By Alan Sorensen
Just two weeks after hosting the state Post Masters convention, Havre will be visited by the U.S. Postal Services Celebrate The Century Express.
The express is a special five-car Amtrak train that will pull into Havre late Sunday, June 27. Workers will spend Monday setting the train up for public tours on the siding just west of the depot. The doors will open to children tours at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Were hoping to show it to a lot of youngsters with early tours from 8 a.m. to probably noon, depending on the response I get from 4-H, day care, those kinds of things, Havre Post Master Rich OLeary said.
There will be an official opening ceremony at about 10 a.m. and the train will be opened to tours by the general public at about 11 or so, OLeary said. There will be no charge.
The train is an historical throw back to the period between the Revolutionary and First World wars when U.S. postal officials applied themselves to improving transportation of the mail. It consists of an Amtrak P42 Genesis series diesel locomotive, baggage car, modern Amfleet exhibit car featuring Celebrate The Century stamps and related educational displays, restored vintage Railway Post Office (RPO), and classic railroad business car.
The RPO car is set up just like the RPO cars were in the old days with mail slots along the walls and work benches. Fully operational until the 1970, the RPO car is making the tour on loan from noted rail historian James Bistline of Alexandria, Va.
The train will be rolling in from Fargo, N.D., for its short hiatus in Havre before moving on to Whitefish, where it will be on display July 2-4. The trains trip through Montana is part of an 18-month, 100-city tour around the country that began in Tampa, Florida, on March 11.
The train is part of the Celebrate The Century commemorative stamp and education program that highlights some of the most memorable and significant people, places, events and trends of each decade of the 20th century.
The Celebrate The Century education series was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and 12 leading educational associations. Free educational kits distributed by request to schools across the country involve some 300,000 classrooms of students.
Area teachers are urged to use the stamp-related educational tools available in advance or on the train to take students on a virtual field trip through the 20th century.
The Express capitalizes on the fascination Americans have with railroads and creates an opportunity to deliver history in an entertaining manner. It will give area residents the chance to reflect on the role the railroad and the U.S. mail have played in the Havres development and history.
Wed like to make this a Hi-Line event, OLeary said. Wed like to invite arts-and-crafts people to set up displays of their work for sale and local service clubs to bring in their food booths.
OLeary asks that anyone want-ing to set up booths for the event at the siding west of the depot to please contact him or call him at 265-5581.