SR and WWII Friendship Trains : LUSENET : Southern Railway : One Thread

Hello. I am a researcher for The NEws & Observer in Raleigh, NC. We have a historic photo we received from our State Archives of a group of people (some in uniform) loading bags of goods into a Southern Railway train. A sign on the side of the train says "Raleigh, North Carolina - To our friends in Europe - Raleigh's Friendship Train Car"

We have no stories in our clip files on this event and the State Archives also has no info. We believe the photo to be circa 1946. We'd like to run the photo with as much infomation as possible, so I was wondering if the folks at Southern Railway might have any information at all on these "Friendship Trains". Thanks very much for your help. Brooke Cain

-- Brooke Cain (, March 27, 2000


Friendship Trains were developed following world war II to enable farm families beginning in the midwest to share farming commodities with communities in Europe and Asia. It was part of the Christian Rural Overseas Program (CROP) which was sponsored by Protestant Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. This is part of the history of Church World Service. You may want to visit their web site: .

-- (, October 17, 2002.

The American people contributed forty million dollars worth of food for the Friendship Train of 1947 to feed those in France and Italy who had been ravaged by war and Nazi occupation. They gave from their own grain fields, dairy farms, and kitchens. This gift—not the Marshall Plan, then being formulated—was a genuine grassroots effort, a present from the hearts of a people who genuinely cared. Drew Pearson (1897-1969), internationally known columnist, broadcaster, humanitarian, and a 1919 graduate of southeastern Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College, conceived the idea of the Friendship Train in October 1947. A severe drought in 1947 compounded Europe’s war misery. Flour for baking bread, a staple in the diet of Europeans, was restricted to six ounces per day. If a family needed several more ounces to bake something other than bread, it was taken from their bread ration. Twenty farmers from the Midwest traveled at their own expense to assess the situation, which they described as dire. When Pearson wrote about the plight of Europeans in his Washington,D.C. newspaper column, "The Merry-Go-Round," Americans responded. With astonishing rapidity, the idea moved forward, under the sponsorship of the Citizens Food Committee. The first boxcars left Los Angeles on November 7—just five weeks after the concept was first announced. They crossed the country and collected filled freight cars as they traveled. By the time the Friendship Train pulled into New York on November 18, where ships to transport the donations waited in the harbor, it had accumulated an astonishing seven hundred boxcars and tankers, all laden with food, medicine, fuel, and clothing. Two years later, the French people responded in appreciation by sending to America the "Merci Train," better known as the "Gratitude Train." Forty-nine boxcars filled with gifts, some expensive, but most humble gifts from the hearts of a grateful nation. These were not orginary boxcars, but the infamous "40 & 8" boxcars. American soldiers in both World Wars remember being crowded either 40 men per boxcar, or eight horses, to and from the front lines of the war. One French woman who had nothing left after the rape of their country by the Nazis rushed forward when one of the 40 & 8's was being repainted. She pressed her fingers into the wet paint and said, "I have nothing left to give, so I will send them my fingerprints. The simple, small gestures warmed the hearts of both Americans and France. It was the finest hours of friendship with our old Ally. North Carolina's "Gratitude Train" boxcar has been preserved and is on display at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer. For more information on the Merci Train, go to http: An article about the Friendship Train of 1947 and the Merci Train of 1949 will appear in the Spring issue of "Pennsylvania Heritage" magazine, the historical publication of the Pa. Historical and Museum Commission. Pennsylvania's Merci Train boxcar is also featured on a Web page of the Pennsylvania National Guard Web site for Fort Indiantown Gap, at: 20Gratitude.htm.

-- Fred J. Lauver (, December 16, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