Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mississippi's "Merci Train"

The renovation is finally complete on Mississippi's "Merci Train" 40 & 8 boxcar.  It has been completely rebuilt and painted and is now on display beside the newly refurbished Gulf, Mobile, & Ohio Railroad Depot, Capitol Green, in Jackson.

Official disclaimer -- I am an employee of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, who is the owner of the 40 & 8 boxcar.  The pictures were taken by a co-worker and by me and are posted here as a tribute to the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who helped destroy the tyrannies that brought about WW1 and WW2.

Details behind the "Merci Train" which were gifts from France and the French citizens after WW2 -- http://www.mercitrain.org/  .  For details about the restoration project, complete with a picture of the state of the car before it was restored, please click on "Merci Boxcars by State - Mississippi" then click on "Current Status of the Mississippi Merci Boxcar" link to go to a press release from the Archives Department.

A co-worker friend of mine, Brother William, took the first series of pictures with his camera phone as they moved the car from its former location to its new location last fall.  They used a rather large crane to lift it onto a flat bed trailer and then back off at the new site, only about 100 yards away.

Removing the car from the old site.  The new site is barely visible at the left edge of the gravel lot in the background.
A rather fuzzy close-up of the decrepit state of the car.  A better "before" picture is in the "mdah" link above.
Ready to hoist away.
Loading the car on the tractor trailer rig.  You can see the new site (dark area) in the gravel in the left back ground.
Arriving at the new site by the GM&O Depot.  The track is now abandoned and only exists right there by the depot.
Getting the crane situated before the lift.
Beginning the lift.
"Lower away, handsomely!"
The lift is completed.
The car looks rather lonely at its new site.
Once in its new site, the car was completely stripped, all the way to the frame.  I kept meaning to get some pictures while the car was being refurbished but kept forgetting to bring my camera into work.  After a long number of months, the work was finished and I took the following pictures on Easter Saturday.

The completed car sits on its own little section of track outside the GM&O Depot.  My son, Sean, stands in front of it.
The east (or "back") side of the car.  The crests are those of the various French provinces.
The west (or "front") side of the car.  Here you can see the emblem of the Merci Train (lower left corner) and the "40 hommes - 8 cheveaux" placard (to right of upper door corner).
The newly refurbished Gulf, Mobile, & Ohio Railroad Depot which now houses the staff offices of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History's Museum Division.
For many years I despaired that the car would just moulder away, lost to wood rot and neglect.  But this fine example of historic restoration will keep the car in good condition for many generations yet to come to see and learn about the generosity of the American people after such a devastating war abroad.

3 comments:

Trainman said...

I first became aware of these cars when I visited the UP RR museum in Ogden, UT last November, am am so glad I did. My dad fought in the European theater and my aunt was an RN who served in a repatriatian camp in France during WWII. I applaud your efforts in bringing this fine piece of history back to life and hope to see it one day soon as I live in GA. Thank you!
JDK, Macon GA

Rob H said...

So glad to see that the Mississippi Merci Train was not lost. Some other states were not as fortunate. Next time I am in Jackson I will definitely stop by to see it. Thanks for the blog!

Liz said...

Beautifully done. My 1.5 year old son is into trains right now. His Grandfather (my husband's father) is a Frenchman, so it was especially meaningful to us to teach him about the merci train. Every time I draw a train for him, he says "draw a merci train, Mama!" We live in Jackson but I look forward to making the trip down to see it when he's a little bit older.Thank you for preserving this important piece of history!