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Souvenir Covers and Cancels of the Celebrate the Century Express
CTC Express - 1999 - 2000

by Bill Senkus

(The following article is based on one I published originally in the September-October, 2003 issue of The Dispatcher, the journal of the Casey Jones Rail Road Unit of the ATA. I have taken advantage of the greater space available here to expand on both the text and image content, and will add more as new information arrives.)

Click on any image to open up a new window with an enlarged version.

Today (December 23, 2005), the furor in the late 1990's over the turn of the century seems like ancient history, but it's only five years ago that the whole world was dreading or anticipating the new millennium. The Y2K bug was expected to bring transportation and commerce crashing to a halt, and true believers preached that the end was at hand. Others took the milestone as cause for celebration, and held huge parties to welcome the 21st Century, though there was some disagreement over when it really began - January 1, 2000, or January 1, 2001? Everyone who could find a way to capitalize on the event did so, including the United States Postal Service, which issued a series of souvenir sheets dubbed their "Celebrate the Century" stamps. To help publicize the stamps, the USPS and Amtrak sponsored a special train that traveled all over the US, stopping at 67 cities and towns over a 20 month period. They called it their Celebrate The Century Express.


USPS publicity photos

The Express was made up of Amtrak P42 Genesis series diesel locomotive #100, a baggage car, a modern exhibit car featuring Celebrate The Century commemorative stamps and related displays, a restored RPO car, and an historic private railroad car (several different private cars were used for different segments during the two-year run of the train).


RPO car interior - USPS publicity photo

The RPO car (Southern Railway  car #36) was loaned to the Postal Service for this project by James Bistline, a noted rail historian.  The car was restored to historically accurate condition by Northern Rail Car at Mr Bistline?s expense for this trip, and donated to a museum after the end of the train?s nationwide tour. 


Planned route, 1999

I visited the CTC Express in Sacramento on July 31, 1999, and again in San Francisco on August 20.  The exhibits in the train were interesting, but only if one was willing to spend the time to ask questions, and read the somewhat haphazard placards. There were a few attendants, but they seemed to resent questions. The private car at the end of the train (the Virginia City at that point), through which one entered, was the most interesting part to me, showing as it did how the rich once traveled in style.  It reminded me of scenes from several Hollywood movies.  The mail car needed a live narrator.  As it was, if you didn't know what went on there, it was merely puzzling and quaint.  (The RPO exhibit at the National Postal Museum in Washington DC, on the other hand, includes a ten-minute video that does a great job of making the car come to life.)  The modern section, with its flashy videos and gee-whiz murals, was superficial and boring. The USPS had tables outside at both venues, with souvenirs and souvenir covers.


Copyright 1999, Krause Publications. Reprinted with permission

The envelope they were using for souvenir covers at both northern California locations I visited (see below), differed completely from the one above, reproduced from the Stamp Collector of July 19, 1999, and postmarked Oshkosh, WI.  Ours had a map of Northern California at the left, and was inscribed "Official Commemorative Cachet ? Produced for the United States Postal Service - Pacific Area ? Limited Edition" on the back, so apparently there were other versions, but no one at either location knew what was available, or how to get the others. In Sacramento I was allowed to buy blank envelopes and prepare my own covers, but in SF they claimed they had none except the ones they had prepared.  Also in Sacramento, members of the local stamp club were doing an excellent job of manning the cancellers, including an old RPO-style version - also mentioned in the philatelic press - apparently it was available for public use at some stops.  That cancel was nowhere in sight in SF.   


The "All Aboard" stamps had not been released yet (darn), so the best I could do for postage on my souvenir covers was either the current CTC stamps, for the 40's and 50's (but none had a rail theme), or the train stamps from the 20's and 30's panes, which were 32's, and required another one-cent stamp (but none that I had fit very well).

Finally, there was the souvenir postcard shown above, with peel-off stickers, available at both locations.  It was a clever, fun design ? after one peeled off the stickers, the image beneath was revealed, and one had a second great postcard! The stickers made great additions to other items - note the envelope below.

