Mailbox Rail

Submitted to Community Chat

We moved into this house in 1987 and, as a new house, had to put a mailbox on the “mailbox rail.” The rail showed enough wear and tear back then that I scraped, wire brushed, and painted the bare wood mailbox rail white. I am told it was new in the mid 1980s by Jeff, who installed it. Over time it had deteriorated to the point that when I opened my mailbox I had to catch my mail. The entire assembly had seen better days. At one time I did a five-day course for postal inspectors as a visitor and knew this was going to take a degree of cooperation. Six visits to our local post master, three phone calls to postal inspectors (postal code / federal law issues), three phone calls to Dig Alert (California law), and at least five mailing and walks of the neighborhood before I had all of the approvals. All but one agreed to contribute full share value - it worked out to be $20 each.

In the before picture you can see the bracing I put under the rail to stop its forward progress towards the ground. Neighbors thought maybe leaving the pressure treated wood the red / brown color would look good – rustic, rural. I fought that as white is hard to miss. Red / brown disappears at night and my temporary bracing was knocked out several times. I won (since I was doing the work).

The verticals are 4x6s with the 6 across for good anchors for the 2x6s under the 2x12 top rail. All wood was drilled and fitted, then cleaned, dried, and given two coats of exterior gloss white. New 2x pressure treated wood was prepared to go under each mailbox to replace the old wood. The mailboxes are attached by lag screws through the bottom of their base plates so unprotected holes allowing water entry are non-existent.

The construction was modular, Kirk used his skid/steer and power auger to dig new holes with Matt helping. So they were responsible for alignment, placement, elevation, etc. Jeff and I started on the twenty-eight mailboxes. Most had been in place for more than twenty-five years. Most of the wood simply fell apart, rotted and decayed. Most screws and nails were simply pulled out with finger tips or pliers. Bolts with nuts were another matter. Some had to be cut. Several mailboxes had to be repaired due to earlier damage and neglect. A couple because we damaged them trying to take them off the old rail. One got a serious overhaul as it was decoratively covered – twenty-five plus years ago and it simply fell apart. Two hours of work had it back together again.

The post office expected mail service to be interrupted for 10-14 days, based on their experience. I disagreed. Starting on Saturday, morning at 7:30 AM, September 24, 2016, we had all mailboxes sitting on the new rail for Saturday, September 24, 2016, afternoon delivery at about 1:30 PM. The final pieces and touch up coat of paint was applied Sunday, September 25, 2016. The faces of all the mailboxes are within one quarter inch of a reference line, all are the height required by the post office.

We have three streets on this mailbox rail and I have a gap between each street group of mailboxes. Details which allow easier identification of "your" mailbox.

Twenty-seven mail recipients, one address is “inactive” so we had to keep it, and the Post Office all had to agree to allow the project to begin / complete. And it worked. This is my last community action project until the next one.

My Dad used to say, if you want it done, assign it to a busy man, if you do not want it done, assign it to a committee. This was a single man operation until installation. I relearned many people that have opinions do not have the energy, skill, or time to help.