictures from the Illinois Railway Museum