How a WWI-era boxcar — a gift from France — moved from Columbia to Bishopville in SC
By Jeff Wilkinson
via thestate.com web site
The historic and ornate World War I-era boxcar donated full of gifts to the state of South Carolina after World War II will be moved Saturday from Columbia to Bishopville’s South Carolina Cotton Museum and Lee County Veterans Museum.
During both World Wars I and II, the narrow gauge boxcars were a main mode of transportation in France and much of the rest of Europe. They were called Forty and Eights because they were big enough to carry 40 men or eight horses. The boxcars moved troops, hauled supplies, evacuated wounded and, in their darkest use, transported Jews and other victims of the Holocaust in World War II to concentration camps.
The boxcar was part of a 49-car “gratitude train” from France that sent one boxcar to each of the 48 states and the District of Columbia as thanks for the United States’ participation in World War II and America’s aid afterward. The boxcar has been displayed in a parking lot behind Columbia’s American Legion Post 6 at Pickens and Whaley streets for decades, largely unseen by the public.
“This was a piece of history sitting in the middle of South Carolina and no one had ever seen it or heard of it,” said Ronnie Williams, commander of VFW Post 3096 of Bishopville and a director of the Lee County Veterans Museum. “By putting this on Main Street in Bishopville, especially with next year being the 100th anniversary of the armistice of World War I, this gives us a great opportunity to show the history of the boxcar and the history of the wars.”
On Saturday, the boxcar will be placed on a “lowboy” trailer most often used to transport heavy equipment by a crane leased for a discount price from White’s Crane Service of West Columbia. It will then be transported free of charge on the lowboy from Columbia to Bishopville by a crew from Diamond W. Trucking of Heath Springs.
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