Ed Holzmeiser, Grand Directeur of the Kansas Merci Boxcar, stands beside one of the displays inside the boxcar. He and the Hays “High Plains Voiture” 1543 are the caretakers of the Kansas Merci Boxcar. One of 49 boxcars given to the United States by the citizens of France in 1949 to say "merci" for the generosity Americans showed in providing assistance to their country rebuilding from the ravages of war.
To express their gratitude, the French people collected over 50,000 gifts ranging from Sevres pottery, Limoges porcelains, Baccaret crystal, engraved woodwork, church bells, bonnets, peasant costumes, and simple drawings from the children of France. The gifts were delivered using France's infamous boxcars.
These boxcars were built in France between 1852-1885 for use of shipping freight, horses, cattle and other domestic animals and troops during the two wars. Forty-nine of these cars were located, one for each state and the District of Columbia. The boxcars were repaired, painted and then filled with the gifts and called the "Gratitude Train."
The boxcars arrived in the United States early February,1949. The Kansas Merci Boxcar was accepted by "MERCI GIFTS FOR KANSAS, INC." After being on display in Topeka, the car made a 140 day tour of Kansas visiting 120 towns. Ending on Armistice Day, November 11, 1949, the boxcar was placed next to the library on the campus of the then Fort Hays State College.
The restored Kansas Merci Boxcar Museum and the Veterans Memorial Park can be seen at:
Hays American Legion Hall
13th & Canterbury
Hours: By Appointment - Welcomed
Ralph Walters, Grand Directeur of the Kansas Merci Boxcar passe, (November, 1999)