Merci Train

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Quarante et huit
(Forty-and-eights)
KY Railway Museum French car.JPG
Forty and Eights boxcar at the Kentucky Railway Museum.
Capacity 40 men or 8 horses or 20 tonnes (19.7 long tons; 22.0 short tons) of supplies
Operator(s) French Army and French railways
Specifications
Weight 7.9 tonnes (7.8 long tons; 8.7 short tons) tare
Braking system(s) Air
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Boxcar of a "Merci Train" at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, Arizona

The Merci Train, also known as the French Gratitude Train or the Forty and Eight, was the 1949 Europe-US response to the Friendship Train. Composed of 49 cars and filled with "gifts of gratitude", the Merci Train arrived in New York City on February 3, 1949, and was divided amongst the 48 states with the remaining car to be shared by the District of Columbia and Hawaii.[1]

Background[edit]

The idea to send a "thank you" gift to the United States for the $40 million in food and other supplies sent to France and Italy in 1947 came from a French railroad worker, and World War II veteran, named Andre Picard.[2] Donations from the Merci Train came from over six million citizens of France and Italy in the form of dolls, statues, clothes, ornamental objects, furniture, and even a Legion of Honour medal purported to have belonged to Napoleon.[3]

The "Forty-and-eight" boxcars[edit]

Photo showing the arrival of the Merci Train.

Forty-and-eights were French 4-wheel covered goods wagons used as military transport cars. The term refers to the cars' carrying capacity, said to be 40 men or eight horses.[4] Built starting in the 1870s as regular freight boxcars, they were originally used in military service by the French army in both World Wars, and then later used by the German occupation in World War II and finally by the Allied liberators.

In 1949, France sent 49 of those boxcars to the United States (one for each state then in existence and one for Washington, D.C. and Hawaii to share) laden with various treasures, as a show of gratitude for the liberation of France. This train was called the Merci Train, and was sent in response to trains full (over 700 boxcars) of supplies known as the American Friendship Train sent by the American people to France in 1947. Each of the Merci Train boxcars carried five tons of gifts, all of which were donated by private citizens.[5]

The Train and all 49 cars arrived aboard the Magellan on February 3, 1949, with over 25,000 onlookers in attendance. On the side of the gift-laden French freighter was painted, "MERCI AMERICA".[5] Immediately the trains were distributed amongst the states.

Current status of boxcars[edit]

Many of the trains were opened and turned into exhibits before distributing the objects as each state saw fit. Most states continued to exhibit the boxcars to the public after their gifts were distributed.

Various websites (see external links) count 43 of the 49 boxcars still in existence. The state boxcars of Massachusetts, Illinois, Nebraska, Connecticut, and New Jersey are known to have been destroyed. The Colorado boxcar has been missing since 1954, and its fate remains unknown. Most of the surviving boxcars are displayed in various parks and museums in their respective states; such locations include:

State City Location Notes
Alabama Huntsville U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum website
Arizona Scottsdale McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park The Arizona Capitol Museum has a display of gifts and a scale model of the boxcar[6]
website
Arkansas Helena American Legion Post 41, corner of Pecan & Porter Streets Restored and new shelter built for the car in 2012
California Fresno Fresno Federal Post 509, 3509 N. First Street
Colorado Missing
Connecticut Destroyed by fire in the 1950s
Delaware Seaford Intersection of Front Street and Poplar Street Owned and maintained by the American Legion’s Society of the 40 & 8, Voiture #1320
Forty & Eight Boxcar Marker
Florida Holly Hill City of Holly Hill Municipal Complex Merci Box Car Marker
Georgia Kennesaw Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History The museum also maintains a collection on display of various gifts from the train that have been donated over the years.
Hawaii and D.C. Ewa, Hawaii Hawaiian Railway Society
Idaho Boise Inside a building at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary
Illinois Missing
Indiana Fort Wayne Veteran's National Memorial Shrine, 2122 O'Day Road
Iowa Cedar Falls Antique Acres Campground, 7610 Waverly Road The State Museum in Des Moines has a collection of gifts from the boxcar.
Kansas Fort Hays American Legion Post # 173, 1305 Canterbury Drive
Kentucky New Haven Kentucky Railway Museum
Louisiana Baton Rouge Old Louisiana State Capitol
Maine Boothbay Boothbay Railway Village website
Maryland Baltimore B&O Railroad Museum website
Massachusetts Missing, presumed scrapped
Michigan Lansing The Forty & Eight Society, 2949 South Waverly Highway
Minnesota Little Falls Minnesota Military Museum
Mississippi Jackson Behind the restored Gulf, Mobile & Ohio (GM&O) train depot,
618 East Pearl Street
website
Missouri Sedalia Missouri State Fair Grounds Maintained by 40/8 Voiture 333
The Merci Boxcar Marker
Montana Helena Montana Military Museum, Fort Harrison website
Nebraska Missing, presumed scrapped Information and pictures of the gifts in Nebraska's boxcar
Nevada Carson City Nevada State Railroad Museum website
New Hampshire Manchester Reed Street near Bremer Street website
New Jersey Destroyed by fire.
New Mexico Albuquerque Expo New Mexico website
New York Whitesboro Oneida County 40&8, 5163 Judd Road
North Carolina Spencer 411 S. Salisbury Avenue website
North Dakota Bismarck 612 E. Boulevard Avenue website
Ohio Camp Perry Near the Camp Perry Lodging and Conference Center The boxcar has been refurbished three times since 1949.[7]
Several of the gifts are now housed at the Ohio Historical Society.[8]
Oklahoma Norman J. D. McCarty Center, 2002 East Robinson Street
Oregon North Bend Sherman Park, 1220 Sherman Avenue Coos Historical & Maritime Museum
Pennsylvania Fort Indiantown Gap Intersection of Fisher and Clement Avenues on the
Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Training Facility
40 & 8 Boxcar Marker
Rhode Island Woonsocket Inside the Museum of Work and Culture
42 South Main Street
website
Fully restored in 2004[9]
South Carolina Columbia American Legion Post #6 website
South Dakota Huron South Dakota State Fairgrounds
Tennessee Bristol American Legion Post #145
Texas Austin Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry Boxcar's own website or
website
Utah Ogden Utah State Railroad Museum French Boxcar Marker
Vermont Colchester Camp Johnson
Virginia Newport News Virginia War Museum
Washington Yakima Sarg Hubbard Park Information, Map: the Merci Car
West Virginia Welch Veteran's Park
Wisconsin Ashwaubenon National Railroad Museum
Wyoming Cheyenne American Legion Post 6

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "MerciTrain.org". 
  2. ^ "Merci Train". 
  3. ^ "WWII Encyclopedia: The Forty and Eight". 
  4. ^ "What is the 40 & 8". 
  5. ^ a b "The "Merci" Train". Life Magazine. 26 (9): 72–74. February 28, 1949. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "December 20, 2013 – Arizona State Capitol". Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  7. ^ Herbert, Lou (February 14, 2012). "The Valentine Heard Round the World Stopped in Toledo". Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "Whatever Happened to Ohio’s Gratitude Train?". Ohio History Connection Collections Blog. Ohio History. May 11, 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  9. ^ Lewis, Richard C. (December 6, 2004). "Historic French Boxcar finds R.I. home". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 

External links[edit]