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Jul-13-2006 10:18TweetFollow @OregonNews
Oregon Relocated Merci Train Boxcar to be DedicatedSalem-News.com
(SALEM) - Oregon's Merci Train boxcar has been on display at Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton for more than 35 years. The symbol of France's gratitude to America now has a new home at the Coos County Historical and Maritime Museum, located in North Bend.
A ceremony to dedicate the boxcar will be held at the museum on Saturday, July 15th, beginning at 2:00 PM. The dedication is part of the festivities of the annual North Bend Jubilee.
Boxcars from the French "Merci Train" were given as gifts from the people of France to thank America for its help during and immediately following World War II. The cars were called 40 and 8 because in World War I they could carry either 40 men or eight horses to the war front.
In conjunction with a National Guard training program, the Oregon Army Guard's 1249th Engineer Battalion transported the historic boxcar from its Fort Stevens location first to the Linn County Fairgrounds in Albany, where it was available for viewing for several days before it was delivered to the museum in North Bend.
The boxcar's history began in 1948 while France was still in ruins after World War II. Americans gathered enough relief goods to send to the French--enough to fill more than 700 American boxcars. Soon afterward, the French responded with a Merci ("Gratitude") Train--49 railroad boxcars filled with approximately 52,000 gifts that were sent to Americans in appreciation of their post-war generosity.
With huge fanfare, the Merci Train arrived in New York Harbor on February 3rd, 1949. Each of the 48 American states, at that time, was to receive one of the boxcars. The 49th boxcar was shared by Washington D.C. and the Territory of Hawaii. Today only 39 of the "40 and 8" boxcars are still on display nationwide.
After a brief stop in Portland, Oregon's boxcar arrived in Salem on February 21st, 1949. It sat near Salem's American Legion Hall before it was taken to Astoria in 1968. After being restored, the boxcar was placed on display at Fort Stevens. Efforts are now underway by the U.S. Coast Guard and other volunteers on the Coast to restore parts of the "40 and 8" boxcar.
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