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The Friendship Train in Maine
by Dorothy R. Scheele

The Friendship Train (FT) crossed the country in 1947 collecting food for the starving people in Europe. Although the Train did not stop in all states, every state in the United States contributed to it.*

Although Maine donated to this humanitarian event, the contributions from other New England states, with the exceptions of Massachusetts and Connecticut, the donations seem to be meager. Little or no documentation exists regarding Maine’s participation. Local government archives have no records evincing a plan for the FT. Local historical societies and libraries have no material about the Train, nor does the Maine State Historical Society. For some unfathomable reasons, participation of the New England state was minimal. However, in Maine a few concrete endeavors in support of the FT do exist.

Henry C. Sylvester, a member of the New England War Dad’s Association, raised a considerate sum of money for the cause. He was informed that the money should be sent to an address in Washington, D.C.

He also received instructions for sending food to Europe. In another cash acquisition, the money was to be sent to Walter Van Vokkelton, 606 Church Street, New York City.

There are two concrete instances of donations to the FT. In Caribou the Chamber of Commerce offered either a boxcar of potatoes or 500 one-pound bags of potatoes to be sent to Boston for shipment. And according to the November 28, 1947, Hartford Courant, Maine and the Canal Zone along with Connecticut cities contributed to the $8,500 for the Train.

Maine citizens undoubtedly felt the need to come to the aid of their European cousins.

*The home page of this web site contains a more thorough history of the Friendship Train.


List of works consulted

“Food-Aid Directions Arrive Here” Sunday Press Herald [Portland,

ME] Nov. 16, 1947: B-9.

“Hartford’s Friendship Train Pulls Out [sic] Bears 70 Tons of Food For

Europe” Hartford Courant Nov. 28, 1947: 1.


The author welcomes any additional information which would add to this state's history.

The Friendship Train was the genesis for the French Merci Train. Website has information about that train.

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