More About Railway Post Office (RPO) Weekend @ Illinois Railway Museum

Before you visit, even if you have been a regular visitor in the past, please take the time to review the procedures and policies listed at this link.

During Railway Post Office weekend, forty years after Railway Post Office (RPO) operations stopped, the Illinois Railway Museum will reenact “on the fly” mail pickup with a working RPO car. Since 2007, retired postal clerks from the Railway Mail Service have returned to the museum to make one last catch. As one said, “it was a thrill – something I haven’t done in forty years!”

Railway Post Office History
Soon after railroads appeared in the 1830s they started moving the mail. At the time of the Civil War, besides moving the mail, the railroads built rolling post offices to sort mail along the route. Special railroad cars called Railway Post Offices employed postal workers to sort and handle mail while in transit. They would pick up and drop off mail at station stops. At places they didn’t stop, they would pick up mail on the fly, “grabbing” mail bags from a special bracket without stopping the train.

At their peak in the 1800s, RPO cars were used on over 9,000 train routes. But in the 20th Century RPO use started to decline. After WWII, the Post Office began using large regional centers with machines taking over the sorting. In 1948 the RPO network had shrunk to 794 lines. As the Post Office cancelled “mail by rail” contracts, passenger trains that relied on mail revenue lost more and more money, contributing to the eventual creation of Amtrak in 1971. On June 30, 1977, the very last RPO ended operations after 113 years.

Hours / Admission / Operating Schedule Information:
Electric trains and Diesel or Steam trains will be operating.

Equipment Scheduled to Operate on Saturday, June 3rd:
To be Announced

Equipment Scheduled to Operate on Sunday, June 4th:
To be Announced

Admission Rates:
Adults $18, Senior $16, Children $14

Museum Hours:
Trains operate hourly 11:00am to 4:00pm or more often as needed.
The Museum grounds open at 10:00am and close at 6:00pm.
The parking lot opens at 9:30am and closes at 6:30pm.

All equipment, schedules and prices subject to change without notice.

♿ = this train is wheelchair-accessible

Date & Time

June 3, 2023
10:00am - 6:00pm

Additional Dates

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Illinois Railway Museum
7000 Olson Road
Union, IL 60180

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