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USA : The Merci Train : The 40-and-8 Societies

Updated : April 13, 2015

"The Merci Train" - "The Gratitude Train" - "Train de la Reconnaissance Francaise"

Table of Contents :

Small stories :

David C. White - Farmer in Kansas Ruth Nathanson - High school senior from New York City


Individual states :
Bold = new content. (G) = can be seen on Google Streetview.

Arizona - Alabama - Arkansas (G) - California (G) - Colorado - Connecticut - Delaware (G) - Florida (G) - Georgia - Hawaii - Illinois - Indiana - Iowa (G) - Kansas - Kentucky - Louisiana (G) - Maine - Maryland - Massachusetts - Michigan - Minnesota - Mississippi - Missouri - Montana - Nebraska - Nevada - New Jersey - New Hampshire (G) - New Mexico - New York - North Carolina - North Dakota - Ohio - Oklahoma - Oregon (G) - Pennsylvania (G) - Rhode Island - South Carolina (G) - South Dakota (G) - Tennessee (G) - Texas - Utah (G) - Vermont - Virginia - Washington (G) - Washington DC - West Virginia (G) - Wisconsin - Wyoming (G).



Main link : → The Forty & Eight Society.

The official name is "La Société des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux".

What ?

The French "40-8" box-car is named as such, because the French military ordered that the French railroad companies produced and used a standard type boxcar that could transport 40 men "Hommes 40" OR "Chevaux en long 8" - 8 horses - lenghtwise.

The white letters on the sides of the box-cars "HOMMES 40 - CHEVAUX en long 8" were wellknown to the US-soldiers in France during WW1 and later also in WW2.

The military used this standard in order to make mobilisation and transport to a frontline more effective.

There is no doubt that it is "OR" and not "AND". There is no way that there would be room for 40 men AND 8 horses in these boxcars.

It is therefore in-correct when the US-veterans called their society "40-and-8", but it of course is more "catching" and perhaps the soldiers were in fact stuffed into the box-cars giving them a feeling of the capacity being 40 men AND 8 horses. wink
No story about the "Merci Train" and the 49 French "Merci Train" box-cars would be complete without mentioning and explaining the "40-and-8" Society.

I am trying to make a long story short.

If I fail, it is done with the best of intentions.


The "40&8" or "Forty-&-Eight" is an American veterans organization.

Over the years the connection to the "American Legion" has been troubled, but it appears that you must be a member of the "American Legion" in order to become a member of the "40&8".

The "40 & 8" society was, especially in the 1960ties, critizised for only having white members. sad

The "40 & 8" is often in the newspapers been called the "fun-seeking" part of the "American Legion" and the "40 & 8" are indeed very active in parades etc.

The "40 & 8" is very active with fund-raising and volontary work for a variety of charities.

Anyway - that it is NOT important for this story.

The "40&8" was created in 1920 by the US veterans of WW1 who had fought in France.

In France US-soldiers had been transported to and from the front-lines in French box-cars; the famous "40-8" French box-cars.

French railroad inspiration

The whole "40and8" organization is built around the French railroads from WW1.

Everything is called a French name - or at least a French-sounding / looking name. French grammar enthousiaists beware. grin

When the "40&8" is mentioned in the press / newspaper articles it is therefore with the use of several French names.

Floats for parades

Examples of floats - found on the internet :

40 and 8 locomotive float parade
Original picture link
40 and 8 locomotive float parade
Original picture link
Many of the "40&8" local / regional sections have a "float"-locomotive and a "float"-boxcar.

These floats are built in the style of a French steam-locomotive and the famous "40-8" French boxcars.

They use these locomotives and boxcars for the many parades and county fairs etc., that are so popular in the USA.

"Float" means that they are built on chassis's from cars / tractors / busses and run on ordinary rims and tires.

They do not have or use the usual railroad-steel-wheel with a flange and therefore don't need rail-tracks to run.

Confusion alert :
When mentioning a "40&8" boxcar; this could refer to both the "float" and the original French "Merci Train" box-car. grin

Gratitude Train - Merci Train

The "40&8" regional sections were actively involved in organizing the "Friendship Train".

The "40&8" used the French railroad cars as logo and signature; - what would be more natural than having the "40&8" be the recipients of the "Merci Train" box-cars ?

This varies from state to state; some states treated the "40&8" very badly; others involved them from the beginning and it seems that most state governors were only too happy to let the "40&8" take over responsability for the boxcars.

Never-the-less - the "40&8" in fact was, with some exceptions, the caretaker; either de facto or officially; of the French box-cars.

Unfortunately not all "40&8" sections did a good job - care-taking-wise. sad

When you look at the fate of the individual state boxcars, they were used for parades during the 1950ties; then they kinda were left to deteriorate during the 1960ties and 1970ties before during the 1980ties and 1990ties several box-cars were restaurated by the "40&8" sections.


It is easy to blame any-one and no-one, but you must remember that most of the French boxcars still had the original rail-road wheels, which meant that transportation was not easy and costly.

Each transportation meant loading it onto a trailer, securing it and then hauling the trailer. End of parade : unloading the boxcar.


Today - 2014 - the "40&8" still own many of the box-cars and have done a good job restaurating them.

Check out the page for each individual state in the TOC - top of this page.

YOUR banner could be here.

Contact webmaster for more information.






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2014 -
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