The first mail car on North American trains (1854)

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Model of a 20th century Canadian Pacific train with a full view of the interior of a railway post office, Canadian Museum of History, 1974.2091.1 a-c

The first railway post offices appeared on Canadian railways in 1854 and were the first to be used in North America. Trains were first used to transport sealed mail bags in 1840, a few years after the first steam train in Canada was introduced in 1836. But railway post offices were what marked the beginning of the golden age of the railway mail service. At this time, Great Britain was transferring responsibility for the postal service to the government of the Province of Canada. Starting in 1854, mail was transported and sorted by employees in little travelling post offices. Railway post offices revolutionized traditional mail transportation (by animal-powered vehicles, canoes, ships) by increasing processing and delivery speeds and reaching remote and isolated communities. The railway mail service continued to expand until 1950 before being discontinued in 1971.

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Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History welcomes over 1.2 million visitors each year to its celebrated complex in the heart of the National Capital Region, making it the country’s most-visited museum. With roots stretching back to 1856, it is one of Canada’s oldest public institutions and a respected centre of museological excellence, sharing its expertise in history, archaeology, ethnology and cultural studies both within Canada and abroad.

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