Import Turnpike Emails into Thunderbird – for free

When I first came onto the web in 1997, I used Demon Internet, and their “Turnpike” software on Windows.  All my emails until about 2012 were done that way, safely offline, when I moved to Gmail.  I still have my Turnpike directory on my PC, and, even on Windows 11, Turnpike.exe opens, and all my old emails are still in there.

But it’s pretty hard to search through those for some .doc file from long ago.  How do I import all those emails into somewhere that I can actually use?

If you do an internet search, Google will show you page after page of results from sites, all ending in “.com”, offering a “solution” – to buy some tool.  Thank you, Google.  All that money-grabbing drowns out the real results.  Luckily I found one in an old forum here.

The answer, it seems, is to use Mozilla’s Thunderbird as an intermediary.

I detest these scammers, and you do not need to do this.  Turnpike can export to “MBOX” format, a text file; and local email clients like Thunderbird – which is free – can import it.

Here’s how.

Export all your emails and attachments from Turnpike to MBox.

Go into your Turnpike directory, and find turnpike.exe.  In my case this is Turnpike 5.01.

Open it up.  On the menu, choose Window | Mailroom View.  That will show all your emails.  The first one is highlighted.

Select the lot.  For me, I had to click on the first email, hold the shift key, and hit Ctrl-End.

Then do File | Export, and save the mail_001.txt to some directory.  It took a few seconds, but it worked.  In my case the .txt file was almost a gigabyte.  This DOES include all the attachments, all UU encoded as text.

I then copied the mail_001.txt file and called the new copy “00 Turnpike” (because I wanted all my emails in a folder of that name.  You can use any name not already a folder in your email.  Use 00 on the front to make it appear at the top of the folder, for reasons we will see).

I would strongly suggest that you find an email with an attachment, and just export that on its own.  Try to import that under some name, as below, and check the attachment is imported OK.

Find out where the Thunderbird “Local Folder” is on your disk

Then open Thunderbird.  Scroll down the left panel until you find the Local Folders area (I have a couple of online email accounts connected to Thunderbird so I can read offline, which you see at the top).

As you can see, I already have a local folder named “00 Roger” which I use to back up my emails locally.  But you don’t need that.  I called it “00 Roger” because the local folder is full of junk files, which you mustn’t touch.  So by using the “00”, my folder sorted to the top!  Makes it easier to find.

Right click on “Local Folders” and choose “Settings”.  Select “Local Folders” on the left panel.  This will show you where your local folders are actually held on your hard disk.

As  you can see, I changed the “local directory” from whatever garbage it usually is to somewhere under d:\roger, where I keep all my user files.  It doesn’t matter where it is.

Now take a note of where the local directory is.

Then close down Thunderbird.

Import the Mbox file into the Thunderbird Local Folders directory

Then open that local directory in windows explorer.

Copy your small file with the attachment into this directory, right next to the “cert8.db” and all the other files.  Or copy your big, “00 Turnpike” folder in.

Then restart Thunderbird.

You will now have a new folder in Local Folders. But … if its the biggie, “00 Turnpike”, do wait before expanding the folder.  Allow Thunderbird time to process all those attachments.   For a small file, this won’t take all that long.

Once you feel sure, expand it, your emails will be inside, marked unread.

If you go back to the local folder in Windows explorer, you will see your “00 thunderbird” file as you left it, but with a new “.msf” file, which indexes it.

And you’re done.  You have your emails out of Turnpike.

Troubleshooting?  “Where are my attachments?!”  Well, delete the folder in Thunderbird, and try again with a single message.  See if that works.  If it does, then probably you just need to leave Thunderbird open and let it process stuff.

If it all worked OK, then you’re good.

Getting the emails into GMail

Maybe you want to copy/upload some/all of them into a Gmail account? then there are links online that will tell you, like this one.  Basically you just create a connection in Thunderbird to your online email, using IMAP.  This will download your emails to your PC, and create folders etc.  You then just drag the emails from “Local Folders/00 Turnpike” into the folder under your online email account.  But the link will give you a blow-by-blow account of that.  (I didn’t do it myself, tho, because I am increasingly suspicious that anybody who uses Google’s “free” services is about to get a rude awakening, in the shape of unavoidable “low” charges which somehow become very high charges.  See “Monopoly”.)

Likewise if you want a  local copy of your online emails, in Thunderbird, just copy/drag them from the folder for your Gmail account to a folder under “Local Folders”.

But the point here is that you now can work with your Turnpike emails.

Good luck.


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