When I asked Al Peterson (AKA The Rail Philatelist), what envelopes he had seen, he sent me the one below, which he bought at the train?s visit to Denver ? it has the same general design as the ones I purchased here in California, but with a map of Colorado. The inscription on the back reads just "Official Commemorative Cachet ? Produced for the United States Postal Service - Limited Edition"

How many different CTCE souvenir envelopes exist? (See bottom of page for examples of all I have seen.)
If the map-style envelopes were used all over the country, there could be as many as forty.  But we know that some places used the first envelope above - was it used at the majority of stops? Please send any information you have to me at .  Send a scan or photocopy, if you can.  I will add new information as it becomes available. (Yes, I have duplicates of the Sacramento and San Francisco envelopes, and would be willing to trade them for ones I do not have.)

Below are examples of all the cancels I own, for Denver, San Francisco, and Sacramento.


How many different CTCE cancels are there? If each stop created its own cancel, there are 68.  I was able to find 38 in the Postal Bulletins for 1999 and 2000, but they did not include either San Francisco or Denver, both of which I have, so the PB is obviously not reliable.  Some towns may have chosen to use just the generic RPO cancel that traveled with the train.  Or maybe they skipped the philatlic souvenirs entirely. Below is a table of all the stops the CTC Express made during its two tours, with cancels where available. As you can see, most are a generic design, presumably supplied by Washington. Too bad, as the few that are original are to me more appealing. If you can add to the information here, please email the author at .

CELEBRATE THE CENTURY EXPRESS CANCELS
(most of these were extracted from the online Postal Bulletin pdf files)


Note that the list covers two years, 1999, and 2000. It is sorted by date.
If you can supply a scan of any I am missing, please send to .
Quality of scans should be at least 150 dpi.

1999 TOUR
CityEvent-DaysCancel
Tampa, FL March 11-14
Hollywood, FL March 19-21
Courtesy of Keith Downing
Lakeland, FL March 24
Ocala, FL March 26-28
Jacksonville, FL April 2-3
Lake City, FL April 6
Atmore, AL April 9-11
Meridian, MS April 23-24
McComb, MS April 27
Memphis, TN April 30-May 2
Jefferson City, MO May 7-9
Independence, MO May 12
St. Louis, MO May 15-17
Springfield, IL May 20-21
Green Bay, WI June 4-6
Oshkosh, WI June 11-13
Minneapolis/St. Paul June 18-20
Fargo, ND June 25-27
Havre, MT June 29
Whitefish, MT July 2-4
Spokane, WA July 6-7
Portland, OR July 16-18
Dunsmuir, CA July 23-25
Sacramento, CA July 29-August 2
Santa Rosa, CA August 6-8
Gilroy, CA August 14-15
San Francisco, CA August 18-19
Grand Junction, CO September 3-5
Denver, CO September 9-10
Lincoln, NE September 17-19
Galesburg, IL September 24-26
Gaithersburg, MD October 8-10
Cumberland, MD October 14-17
Altoona, PA October 22-24
Harrisburg, PA October 29-31
Richmond, VA November 5-7

   

2000 TOUR

Little Rock, AR April 20-22
Mineola, TX April 28-30
Temple, TX May 5-7
Fullerton, CA May 12-14
San Diego, CA May 19-21
Grand Canyon, AZ May 31
Williams, AZ June 2-4
Sante FE, NM June 9-11
Oklahoma City, OK June 14
Wichita, KS June 16-18
Kansas City, MO June 23-25
Keokuk, IA June 28-29
Mendota, IL July 2-4
Ypsilanti, MI July 15-16
Holland, MI July 21-23
Monon, IN July 26
Bloomington, IN July 29-30
Bardstown, KY August 4-6
Cincinnati, OH August 9
Huntington, WV August 12-13
Washington, DC August 23
(This was a special stop for USPS and Amtrak HQ employees)
Baltimore, MD August 25-27
Scranton, PA September 1-4
Danbury, CT September 8-10
Hoboken, NJ September 16-17
Whippany, NJ September 22-24
Danville, VA October 6-8
Spencer, NC October 13-15
Asheville, NC October 17
Chattanooga, TN October 20-22
Duluth, GA October 27-29
Savannah, GA November 3-5
List of stops courtesy of Don A. Smeraldi, Community Relations, U.S. Postal Service Headquarters
Additional information provided by Ernest Cascino Jr, Program Manager for the CTCE
               

SOUVENIR ENVELOPES

   

   

   

   

   




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All text Copyright © 2004, William M. Senkus

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Revised -- 10/19/2013