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USA : The Merci Train boxcar in New Hampshire (NH)
Main sources :
Most of the information below has been collected from old newspaper articles.
When researching the "Merci Train" it is important to distinguish between :
Using various search words and combinations of words is necessary :
- The individual boxcar given to a state.
- The "Merci Train" as a name for the 49 boxcars sent by France.
- The "Merci Train" as the name for the transport of the boxcars to each individual state :
The 3 sections : New England - Southern - Western.
- The contents - gifts - that were in each boxcar.
- The fact that the 40 & 8 Society's made / and still make replicas, of varying likeness, of the French boxcar to use as floats in parades.
"Merci Train" - "Gratitude Train" - "French / merci / gratitude car / boxcar" - "thank you train" - "french gift"
The official French name for the "Merci Train" was :
"Train de la reconnaissance française" - as written on one side of the boxcars.
However the term "train de la reconnaissance" can also be used for the first train travelling on a newly laid track and even as a military term for a "scouting" trip.
Known missing facts are shown with "_____" or a
New Hampshire :
From www.freeprintoutmaps.com ➚
The New Hampshire boxcar
The boxcar was delivered to the capitol of each state; - in New Hampshire it was Concord.
The New Hampshire boxcar ( J 54 858 ) presumably is the one that Anne-Marie Max poses with in publicity photos in October 1948.
1948 - January 1949
Same history as the other 48 boxcars.
Repaired, repainted ( "slate grey" ) and decorated with shields and signs in France.
Shipped to the USA on the Magellan.
"Merci Train" Committee
in New Hampshire :
- Chairman : George J. Christie
Wednesday, February 02, 1949.
- Loaded off the "Magellan" at the Weehawken docks, Erie Railroad Pier North H, New Jersey.
- Placed on a US-railroad flatcar and shunted onto "New England Section" of the "Merci Train".
- Guarded by railroad-police till departure.
Monday, February 07, 1949.
- Left as part of the New England section of the "Merci Train" left Erie Railroad's Weehawken (NJ) yards "on Monday night" with the other 5 boxcars. ( Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont ).
- 6 New Haven flatcars loaded each with a French boxcar. Newly-painted in steel-grey with emblems.
- 11:00 PM - Arrived at Maybrook, NY - switching from "Erie Railroad" to "New Haven Railroad".
- Due to overhead electric wires and tunnels the "Merci Train" could not take the New Haven Railroad "main line", but had to take an alternate route across the center of the New England States.
Thursday, February 10, 1949.
- Clifford P. Clark from Concord - of the Boston and Maine Railroad Police - boarded the train at Worchester, MA.
- J.W. Brackett, from Concord, was trainmaster. A.R. Choate, from Manchester, was conductor.
- 07:00 AM - Boxcar arrived at Nashua.
- The Merci Train stayed in Nashua for 10 minutes - 07:00 - 07:10 before it started north towards Manchester.
- None of the officials from the Merci Train appeared.
- Local newspaper headlines read :
"Thank you Train Visit To Nashua 'Flop' " and "No One Represents French Gov't At Stop".
- Some 50 adults and youngsters came to the train station in Nashua to greet the Merci Train.
- Atty. Arthur A. Tremblay - representing Mayor Oswald S. Maynard.
- Granville M. Stearns - Grand chef de gare - NH 40&8 Society.
- Comdr. Edgar Caron, Vice Comdr. Constantine Caros - American Legion.
- Leonard Kelley, vice-commander Nashua post - Veterans Foreign Wars.
- Miss Margaret Cote - French teacher Nashua High School.
- 08:00 AM (?) - Boxcar arrived in Manchester
- Removed from railroad-flatcar and placed on large trailer truck.
- Parade up "Elm Street" to City Hall.
- P-51 jets from "Grenier Air Force Base" roared in the air.
- school-children from French parishes.
- Central High School band led the parade.
- Sacred Hearts Drill Team of St. Marie's parish.
- Lafayette Snow Shoe Club.
- a platoon of Naval Reservists from Division 33.
- a delegation form the Disabled American Veterans organization.
- Jewish War Veterans Post 444.
- troop of Catholic Boy Scouts.
- Hillsborough 40&8 locomotive.
- delegation from the Henry Sweeney post of the American Legion.
- Reception at City Hall :
- Mayor Josaphat T. Benoit
- city officials.
- church representatives.
- Rev. Napoleon Gilbert - pastor of St. Jean Baptiste church.
- Rev. Franklin P. Frye - pastor of St. Paul's Methodist church.
- Rabbi Abraham Hefterman of Adath Yeshurun synogog.
