Boxcar finally getting facelift |

Boxcar finally getting facelift

Staff reports
Rick Stiver, a restoration speciatlist at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, works on the Merci boxcar on Monday afternoon. The boxcar was one of 49 boxcars given to the U.S. by France as a thank you for support given during World War II. Years of fundraising and efforts from a group of local volunteers has led to the recent restoration project.

After enduring two world wars and more recent neglect, a “Merci” boxcar from France is being refurbished at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Work started Monday on the relic. Nevada was given the one of 49 “Merci” boxcars sent to U.S. states by France in gratitude for help during World War II.

“For preservation, we’ve replaced some of the wood, cleaned the irons and primed some of the metal parts,” said John Ballweber, museum curator.

Three museum employees are working on the boxcar and plan to be finished with it by mid-November, Ballweber said.

“The idea is to put it in an outdoor shelter in the museum’s park,” he said.

The deputy director of the Nevada Legislature, Steve Watson, a rail car project volunteer, said about $65,000 in materials has been raised for the shelter. Roofing, steel, paint and concrete have been donated, he said.

“We need more in-kind services for the concrete footings,” Watson said. “What we desperately need are volunteer concrete finishers.”

To volunteer for the work, call Ballweber at 687-8288.

The boxcar was shipped across the Atlantic and arrived in the United States in February 1949 when it was repaired, freshly painted and decorated with the coats of arms of the 40 provinces of France.

The narrow-gauge boxcar dates to the 1870s when those like it were first built.

David Parsons, 78, of Sparks, started the fund-raising effort for Nevada’s boxcar after seeing it in Carson City and recalling how he was jammed into one with other U.S. soldiers arriving in 1946 in Le Havre, a port northwest of Paris.

While driving through Carson City in 1957, he first spotted Nevada’s boxcar at the state museum, still in good shape. Years later, he found that it had been moved to the state railroad museum and had deteriorated badly.

Parsons and his wife, Denise, whom he met in France, decided to help restore the old boxcar.