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The Friendship Train in Massachusetts
by Dorothy R. Scheele

The Friendship Train, America’s gift to France and Italy following World War II, transported $40 million worth of food for their European cousins. Although the bulk of the content was food, a few other commodities were also part of the cargo, e.g., medicines, clothing, fuel. Every phase of the Train’s development, from origination to completion, was accomplished gratis: the railroads did not charge for use of their rails; volunteers in each city loaded the boxcars; the engineers worked without pay; the stevedores loaded the ships without pay; the ships’ owners did not charge for the trans-Atlantic journey. The ships from the American Export Lines and the United States Export Lines departed for Europe from Weehawken, New Jersey.

The Friendship Train [Hereinafter referred to as FT] traveled through 11 states. It did not stop in any of the New England states. For reasons not fathomable, none of the states, other than Connecticut, seemed to have known about it. That residents and officials were unaware or seemingly unaware of the Train’s existence is puzzling because Drew Pearson announced in his column and broadcast the idea of the FT on October 11, and the its departure from Los Angeles on November 7 was broadcast nation-wide. An inquiry to the state libraries of each state and also to the libraries of their largest cities resulted in a unanimous reply: ‘no mention of or participation in the Friendship Train appears in our records.’

Nonetheless, two exceptions exist: both in Massachusetts. Springfield and Arlington did make preparations for the FT. Although the Springfield’s contributions were offered too late to be on the Train, they were intended for it. Mayor Brunton stated that the City Council members had approved sending a carload of food to New York. I could find no record of the boxcars’ having been sent.
Regardless of the plans for Springfield’s boxcar, 10,000 tons of food, fuel, and clothing
collected from all the New England states, was intended to go to Europe.
Scotland was the destination.

The Los Angeles departure was a gala event
with many contemporary film stars attending: some of whom were John Wayne, Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Elizabeth Taylor. The event was a truly an extravaganza: spot lights, bands, and a boisterous crowd cheered the FT on its unique and exciting odyssey.

On November 19 Mayor Brunton had called Washington asking to participate in this
benevolent and heartfelt cause. Washington informed him that it was too
late for the Train and that all cargo should be placed in storage.

Arlington was the second city to launch a food drive. This city had formed an extensive organization to meet its goals. Walter E. Lannefeld served as chairman of the Citizens Food Committee, and L. Brodeur was its secretary. Arthur J. Mansfield, the Chairman of the Publicity Committee, appointed five additional people to help with this aspect of the food drive. Approximately a half-dozen other citizens were appointed to sub-committees to lead such efforts in churches, civic organizations, the Red Cross, and American Veterans. The Superintendent of Schools Clifford Hall promised to encourage all 7,500 students to participate and donate. The Publicity Committee had stickers printed to be placed on cars, and it also distributed a pamphlet with the heading: “Citizens Food Committee Program for the Conservation of Food, Challenge to Arlington.”

By November 13 the Arlington Community Fund had achieved 75% of its goal. Arlington might have sent its contribution to the Train either by trucks or a boxcar to a junction point. The nearest connection point was New York City. When the contributions were sent was indeterminable.
Michael T. Kelleher, President of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, was chagrined with the organizers of the Train. “The people of Boston should have been allowed to contribute directly to the FT.” Possibly, the New England states, having been heard of the FT in the 11th hour, began their contributions after the Train had departed for Europe. This idea was not pursued because the goal of this research is to record the states’ contributions up to the departure of the original FT. All of the New England states, however, received gifts from the Merci Train.

To learn about the Merci Train see Earl Bennett’s site for a fascinating and informative account of the Merci Train.


“10,000 Tons Food, Clothes Pledged in N.E.” Boston Herald Nov. 20, 1947: 2.
“Citizens Food Committee Plans Program for Arlington” Arlington Advocate Nov. 13, 1947: 1.
“City Too Late To Get On Board the Friendship Train” Springfield Union Nov. 20, 1947: 1+
“First Eastern Legion Post” Boston Herald Nov. 16, 1947: 62.
“Friendship Train Called Example of ‘Peacemongering’” Daily Boston Globe 1928-1960 Nov. 19, 1947: 11.
“Hunt Xmas Gifts Ship” Lowell Sun Nov. 20, 1947: 33.
“Legion Seeks Food For the Friendship Train” Boston Herald Nov. 14, 1947: 42.
“Mayor, Leslie Will Talk Over Food Friendship Train Aid” Springfield Union Nov. 19, 1947: 4.
“Peacemongers” Springfield Union Nov. 20, 1947: 8.
Pearson, Drew. ‘Washington-Merry-Go Round’ Dallas Morning News Section II Nov. 14, 1947: 2.
“Springfield May Place Carload on Friendship Train” Springfield Union Nov. 18, 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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