Randy Hees, Director of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, has traveled a long road to get here, but after 3 years of work, this historic railroad car, and an incredible piece of history has finally arrived here in Boulder City. (We originally told you about it HERE.)
This is The Merci Car, a small railway car that was a gift from the people of France to the State of Nevada in 1949. Also known as a ’40 et 8’ (40 and 8), these cars were made in France in the 1870’s or 1880’s to carry 40 men or 8 horses. They were used in WWI to carry soldiers and horses off to war in France, and then were continued to be used in WWII, sadly carrying people, often Jewish, off to labor or concentration camps in Europe. It is the story of this human cargo that is the most compelling. If you look at this tiny car, and imagine yourself and 39 other people with you, it’s a wonder that we can see this car and learn its story, today.
After the end of WWII in the winter of 1947-48, a newspaper columnist Drew Pearson organized the ‘Friendship Train’ to gather supplies for the (literally) starving peoples of Europe. 700 boxcars of relief supplies were organized and everyday American citizens gave what food and relief they could. Our state of Nevada gave two cars of aid.
The people of France, so touched by this support from the US, decided in turn to send back 49 of these ’40 and 8’ cars as the Merci Cars (Thank you Cars) to the American people. At the time we were 48 states, so each state received a car, and then the final was split between Washington DC and the territory of Hawaii.
The cars were stuffed full of cards, watercolors, candles, a wedding gown, cheeses and other items from the people of France. Nevada’s Merci Car reached Carson City on February 23, 1949.
The car was restored in 2002 and has remained on display at Carson City on the lawn of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. But now, we can finally get up close to see this car here locally. You can find it on the Southern Nevada Railway pavilion, at 601 Yucca Street, near the ticket office building. Hours are Monday – Friday 9am-3pm.
Stop by some morning and appreciate this unique piece of history!