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USA : The Merci Train - The French Gratitude Train

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).

Originally I hadn't planned to research the Merci Train as such, but the more I learned, the more interesting the whole concept of the Merci Train became. The Merci Train is in fact a symbol of the world-history around 1949 with all the international and regional conflicts and problems; - even down to petty local-politics in some US-States.

Where ?

USA - In 1949 : In the 48 states from 1949 + Hawaii and Washington DC who shared the 49th boxcar. ( Alaska didn't become a state till 1959 - Washington DC is the "District of Columbia" ).

USA - Today : The remaining 43 box-cars are now on display either out in the open or in museums. 6 box-cars have vanished.

What ?

49 French railroad-boxcars sent from France to the USA in 1949, as a "thank you" for the US help to France in 1947 - "The Friendship Train".

"Merci" is the French word for "Thank you".

Each of the 48 US-states received one French railroad-boxcar filled with gifts from French individuals to be distributed to individuals in that state. Hawaii and Washington DC "shared" the 49th boxcar.

These French box-cars have had a troubled life after coming to the USA in 1949. Some were destroyed, some were left in the open letting nature destroy them, some were kept in museums.

In the later years efforts have been made to restore the not-so-wellkept boxcars and to display them in sheltered surroundings.

The French boxcars were knicknamed the "40 & 8", meaning that they could transport 40 men OR 8 horses according to the French sign on the boxcars. The US forces in France during WW1 and later in WW2 knew these box-cars very well since they were used by the military for troup-transports.

Why ?

I was introduced to the phenomenon by a US friend in Pennsylvania in 2013, when he showed me the Pennsylvanian Merci Boxcar at the "Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Post".

I was completely fascinated by the story and the history behind these old French box-cars on display all over the USA.

The more you search the internet you'll be amazed to learn about the amount of volontary work that various individuals and organizations have put into finding, restoring and keeping these old box-cars.

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Contents :

In the "Table of Contents" in the yellow box above there are links to particular subjects that I have researched and to the single states where I have seen and fotographed the state boxcar and researched the history of that particular boxcar and the gifts found in that boxcar.

On each state-page you can also find my own fotographs of the boxcar. As to states I have not (yet) visited I refer to and to the several photos that various individuals have uploaded to the internet. Use your favorite search-engine to find such photos.

For each state I have researched newspapers from 1948 till present day for information about the "Gratitude Train" and the state boxcar and the gifts.

The list of the newspaper articles is free for all. The link to the actual newspaper-clippings is ( due to potential copyright issues ) password-protected. Password can be obtained by contacting me.

Important links

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Copyright © Christian Vinaa
2014 -
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