Postal Museum Celebrates Train Day

WASHINGTONOne young daughter sat on her dad’s shoulders as she blew a green train whistle and watched model trains travel a track. Another young boy jumped up, peering over the table to get a view of the model “Polar Express” train coming around the bend and blowing smoke behind its path.

It was all part of the National Postal Museum’s annual “Train Day” celebration this weekend, commemorating the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Three model train groups set up tracks throughout the museum, and visitors enjoyed a fun-filled day of train-themed games and activities.

photo: Tasos Kalfas

When entering the atrium, visitors began at the Railway Post Office Training School, where they could learn to talk like a railway post office clerk. They learned terms like “rattler” (a freight train) and “dressing a rack” (preparing a train for mail service).

After testing their railway knowledge, visitors moved to the “Train Whistle Code School.” Kids could pick from different colors of bright yellow, blue, green, and purple train whistles to try their codes, filling the entire atrium with echoing whistle noises.

photo: Tasos Kalfas

Boys and girls gathered around the “Coloring Corner” to color train cars, the museum’s mascot Owney the dog, who traveled with the railway post office, and other patterns.

Visitors pretended to be railway mail clerks inside the museum’s railway post office car, at which visitors sorted letters by destination in the train’s cubbies, just as railway mail clerks used to do.

Young children also tried their hands at being railway clerks. One at a time, they hopped on a small electric train engine and rode in a circle. They swung by one station picking up a mail bag before turning the bend and dropping the mail bag in a box on the other side of the track. The activity was meant to simulate how railway mail cars seldom made stops to pick up and drop off mail.

The Rappahannock Model Railroaders from Fredericksburg, Virginia, displayed a model train set in the museum atrium. The set showed people waiting on platforms and construction workers performing road maintenance.

The Northern Virginia NTRAK model railroading club’s track included smaller-sized trains and a freight-style Postal Service truck parked outside a bank and another Postal Service truck in what looked like a residential neighborhood. The trucks donned the old “standing eagle” Postal Service logo.

The largest track belonged to the Washington, Virginia, and Maryland Garden Railway Society in the museum lobby. Their set featured a large Amtrak train and displayed an early-1900s-style car which read “U.S. Mail” and also had the “standing eagle” logo.

Public Programs Manager Motoko Hioki said the event spiraled off of Amtrak’s celebration of train day several years ago.

Union Station, Washington DC
photo: Martin Kent Miller

Union Station, which serves several Amtrak routes is next door to the Postal Museum. The station used to host a National Train Day celebration at which several Washington-area model railroaders displayed their tracks. However, the station no longer does the event.

Hioki said around 5,000 people attended the Postal Museum’s train day event over the weekend.

The museum’s next event is called the “Dog Days of Summer” and is set for late July. The museum will celebrate railway mail dog Owney and other animals who played a part in postal history.

“We will also be celebrating the museum’s 25th birthday” Hioki said, though she declined to say how.

At the Dog Days event, the museum will partner with local animal rescue groups and the Amtrak Police K-9 Unit to host an adoption fair, according to the museum’s website.

The event is scheduled for July 28 and 29 at the National Postal Museum.

by Tasos Kalfas, @TasosKalfasWRGW

Bill Gross to be Honored as Recipient of Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award

[Press Release]
Bill Gross to be Honored as Recipient of
Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award
National Postal Museum Cites Gross’s Philanthropy and World-Class Stamp Collections in Awarding Nation’s Most Prestigious Philatelic Honor

William H. Gross
William H. Gross.

NEWPORT BEACH, CA (Oct. 19, 2016) — The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum will award the 2016 Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award to Bill Gross and two other recipients on Oct. 22 at a museum-hosted gala event in Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award
Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award.

The Smithsonian Award was established in 2002 to honor and celebrate living individuals for outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of philately. This achievement may include original research that significantly advances the understanding of philately, exceptional service to the philatelic community or sustained promotion of philately to the benefit of current and future collectors. In addition to Mr. Gross, recipients of the 2016 award include Cheryl R. Ganz and Richard F. Winter.

Richard F. Winter
Richard F. Winter.
Cheryl R. Ganz
Cheryl R. Ganz.

The selection of Mr. Gross is as much a reflection of his philanthropic activities on behalf of stamp collecting as it is for his world-class collection.

“There has never been anyone in philately as philanthropic as Bill, and he wanted to create something special, which he has,” said Charles Shreve of Robert A. Siegel International, Mr. Gross’s long-time philatelic advisor and dealer. “Without his gift there would have never been a new Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the finest in the world. Bill has contributed greatly to the general public’s view of collecting in a positive way.”

In addition to donations totaling $10.8 million to build the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery in the National Postal Museum, Mr. Gross and his wife Sue have donated almost $25 million from proceeds of the sales of Mr. Gross’s collection since 2007. Beneficiaries include the PIMCO Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, the Millennium Villages Project, the Hawaii Foodbank, The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, and other charities.

“Stamp collecting has always been a means to an end for me,” said Mr. Gross, the portfolio manager responsible for managing Janus Capital Group’s Global Unconstrained Bond strategy. “There is the pleasure of the hobby itself, which has brought countless hours of satisfaction in researching the history behind these miniature works of art. And then there is the knowledge that the returns from my hobby have served a higher purpose in benefiting the less fortunate.”

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Lennon and Mercury Stamp Albums at Stampex

The stamp collections of John Lennon and Freddie Mercury were shown together for the first time at Stampex (September 14–17) in London, England. Shown here are a few photos of the display at the show and also a close-up look at both of the albums.

[Smithsonian’s NPM press release]

John Lennon and Freddie Mercury Stamp Collections
On Display Together at UK’s STAMPEX

The UK’s largest stamp exhibition Stampex (September 14 – 17, 2016) is bringing together the boyhood stamp collections of music legends John Lennon and Freddie Mercury together for the first time to celebrate their 60th Anniversary.

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Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum Director Allen Kane to Retire

[Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum press release]

Allen Kane, Director of the National Postal Museum (NPM) will be retiring in January 2017.  Allen became director of the NPM in 2002 after serving more than 30 years with the United States Postal Service (USPS) in a variety of senior leadership positions.  At the USPS, one of the accomplishments of which Allen is proudest was his management of the Gulf War Crisis Team, which ensured the successful delivery of 2.5 million pounds of mail per day to US troops.

National Postal Museum.
Image courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Photo by Juan Carlos Briceño.

In his fourteen-year tenure at the Postal Museum, Allen has overseen many remarkable exhibitions and public programs while also making the museum a world-renowned research resource.  His most notable accomplishment was the development and opening of the William H. Gross Gallery in 2013, which doubled the size of the Museum and made the NPM the largest center for philately in the world.

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