Commemorating the First World War Centennial in Kansas

Merci Train Boxcar

At American Legion Post #173 in Hays there sits a French railroad boxcar.  It is a symbol of thanks from that country following World War II for relief efforts provided by the United States.  But it is also familiar to World War I historians as a forty-and-eight car, so-called because it could transport forty men or eight horses.

In 1947 a relief effort known as the “Friendship Train” was organized in this country to come to the aid of Europe.  The southwestern states, including Kansas, provided over 200 boxcars of food and supplies.  From Kansas alone 40 cars were provided.

France showed its appreciation for this effort in a spectacular way.  Forty-nine boxcars filled with mostly personal items were distributed to each of the then 48 states, with one to be shared by the District of Columbia and Hawaii.  Alaska was apparently left out in the cold.

The Kansas boxcar traveled around to 120 towns , and then the gifts it contained were then distributed to colleges, schools, museums, libraries, and other public institutions.  The boxcar went to Hays, where it can be seen today, effectively an artifact of both World Wars.

For more information about the Kansas boxcar, see these sites:

For more information about the Merci Train overall, see this site:


Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.


  1. Alexis

    “Alaska was apparently left out in the cold.” Mostly because it was not a state 😉
    Hawaii, or rather, the Territory of Hawaii had very interesting ties to both Trains. Come and join the research and see how it links fairly quickly to the Great War and its positive effects on Franco-American military friendship here:

    • Blair Tarr

      Thanks for the comment. You may have guessed I was injecting a little tongue-in-cheek humor with that line–OK, very little–but I was a little surprised that Alaska wasn’t included, and could not find the reason. Like Hawaii, it was a territory, and while Hawaii had Pearl Harbor, some of the outlying islands of Alaska were held by the Japanese.

      Of course, we had other territories during WWII that weren’t included by the Merci Train.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2023 Kansas WW1

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