The Merci Train comprised forty-nine box cars: one for each state, with Washington D.C. and Hawaii sharing a car. Each was packed with gifts from the citizens of France to show their gratitude to the U.S. for aid given during and after World War II. The outpouring of French generosity was stunning; more than six million French families were involved, and thousands of gifts did not even make it into the boxcars.
The boxcars arrived in New Jersey in February 1949 aboard the ocean freighter Magellan. Constructed between 1865 and 1885, the cars had originally been used for civilian purposes, but later saw service in both World Wars. Called "forty and eights" because they could hold forty men or eight horses, many American troops traveled on the boxcars on their way to the front. The Rhode Island car was accepted at Woonsocket on February 8, 1949, and was carried to Providence with Governor John O. Pastore serving as engineer. Source
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Merci America Boxcar photograph album, 1949-1949