During World War II, the United States military shipped injured soldiers from overseas battlefields to U.S. ports, where railway hospital cars were waiting to rush the soldiers to Veterans Affairs and civilian hospitals for further treatment.
One of the few surviving hospital cars, No. 89480, is berthed at the NCTM. This car was obtained by the museum in 1978, thanks in part to the help of Dr. D.E. Ward and the North Carolina Medical Society. No. 89480 also served in the Korean War during the early 1950s, and was transferred to that war zone by ship. By the time of the Vietnam War, aircraft was used to evacuate injured soldiers.
Built in 1945 by the American Car and Foundry Company, the No. 89480 was one of 200 units designed to be self-sustaining and easy to identify. Large exterior lettering reads, “United States Army Medical Department Hospital Unit Car,” and bright red crosses mark the roof and two sides of the rail car.
The exterior and interior overhaul of the Army hospital car now enables NCTM visitors to journey through an interactive exhibit and experience an important piece of North Carolina’s transportation history. The car's restoration is nearing completion, and houses displays and artifacts relating to the use of hospital cars during World War II.
The Museum collected stories of veterans who served in World War II and the Korean War, and worked or traveled by rail in an Army hospital car, and made these stories part of this Army Hospital Car No. 89480 exhibit.
“We wanted veterans to guide us so that we accurately represent war-time soldiers, and restored the museum’s Army hospital car with a personal touch,” said NCTM Executive Director Elizabeth Smith.