City Cast

Colorado Lost Its Fancy French Train Car

Peyton Garcia
Peyton Garcia
Posted on September 11
The Colorado Merci Boxcar pictured Feb. 15, 1949. 

The Colorado Merci Boxcar pictured Feb. 15, 1949.  (Credit: the American Legion Leyden-Chiles-Wickersham Post One and the Voiture 97 of the 40&8 Society via

In 1947, as Europe was recovering from World War II, the United States created The Friendship Train. It traveled from Los Angeles to New York collecting food, clothes, and personal care items donated by American citizens to be shipped across the pond. In total, the Friendship Train collected roughly 270 boxcars and $40 million dollars worth of goods. Colorado alone contributed nine train cars of donations.

The Europeans were so grateful for the act of charity that in 1949 France spearheaded a reciprocal trainful of goodies to be sent to the U.S. as a thank you. Each state received its own “Merci boxcar” filled with toys, art, fine China, wine, and other luxury items, like handmade French wedding dresses.

Colorado’s Merci boxcar arrived in Denver to great fanfare. “It was like a Christmas party, opening a giant gift,” local historian Stephanie Gilmore told reporters at CPR. But what happened to that boxcar? That remains a mystery. Merci train cars in most other states were given to museums for display. But Colorado’s and five more were either scrapped or lost. All that’s left of the car is a plaque that was once affixed to it, which currently resides at the Colorado Railroad Museum (CRRM).

Both the CRRM and the Forney Museum of Transportation have tried to solve the mystery to no avail. Gilmore hypothesizes that the boxcar was repurposed as a chicken coop or is sitting on someone’s ranch somewhere.

Hey Denver

Want to know what's happening in Denver? Sign up for our free newsletter, Hey Denver. Packed with local news, curated event recs, local life hacks, and more, it's your daily toolkit for getting the most out of the city you love.

A Day In Denver History

See All

The latest in Denver