- delegations from veterans organizations.
- Albert Chambon - French consul at Boston, MA.
- Louis Cast - National chairman of the French Gratitude Train committee.
- George Christie - Chairman of the NH "Merci Train" welcome committee.
- Chief of police James F. O'Neil - past national commander of the American Legion.
- Col. Conrad Lanza - Col. Henry Viccellio - Grenier Air Force Base.
- Boxcar attracted vast crowds till it was parked at a garage near the freight office till Friday.
- Boxcar laden with 33 packing cases of gifts.
Friday, February 11, 1949.
Carl E. Clifford brought several articles from France during WW1 to the offices of "Nashua Telegraph" where they were displayed.
Boxcar stayed overnight near freight office. Driven to Concord.
- Brief stop at Suncook.
- Concord - 10:00 AM.
- Official reception of the Merci Boxcar in Concord, NH. Many veterans from Nashua participated.
- The boxcar was transported via "Airport Road" and "Bridge Street" because it was to high to go under the "South End Bridge".
- Parade on South Main Street, starting at Perley Street / South Main Street towards "State House Plaza" headed by Brig. Gen. Charles F. Bowen.
- escort of police
- Concord high school band
- 2 companies of National Guardsmen
- a 40&8 locomotive
- official cars
- Albert Chambon, the French Consul at Boston, officially presented the boxcar to New Hampshire in Concord on State House Plaza.
- The boxcar and the gifts were accepted by Governor Sherman Adams.
- Other speakers at the reception ceremony :
- Mayor Charles J. McKee - Concord
- Mayor Albert A. Parmentier - Laconia
- Charles Willey - 40&8 Society
- Rabbi Aaron B. Ilson from Temple Beth Jacob
- Rt. Rev. Jeremiah S. Buckley - paster of St. Johns church
- Rt. Rev. Charles F. Hall - bishop of New Hampshire
- Charles Lord - Laconia's city government
- Granville Stearns, Hollis - head-of-state of 40&8 Society
- George Christy - Manchester radio announcer - ( WFEA )
Chairman of the NH "Merci Train" welcome committee.
- Governor Sherman Adams broke the seal on the boxcar.
- The boxcar was returned to Manchester, where the gifts will be catalogued and from where the distribution of the gifts, as decided by Governor Sherman Adams, will take place.
- Most gifts will be allocated for permanent preservation at
- public buildings
- veterans halls
May 27, 1949.
Copy of the "Thank You" album from French children to each state in the USA was presented to Governor Sherman Adams.
- Monsignor Gilbert arranged to have the boxcar stand on a platform in the French section of Manchester.
- Governor Sherman Adams asked the "40&8 Society" to "assume stewardship" of the NH boxcar.
- 40&8 participates in the dedication of the "Monsignor Gilbert Park" in Manchester, NH.
- Monsignor Napoleon J. Gilbert ( - September 11, 1956 ) deeded the property to the 40&8 Society in August 1953. Also present was Drew Pearson.
September 11, 1956.
Monsignor Napoleon J. Gilbert died in Manchester, 72 years old.
1966 - December.
- Drew Pearson revisited the boxcar and found it carefully preserved behind glass.
The NH boxcar was ( in 1966 ) one of the best preserved.
- Plans to repair the New Hampshire boxcar, which was located near the Jutras Post in Manchester, NH, ( 56 Boutwell Street, Manchester, NH 03102 )
On a side-note, in 2009 - 2011, there apparently was a fraud-case regarding soliciting donations to a "Veterans Museum of New Hampshire".
A "Henry Pratte" apparently was trying to make people donate money to the "Veterans Museum of New Hampshire" although the organization was not, as required by NH-law, registred.
Gifts from the NH boxcar.
Known gifts from the New Hampshire boxcar are :
- "Library of the Americaine Canadienne Association"
Previously at "52 Concord Street, Manchester, NH", but that building was sold in 2014.
Library now has merged with the Geisel Library ➚ at "Saint Anselm College".
Photos © www.mercitrain.org ➚
Click on picture to enlarge in new window.
Mirror with wooden frame with painting.
Plate with painting of ( most likely ) "Jean de La Fontaine".
Heraldic sign - marked "AVON"
Painting - roman house scene
"La Familie Royale en 1840"
[ The royal family in 1840 ]
Marked "Champagne Delbeck - Reims"
- State House - Concord ?
- Each boxcar contained a Sèvres vase - a personal gift from the French President Auriol.
The New Hampshire Merci Train boxcar as exhibited ( 2015 ) at "Gilbert Park", Reed Street, ( enter from Bremer Street ), Manchester, NH 03109.