For over a century, the core of America’s postal system was the Railway Mail Service.
On board Railway Post Office (RPO) train cars, teams of clerks worked to ensure that mail was canceled, sorted and loaded into sacks for delivery across the nation, at speeds of up to 85 miles an hour.
In recognition of this critical service, the National Postal Museum celebrates Train Day every year in May, marking the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Train tracks connecting the East and West coasts allowed the Post Office Department to quickly move mail across the entire country.
Join us on May 19 and 20 to partake in our annual Train Day Celebration and experience the rich history of the Railway Post Office through specialized activities and exhibits.
Visitors can play the RPO Sorting Challenge and try to sort the mail aboard an authentic train car before time runs out. Program participants additionally have the opportunity to learn the lingo of the Railway Post Office and crack the secret code of the railroad crews by communicating via train whistle.
Thanks to the following program partners, visitors can also enjoy elaborate model train railroad displays running throughout the museum. The National Postal Museum is pleased to host the Rappahannock Model Railroaders, The Washington, Virginia & Maryland Garden Railway Society and the Northern Virginia NTRAK.
No Train Day would be complete without Owney the dog — the beloved mascot and good luck charm of the Railway Post Office.
This scruffy mutt wandered into a post office in Albany, New York in 1888 and took to accompanying mail clerks on their routes. At a time when dangerous wrecks were all too common, no train Owney rode ever derailed or crashed. As he traveled the country, word of his celebrity grew; he even took a steamship to tour Asia and Europe in 1895. Attendees can “meet” Owney the dog and get to know his charming story.
At the National Postal Museum, as they share postal history with our visitors, we encounter a reoccurring theme; namely, how the need to move the mail contributed to the growth and development of the nation. The epitome of this is the Railway Mail Service and the First Transcontinental Railroad.
Stop by for our Train Day Celebration to explore and appreciate this significant part of the American story.
Free; all ages welcome. Complimentary tea, lemonade and sweet treats provided while supplies last.
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