The Gratitude Train arrived in New York Harbor aboard the Magellan, a French merchant ship, in February 1949. The Gratitude Train, a gift from France, contained forty-nine boxcars known as Forty and Eights. Each car was filled with gifts to the people of the United States from the people of France.
In 1947 an American Friendship Train carried $40,000,000 in relief supplies to France and Italy. Initiated by Drew Pearson, an American newspaper columnist, over 700 carloads of food, fuel, and clothing, donated by the citizens of the United States, brought relief to war torn Europe.
A French railworker and war veteran, Andre Picard, initiated the project of a French Thank You Train. The Train has such appeal that the project, which began with one boxcar, ended with a train of forty-nine boxcars; one for each of the forty-eight states. The forty-ninth was to be shared by the District of Columbia and the Territory of Hawaii.