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.
|Quarante et huit|
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|
|Weight||7.9 tonnes (7.8 long tons; 8.7 short tons) tare|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
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. 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.
The "Forty-and-eight" boxcars
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. 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.
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". Immediately the trains were distributed amongst the states.
Current status of boxcars
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:
|Alabama||Huntsville||U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum||website|
|Arizona||Scottsdale||McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park||The Arizona Capitol Museum holds the contents of the train with a display of gifts and a scale model of the boxcar, while the McCormick-Stillman Railroad park has the train car. |
|Arkansas||Helena||American Legion Post 41
Intersection of Pecan & Porter Streets
|Restored and new shelter built for the car in 2012|
|California||Fresno||Fresno Federal Post 509
3509 N. First Street
|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 Historical Marker
|Florida||Holly Hill||City of Holly Hill Municipal Complex||Merci Box Car Historical 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, presumed scrapped|
|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
|Missouri||Sedalia||Missouri State Fair Grounds||Maintained by 40/8 Voiture 333|
The Merci Boxcar Historical 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||North Carolina Transportation Museum||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.|
Several of the gifts are now housed at the Ohio Historical Society.
|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||Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Training Facility
Intersection of Fisher and Clement Avenues
|40 & 8 Boxcar Historical Marker|
|Rhode Island||Woonsocket||Inside the Museum of Work and Culture
42 South Main Street
Fully restored in 2004
|South Carolina||Bishopville||South Carolina Cotton Museum and Lee County Veterans Museum||website|
Previously in Greenville and Columbia
|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 |
|Utah||Ogden||Utah State Railroad Museum||French Boxcar Historical Marker|
|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
2001 E Lincoln Way
|Restored by American Legion members in 2017|
- "Merci Train".
- "WWII Encyclopedia: The Forty and Eight".
- "What is the 40 & 8".
- "The "Merci" Train". Life Magazine. 26 (9): 72–74. February 28, 1949. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
- "December 20, 2013 – Arizona State Capitol". Retrieved 8 July 2015.
- "CONTENTdm". azmemory.azlibrary.gov. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- Herbert, Lou (February 14, 2012). "The Valentine Heard Round the World Stopped in Toledo". Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- "Whatever Happened to Ohio's Gratitude Train?". Ohio History Connection Collections Blog. Ohio History. May 11, 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Lewis, Richard C. (December 6, 2004). "Historic French Boxcar finds R.I. home". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Wilkinson, Jeff (October 4, 2017). "How a WWI-era boxcar — a gift from France — is moving from Columbia to Bishopville". The State. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- Zoellick, Sarah (April 9, 2017). "Restoration of Merci Train outside American Legion Post 6 complete". Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Retrieved 13 August 2017.