How long can you leave things in lockers?

A common thing in many movies is for something to be stored in a locker at a bus station or train station. ISTR at least a couple of movies where the Big Clue or the MacGuffin or whatever had been in the locker for years.

In reality, how long can someone store something in a locker? Do authorities periodically clean them out? Or, since they don’t know when someone may have used the locker (i.e., they wouldn’t know if something had been stored in a locker for years, or if the locker had turned over twice a day), do they just leave them? Presumably, they collect money from the lockboxes. That might give them a clue that a locker was being ‘abused’. Which leads me to wonder whether they can they get the money out without opening the locker?


Since 9/11? Not even overnight in most locations. The lockers at Amtrak stations are run by Smarte Carte, they require a credit or debit card, issue a printed combination instead of a key and they very definitely know how long each locker has been in use.

If you’re looking to use one for a story, I’d use the sort that you put your own lock on, like one in the locker room of a YMCA or school.

A couple of old threads:
How did the storage lockers at bus depots etc. work? (Feb 2018)
Storing things in public lockers for years (Oct 2013)

Bus and bus lockers back in the 70s were supposedly cleaned out every night. I don’t think they allowed for overnight usage.

I used one when I had a layover in NYC and put my suitcase in a locker so I could get out of the train station and wander.

A better way for a small object is to mail it to a P.O. Box. As long as it’s paid up, the post office won’t remove anything. You could do what Sam Spade did in The Maltese Falcon and mail it to yourself at General Delivery. But they don’t keep anything there indefinitely; too long and it ends up in the dead letter office.

in the gangster saga "once upon a time in America "

the locker thing was a central plot point …as the money suitcase the gang had as kids was stolen in 1909 by the boys best friend and set in motion of the boy killing the old thug for stealing it and he did like 20 years for it … the main character didn’t get the key to he locker holding in until sometime in the 70s and it had been there since the station was built

In Japan, the limit is generally three days. After that, it’s cleaned out and you have to go to lost and found to retrieve your belongings.

A couple of nitpicks
The film starts chronologically in 1920.
Noodles does 12 years for the murder of Bugsy
The gang breaks up some time after Prohibition ends (1933) when Patsy and Cockeye are killed, Max steals the money and leaves the empty case in the locker.
When Noodles finds the money is missing shortly after he leaves the case and the key on the bench beside the lockers.
Noodles returns in 1968 he uses a key left in the crypt opens a locker (not necessarily the same locker) to find a case (maybe the same case) which Max has replaced including payment for his own assassination.

So the case is in the railway locker from about 1920 to about 1933