Active RPO, night photo session part of line up for Train Day in St. Paul

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Northern Pacific Railway Post Office Car No. 1102 will operate as a post-office during St. Paul Union Depot's Train Day on May 6. Mail collected at the event will move by rail to Osceola, Wis., for distribution.
Steve Glischinski
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Union Depot in St. Paul is sponsoring Union Depot Train Day that will include historic and modern railroad equipment, discussions and photo sessions, vendors, and model railroads. The Ramsey County (Minn.) Regional Railroad Authority, owner of the depot, is organizing the celebration set for May 6. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the start of construction on the present depot building.

Organizers said Union Depot Train Day would highlight the history and future of passenger train travel, the historic and current role of freight railroads in the region, and the area’s changing transportation trends and needs. It will also showcase the restored Union Depot, which has played a role in the revival of St. Paul’s downtown since it reopened in 2012.

Some of the exhibits and activities planned for Union Depot Train Day include:
  • Amtrak Veterans P42DC locomotive No. 42. This is the first time this unit has visited St. Paul
  • Two Union Pacific freight diesels. The planning team has asked UP for Heritage units from its fleet of six painted in the colors of roads that merged to form today’s Union Pacific
  • A Twin Cities & Western Railroad GP38-3 locomotive
  • Great Northern Railway Historical Society’s SD45 No. 400, the first production SD45 built in 1966. At times during Train Day it will be re-lettered as Burlington Northern No. 6430 to appear as it did immediately after the 1970 BN merger
  • Northern Pacific Railway RPO/Baggage/Coach No. 1102 built by Pullman in 1914 and owned by the Minnesota Transportation Museum
  • A Rock Island commuter coach and a Great Northern Empire Builder coach from the Minnesota museum’s collection
  • Vendors selling books, model trains, and railroad memorabilia
  • A night photography session of railroad equipment on the evening of May 5
  • Tours of the Metro Transit Green Line Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility a block from the depot
  • Model train layouts
  • A diesel locomotive simulator
  • Vintage Twin City Line city buses
  • A former Greyhound double deck Scenicruiser coach built in the 1950s
Educational seminars will feature three speakers: David H. Thompson discussing the operation and history of the Railway Mail Service; Peter A. Briggs describing his long career in railroad public relations and communication; and former Trains Editor Kevin P. Keefe discussing the life and work of Wallace W. Abbey, one of the upper Midwest’s most insightful and prolific railroad photographers during the 1950s and 1960s, and for many years director of public relations for the Soo Line.
Deborah Carter McCoy of the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority praised this year’s expansion of the educational series launched in 2016.

“The diverse speakers will provide an opportunity for railfans and history buffs to learn more about railroad photography, the railway post office and a career in railroading,” Carter McCoy said.

A special feature this year will be the “Last Mail Train” to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of Railway Post Office service. In conjunction with Train Day, Minnesota Transportation Museum, and the U.S. Postal Service, Northern Pacific No. 1102 will be functioning in its original role as a railway post office. Visitors will be able to purchase commemorative envelopes and postcards that can be mailed at the car and will be stamped with an actual St. Paul & Osceola RPO postmark. The car will be moved the evening of May 6 to Osceola, Wis., where the Osceola Post Office will pick up the mail for delivery.

“We are thrilled to welcome the United States Postal Service and Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Northern Pacific RPO/Combine 1102 to Union Depot as they receive mail on the car for delivery to and special cancellation at Osceola,” Carter said. “The RPO cancellation is being offered for the first time in 40 years.”

Construction began on the St. Paul Union Depot in 1917 and was slowed during World War I, but the final portions were completed during the “Roaring 20s” when nine railroads and more than 200 trains served the building. Noted architect Charles Sumner Frost designed it in the neoclassical style.

The last passenger trains to serve the station departed on April 30, 1971, the eve of Amtrak. While the depot’s head house eventually reopened, the waiting room sat empty for more that 40 years. Passenger trains returned to the building on May 7, 2014 thanks to an investment of approximately $242 million to purchase the building and surrounding land, install tracks and signaling, and restore the interior to its original appearance.

Today Union Depot serves as a transit hub served by light rail trains, intercity and metro buses, and Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

Information on Union Depot Train Day is available online at

Tickets and information on the night photo session is at

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