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USA : First French boxcar in the USA

Updated : May 30, 2015

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

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Main sources :

Most of the information below has been collected from old newspaper articles.

The 49 in 1949 were not the first

An original French boxcar must not be confused with the many various float-boxcars that the 40-and-8 societies all over the USA constructed for use in parades together with their float-locomotives.
By now you, dear reader, will know about the "Merci Train" and how the 49 French boxcars arrived in the USA in February 1949.

But what many people don't know is that these 49 boxcars were NOT the first French boxcars to be shipped to the USA.

There were, at least, 2 previous French 40-and-8 boxcars that were given to "40-and-8 Society" and shipped to the USA : one in 1930 and one in 1934.


In 1930 the French section / members ( from the French UNC - "Union Nationale des Combattants" ) of the "F.I.D.A.C." ( Féderation Interalliée des Anciens Combattants ) - [ Allied Veterans of the World War ] wanted to give their American brethren a special gift in connection with the FIDAC 1930 convention which was to be held in Washington DC.

Apparently due to the "behaviour" of the American delegates ( from the "40-and-8 Society" ) at the FIDAC convention in 1927 in Paris, and how the 40-and-8 societies had taken the name "40-and-8" from the French boxcars "40 hommes - chevaux 8", the idea came about to give the 40-and-8 in the USA a 40-and-8 boxcar.

The "Northern Railway of France" ( "La Compagnie des chemins de fer du Nord" or "CF du Nord" ) agreed to donate an original French 40-and-8 boxcar to the "FIDAC".

A ceremony was held in Paris presumably in August - early September 1930. Monsieur Javary, chairman of the CF du Nord presented the boxcar to the French FIDAC representatives. Sedley Peck, commander of the Paris Post No. 1 of the "American Legion" receiving the boxcar on behalf of the "American Legion". See photo below.

The 11th annual FIDAC convention took place in 1930 in Washington DC, from September 18 - 23, 1930.

Delegations from 8 allied armies from WW1, ( Great Britain, France, Jugoslavia, Rumania, Czecho-Slovakia, Belgium, Poland, Portugal ), participated.

The foreign delegations would after the convention take a tour of the "central west" visiting Indianapolis, where the headquarters of the "American Legion" was - and still is.

The delegations would bring their national flags to give to the American Legion's collection of flags, ( Indiana World War Memorial ), on Monday, September 22, 1930. - There are no mentions of the boxcar.

The delegations ( 105 members ) arrived in New York city on September 15, 1930, on the Cunard passenger liner "Lancastria" - a ship that was sunk in WW2 and its destiny hidden by the "Official Secrets Act" for many years after WW2.

The 1930 40-and-8 boxcar

Given by "La Compagnie des chemins de fer du Nord" to the FIDAC.

Boxcar number : M23987. Fresh coat of gray paint. French and American flags intertwined. The doorway draped with a red velvet curtain with gold fringe.

Presented to the "40-and-8 Society" of the "American Legion".

Was given to the "American Legion". Also presented at the "American Legion" convention in Boston in October 1930.

Presumably ended at the "American Legion's" collection of war memorabilia in Indianapolis - IN.

From the 2 pictures from 1930 you can see that the design of the boxcar is slightly different from that of the boxcars in 1949.


As you can see from the photos below, it would appear that a second boxcar was given to the 40-and-8 Society in Detroit in 1934 and made an appearance in Los Angeles in 1938.

To be researched.

The 1938 40-and-8 boxcar

The photo from 1938 shows a typical 40-and-8 boxcar, with a brakemans cabin, and with the ( original ? ) number "KF 91798".

The railroad wheels have been substituted with ordinary road-tires.


There are not many photographs of the 2 boxcars, but here are the few I have found :

Stock-newspaper- photo :

1930 french boxcar gift to USA

September 1931 :

original french boxcar in Detroit 1931
Photo from "American Legion" convention in 1931 in Detroit.

Press-photo 1930 - September 20, 1930 :

1930 french boxcar gift to USA 1930 french boxcar gift to USA
Can be found and bought on

Paris - France : The Northern railway of France turned over a wartime boxcar to the FIDAC, French Society of Veterans, delegates who present it to the American 40-and-8 society at the Legion Convention to be held in the United States. M. Javary, director of the railway is seen speaking at presentation.

Press-photo 1938 - September 15, 1938 :

1930 french boxcar gift to USA 1930 french boxcar gift to USA
Can be found and bought on

Los Angeles - CA : Original French boxcar. The car belongs to "Voiture No. 102, 40 and 8, Detroit", and was given to the Auto City Group by French Veterans who toured the United States in 1934. The car is a veteran having been in service for 14 months during the world war on the front.

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