“From the Madhouse with a Two!”

The Lingo

In order to keep things flowing, Railway Post Office clerks spoke a fascinating shorthand language. Since time on board was critical, clerks shortened mail labels to nonsense phrases.


Bum was another word for an empty or damaged mail bag. A RPO clerk would say: “Throw the bums out!“ (Toss out the empty mail bags!)


Nixie stood for a letter that could not be sorted or that was misaddressed.

Seventy-six in the house:

Seventy-six in the house was shorthand for: “Mail from Trail #76 is on board.”

From the madhouse with a two!:

This phrase meant: “There are two bags of mail for Train #11 from New York to Pittsburg leaving from Madison Square Station in New York City.”