The Four Peaks Questers #1207 in Fountain Hills is raising funds to create signage and replace visitor display cases for the Merci Train located at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale.
It is doing so by donating some of its members’ personal items and collectibles to sell at the Presby Pickens’ Flea Market Saturday, Nov. 4, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church.
French and U.S. friendship
“The Merci Train story begins with understanding the bond that follows when one nation helps another to win its freedom,” Four Peaks Questers Treasurer Betsy Stambaugh said. “France paid a dear price for her freedom after WWII - devastation and poverty. And even though the American government’s Marshall Plan assisted the war-torn countries, there was fear of interfering communist propaganda.”
The American people banded together, led by famed newspaper columnist and radio commentator, Drew Pearson, proposing the idea of a “Friendship Train” of food, clothing and medical supplies for France and Italy, Stambaugh said. The result was 11 freight cars leaving Los Angeles for New York starting in November of 1947.
Within three weeks, and without any government assistance, 700 “Friendship” railroad cars carrying $40 million in goods were sent to France on December 8, 1947, Stambaugh added.
“The Merci Train, also known as the French Gratitude Train, was sent to the United States following World War II as a ‘Thank You’ for that most generous gift of $40 million food and other supplies sent to France and Italy in 1947,” Stambaugh said.
The train featured 49 cars filled with personal gifts. Forty-eight states received individual cars and the 49th car was shared between the District of Columbia and Hawaii.
The local Four Peaks Questers made a recent visit to the Merci Train in Scottsdale and donated a copy of the original Life magazine, dated February 1949, with an article and pictures of the Merci Train arriving in Weehawken, N.J., Feb. 3, 1949.
Support the Merci Train
Those who are interested in donating funds or contributing to the renovation efforts of the Merci Train are invited to stop by the Questers booth at the Presby Pickins’ Flea Market Saturday, Nov. 4, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Additional information is available by contacting Four Peaks Questers President Nell Bigley at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 480-710-7073, or Betsy Stambaugh at email@example.com or by calling 630-728-9653
The Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church is located at 13001 N Fountain Hills Blvd.
Questers is an international organization that seeks to keep history alive by supporting preservation, restoration and education. For more information, visit azquesters.org.