NEW HAVEN; Museum’s ‘40-et-8’ car has interesting history

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By Rebecca Roscoe

One of the railway boxcars at the Kentucky Railway Museum has an interesting history.

The 40-et-8 – or 48 car – is housed underneath a separate pavilion and surrounded by metal gate.


“They called the cars 40-et-8 cars because it would have either taken 40 men and equipment or eight horses or mules and equipment to move it,” said Greg Matthews, Executive Director and President of the Railway Museum.


The 48 car traveled to Nazi camps and later to allied nations to transport relief items post-war.


After World War II the people of France were suffering greatly and the U.S. sent relief cars to the country to provide food, clothing and other supplies to those in need. 


In a reciprocal gesture, the people of France – in particular, the railroad workers, put together 49 cars to make the “Merci” or “Thank You” train.


In each of the 49 cars, clothes, paintings, food products and other relief items were packed and sent to the United States, one car going to each state – car number 48 being sent to Kentucky.


The 48, originally built in 1909 in France, was among the cars that carried prisoners of war and others to Nazi concentration camps during WWII.


The cars were also used for leisure travel purposes, later serving as passenger cars post war. 


“Most of the cars were rebuilt army cars that were specifically used for war or military transportation and were converted for civilian use,” said Matthews.


Although the car is more than a century old, it has stayed in good condition through restoration efforts.


Students from Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, and Bardstown Elementary restored the car in the 1990’s. The car is dedicated to Mr. Earl Johnson, who donated a portion of the land that the KRM is now located on.


“It’s a unique piece of history – there are lots of stories involved,” said Matthews.


For more information on the 48 boxcar, visit the Kentucky Railway Museum or call them at 502-549-5470.


*** The name railroad originated in Europe from the creation of carts with steel wheels that fit over and rolled on iron rails, pulled by horses or mules. The carts or wagons led to the tracks being called “wagon ways” – which changed after the creation of the steam engine and the first mainstream railways in the 1800s.