In 1947, American newspaper columnist Drew Pearson was so moved by the conditions in war torn Europe that he called on Americans for donations of food, clothing, medical and other supplies to aid the plights of France and Italy. He proposed a plan for a train to cross America collecting car loads of donated supplies as it went.
The “Friendship Train”, as it was called, left Los Angeles on November 7, 1947 with eight empty boxcars. The response from across America was overwhelming and eleven days later on November 18, 1947 the “Friendship Train” arrived in New York with some 700 Box Cars loaded with donated goods worth $40 million. The supplies were then shipped to the region.
As the aid began to pour in, a French veteran of WW I and railroad worker named Andre’ Picard was so grateful for America’s outpouring of generosity that he formulated a response and joined with the French Veterans Association to reply with a 49 car “Merci Train” of WWI era boxcars, each filled with mementos from the French people and sent to America.
The boxcars arrived in New York Harbor February 3, 1949 and as the “Gratitude Train”, as came to be called in America, crossed the Nation one boxcar with it’s contents was donated to each of the 48 States with one shared by the District of Columbia and the territory of Hawaii.
Today these “Box Cars” stand in their respective States as a testament to these two incredible displays of goodwill and have evolved through the efforts of “La Societe de 40 and 8” and the National Boxcar Association to annually raise funding to support the many charitable programs of the 40/8 in support of our communities across this great Nation.
The National Box Car Association was founded in 1965 as an affiliate of “La Societe’ de Forty & Eight” with the primary purpose of preserving the Box Car as the symbol of the Forty & Eight. Over time Locomotives were added to the symbolic rolling stock of the NBCA since they were connected and needed to haul the Box Cars.
The National Box Car Association set goals of making contributions to Hospitals, Children’s Homes and Orphanages. Expanding it’s efforts the NBCA supports special projects at the annual Promenade Nationale (National Convention). A party for special children is held in the host city where the children and their escorts are treated to lunch, train rides on visiting Locomotives, and entertainment by the NBCA HOBO Clowns and bands, etc.
Also a monetary donation is made to the host city’s local VAVS Hospital or Clinic. Other donations go to the National Boland Nurses Training Trust Fund, the Charles Ardery Child Welfare Trust Fund and other programs requiring assistance, such as the National 40&8 Membership Committee, 40&8 Magazine, Law Officer of the Year program, and many others. All funding raised by the NBCA is distributed in the same year it is raised.
Funding comes through the sales of Box Car Pins, Crew Cards, and Associate Cards. Crew cards are sold only to Voyageurs Militaire or members of the 40&8 while Pins and Associate cards can be sold to anyone wishing to make a donation for the NBCA. The Box Car Program is currently in it’s fourth year of a five year series of NBCA Commemorative Coins. When completed, the series will represent a Locomotive pulling three Box Cars and trailing a Caboose. Each coin signifies, in some way, a connection to the symbolic Railroad image of the 40&8, the service to Veterans, and the programs of the 40&8. The sale of these items represents an integral part of the financial success of the National Box Car Association.
All Voiture Locales can order National Box Car Pins, Crew Membership Cards, and Associate Member Cards from the National Secretaire/Treasurer on consignment or they can be paid for when ordered. Any orders of the Commemorative Coin Series must be paid for before shipping. The success of the NBCA is the result of the overwhelming support of the Voyageurs Militaire (members) of “La Societe’ de 40&8”.
A new Box Car Pin series has been recently added and has been named the “Shadow Train”. It began with the 2014 issue Pin and the 2015 Pin is the 2nd issue of this series and is designed to shadow the Coin Face image by one year beginning with the 2013 Coin and will work as follows;
Beginning with the 2014 Box Car Pin, it reflects the coin face for the 2013 issue coin (a Box Car). The 2015 Box Car Pin depicts the 2014 issue Coin face (Box Car).
The 2016 Box Car Pin will mirror the 2015 issue coin face (Locomotive). The 2017 Box Car Pin will reflect the 2016 coin face (Caboose). To round out the Shadow Train, the 2018 Box Car Pin will depict the very first issue, the 2012 coin face (the first Box Car).
When all is completed, the Box Car Pin series, “Shadow Train”, will show a Locomotive pulling three Box Cars and trailing a Caboose.
A complete series in it’s own right and it will definitely become another addition to the heritage of our “La Societe” de 40/8 and the National Box Car Association.