Go by the Old Capitol or the War Memorial, and you will notice a change around the parking area. I personally cannot remember a visit to the area (either to the Old Capitol or the the Archives) when the train car was not there. On Friday, however, the small (20.5 feet x 8.5 feet) boxcar – known as a 40 & 8 in France because each car could carry forty men or eight horses – was moved to a new home about a block away along the abandoned railroad line next to the old GM&O Depot.
Our Merci Train Car is one of 49 that the French gave to the United States in 1949 in appreciation for the more than 700 American box cars full of relief goods sent to them a year earlier. All of the lower 48 states received one and the 49th was shared between D.C. and Hawaii. Each car was filled with other gifts of gratitude as well. MDAH has about forty objects from the Merci train in their collection, and at least some of these likely will be displayed once the Museum of Mississippi History is opened.
MDAH plans to restore the box car, which has suffered from years of direct exposure to the elements, at its new home by the GM&O Depot – which they are also restoring. Another part of the plan is the construction of a canopy to better protect the car from the elements in the future.
Thanks to our friends at MDAH, we have a slide show of pictures from the big move.