For the first time in 40 years, the Northern Pacific Railway Post Office Car No. 1102 will be accepting mail for Railway Post Office cancellation when it appears at Union Depot’s Train Day on Saturday, May 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Special envelopes with a special cancellation stamp will be available for purchase ($10) and representatives from the United States Postal Service will be on hand to commemorate this unique event and assist guests with mailing their items on the train car.
Shipment of mail by train began in the United States in the 1830s, after having launched in the United Kingdom in 1830. The Railway Post Office was introduced in the United States in July of 1862, initially using converted baggage cars on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. Soon thereafter, purpose-built Railway Post Office (RPO) cars were introduced. Two years later, the first permanent Railway Post Office route was established, distinguished from the original operation because the mail was sorted to and received from each post office along the route, as well as major post offices beyond the route’s end-points.
St. Paul and Minneapolis were widely regarded as essential rail mail stops and considered to be the gateway for all mail moving west – even to points across the Pacific Ocean. The two cities were among the busiest in the U.S. Railway Mail Service network based on the number of miles covered along routes originating from St. Paul and Minneapolis. The Railway Post Office connected communities across the United States in an efficient and reliable way by carrying boxes, letters, magazines, newspapers, money, tools, home supplies and more. Sears, Roebuck & Co. even got its start on the railroad in Minnesota.
The Northern Pacific Railway Post Office Car No. 1102, originally established in 1914 as a passenger coach, was rebuilt in 1947 into a “combine” car with sections for the RPO, Railway Express Agency, and seats for up to 20 paying passengers The car was retired in 1970, then purchased in 1976 by the Minnesota Transportation Museum, whose volunteers restored the car, over a two-year period, to operation in its post-1947 triple-combined appearance. It’s currently the only RPO car known to be operational and certified for operation on commercial rail. The train’s appearance at Union Depot will mark the 40th anniversary of the end of RPO service and will be part of the venue’s “Last Mail Train” display at the Train Day event. At the end of Train Day, the RPO will depart for Osceola, WI, carrying the commemorative envelopes and postcards to be sent all across the United States.
Train Day will offer fun experiences for railroad enthusiasts of all ages; more details can be found at uniondepot.org/trainday
- David Thompson will present an educational session on “RPOs Across America: A Century of Running the Mail on America’s Railroads.” His father, the late Arne Thompson, was a Railway Mail Service Foreman/Clerk in Charge on six RPOs that ran out of Minnesota from 1945 to 1962. David’s presentation will cover several topics including the early history of RPOs, “Fast Mail” express trains on American railroads, what it was like to work in an RPO car, and how a perfect storm of events ended Railway Post Office service on America’s railroads.
- A RPO movie titled “Mail in Motion” will be shown at 11:30.
- Guests will have the opportunity to pick up a Union Depot commemorative post card for mailing on the RPO (or saving as a keepsake). The first 100 people stopping at the Union Depot information station at 10a, 11a, 12p, 1p, 2p, and 3p will be able to take one.
Train Day attendees are encouraged to download free Metro Transit ride passes for the ride to Union Depot on the Green Line or Metro Transit buses. Visitors can also enjoy a free ride on a vintage bus transfer between Union Depot, Minnesota Transportation Museum, Twin City Model Railroad Museum and James J. Hill Center.
For more information about Union Depot Train Day, visit https://www.uniondepot.org/trainday.
Getting to Union Depot
|Bike:||Bicycle parking is located at the East Plaza/bus platform, North Plaza/4th Street, Kellogg entrances, Rail View Picnic Area and throughout the parking facilities|
|Bus:||Daily service to bus platform on Metro Transit buses 3, 16, 21 and 54, Metro Transit buses 63, 70, 350, 351, 361 and 364 stop at the corner of Kellogg Boulevard and Broadway Street|
|Weekday-only service on Metro Transit buses 94, 262, 417 | MVTA buses 480, 484, 489|
|Light Rail:||Daily service on Metro Transit’s Green Line|
|Park:||Union Depot parking facilities and electric vehicle charging stations|