During the late summer of 1899, the EH&A was awarded a government contract to carry pouch mail on its regular passenger cars between Exeter and Smithtown. The agreement called for three round trips daily, Monday through Saturday, between Exeter and Hampton Falls and two round trips daily except Sunday between Exeter and Smithtown. The pouches were to be received at and forwarded from the Hampton depot, where connections were to be made with mail trains.
Inaugurated Monday, September 11, the new service was ill received by postal patrons, particularly those in Seabrook and Hampton Falls, who declared that the. mails were arriving 15 to 30 minutes later than when they were carried by private individuals under contract and were handled from the B&M stations at Atlantic (South Seabrook), Seabrook and Hampton Falls. Exeter residents complained that where they formerly had been able to send a letter to Hampton, Hampton Falls or Seabrook in the morning and receive a reply in the late afternoon, they were now unable to do so. The Exeter News-Letter of October 18, editorializing on the mail service, declared that the post office and all other government business was supposed to be conducted upon progressive principles and for the convenience of the public. "The present arrangement is neither progressive nor convenient and it should be abolished," the newspaper said.
There was little the EH&A itself could do to remedy the situation but even as the complaints continued, a new development - the operation of a railway postoffice car between Exeter and Amesbury - was looming on the horizon. The contract for such service was awarded February 7, 1900, a starting date of March 1 being specified. Almost immediately thereafter, the railway ordered a combination mail and baggage car from the Newburyport Car Company but because this could not possibly arrive in time, the freight car No. 12 was altered for temporary mail service.
Promptly on the advertised date, Thursday, March 1, No. 12 left the Exeter depot at 8 a.m. sharp for the first mail trip to Amesbury. Aboard the car were Motorman Nicholas Walsh of Amesbury; Conductor Herbert Pierson of Exeter; H. D. Burlingame, the mail clerk; Chief Clerk C. E. Marshall of the railway mail service's Portland, Me., office, and General Manager McReel of the EH&A. Despite an ice storm, the car made good time and arrived in Market Square, Amesbury, at 9:40.
The schedule called for three round trips daily except Sunday and one round trip on holidays. Departures from Amesbury were scheduled for 6:30 and 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., and the car was to leave Exeter at 8 and 11:30 a. m. and 4:30 p. m. Stops were made at the Exeter, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook and Smithtown postoffices en route and the car was housed at night at the Amesbury barn.
The new mail and baggage car, No. 18, arrived in late June and was placed in service on July 1, No. 12 being returned to the Exeter-Hampton Beach freight run.
The EH&A-A&H mail route was officially designated the EXETER & AMESBURY RPO and this postmark was used to cancel stamps on letters and packages picked up along the run. Baggage and small parcels also were handled on the car, these shipments being under the supervision of the conductor initially, it is believed, the car had a three-man crew - motorman, conductor and mail clerk - but later the mail clerk doubled as a conductor, he being a joint employe of the railway and the Post Office Department.
At first, the mail car made no scheduled stops between Smithtown and Amesbury but effective July 18, 1900, in accordance with arrangements made by Postmaster Samuel Rowell of Amesbury, the clerk began making deliveries to postal patrons through Salisbury, Plains, groups of rural mail boxes being placed at Frost's, Morrill's, Dole's and Hunt's Corners. Thus, No. 18 provided RFD as well as RPO service. An item appearing in the Hampton Union at about the same time noted that two mail boxes, one for deliveries and one for collections, had been installed on the Exeter side of the town line at Dow's Hill and that two similar boxes had been provided in Hampton about a half-mile east of the hill. Mail was delivered to and collected from these boxes thrice daily.
Indications are that the EH&A's freight business never was too extensive, mail and parcel revenue for 1900 totaling only $1,601, increasing to $2,176 in 1901, thanks largely to the establishment of the RPO service. It is said that No. 12, at least from 1899 on, handled more company than private shipments, most of the former consisting of goods bound for the railway's Hampton Beach properties.
Gross revenues for the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury for the year ended June 30, 1900 were $75,029, the net income being $16,920. Of this, $10,125 was distributed as a 41/2 per cent dividend on the railway's capital stock. The following year, the gross revenue was $105,298 and the profit was $23,990. Dividends paid totaled $12,250, or 5 per cent on the then outstanding capital stock of $275,000. Included in the railway's receipts for 1900 was $22,173 from operation of the lighting department and the Hampton Beach Casino. The same sources provided $41,817 in 1901.