Mail by Train

This morning I attended the re-opening of the train station/post office in the tiny little zipcode that houses the historic site where I work. I was excited partly because the building has been wonderfully restored, partly because I no longer have to drive to the nearby tiny town to check my PO box, and partly because, in February, we’ll be installing some exhibits in the old White and Colored waiting rooms.

The Train Depot is on the rail line between Cville, Culpeper, and Fburg. It isn’t a stop now, and apparently was never a regular stop, at least not for passengers. The current director for this area’s post offices (the Mountain Region, which goes over into West Virginia) told us some stories about when the mail was carried all over the country, back when he started with the USPS. This was before zip codes, and when he was invited to the re-opening of our little post office train depot, he thought for a minute and was able to recall exactly which train you’d need to have put the mail on form his sorting facility for it to reach this depot.

Even the mail trains didn’t stop here. They just slowed down and the mail carrier on the train would toss the sack of mail out of an open window. At the time, federal employees (including postal carriers) had merits and demerits. Failing to deliver a sack of mail was a demerit, so they kept a few empty sacks by the train car door. That way, if you couldn’t find the right bag, you could just toss an empty bag – it still counted, no demerits.

The other story I found interesting was that our little depot had a dog who would come out and get those mail sacks. The guys on the train (and yes, I think it was just men) took to tossing out various things, trying to distract that dog. Chicken bones, baloney sandwiches, whatever they could get their hands on that a dog might like. No matter what they tossed, the dog always got the sack. The man from the USPS didn’t say, because by that time the guys on the train would have been out of sight, but I bet that dog went back out after delivering the sack and enjoyed the treats from the train.