Put the “Train” back in Orphan Train.

We are a group of railroad historians who want to make a difference by providing train ride itineraries to orphan train riders and their families. We are located across America and work through the internet. While none of us have ever actually met, we want to work for you. We do not charge for this service although we do take free will donations to help support our work.

If you are interested in learning about your orphan train rider’s itinerary, then feel free to contact us. You can reach us at orphantrainrail@outlook.com. If you do not have email, then write to us at Making a Difference, 603 South Oakes Street, Helena, Montana 59601.

While we do not guarantee that we will be able to "nail down" the exact ride your orphan train rider took, we are very confident that in 90 cases out of100 we can do so. The other ten cases will be our best-educated opinion based on the notion that if you eliminate all other options, what remains has to be the truth.

How do we do this? First of all, we have access to passenger train schedules national wide dating from1880 (and earlier in some cases) through 1929. Second, we know that railroads were very habitual corporations. Until the 1930s, passenger train schedules rarely changed decade in and decade out. Third, we know that railroads had selective working relationships with some railroads but not others. We use these historic relationships to track down the trains the orphan train riders used. Fourth, we use the process of elimination. We can fill in holes in an itinerary by looking for trains that departed and arrived which are the only logical fit into arider’s itinerary. Finally, we know that orphan train riders did not travel on crack or high-speed trains; they were relegated to the slower, lower cost trains.

What do we need from you? First and foremost, we need the points of beginning and end of the journey. Next, the dates of departure and arrival if at all possible. The time of departure and arrival are also very helpful although sometimes a rider only remembers if the train left or arrived in the morning, afternoon, or evening – also very helpful information. Third, every scrap of information known about the rider and the trip is useful. Hold nothing back – PLEASE let us decide what is or is not important. Family lore and rumors are also extremely helpful! Again, don’t assume that something may not be helpful – all of it is useful –baptisms, first communions, local parishes and churches that may have been involved or attended after the rider reached his/her destination. We know, for example, that the Children’s Air Society sent families to Protestant homes while the NewYork Foundling Hospital sent children primarily toCatholic homes. We also know that favorite train of departure used by the Foundling Hospital out of New York City. So if a rider went to a Catholic family, they almost certainly rider that train out of New York City. Thus, we can start to build an itinerary.

Finally, please be aware that building an itinerary requires a great deal of communication with you. We prefer to use e-mail but written mail is also acceptable. The quicker you can respond to our questions, the faster the result will come. Depending on the backlog of requests, we find it usually takes about three weeks to put an itinerary together. It gives us satisfaction to know that we can fill a void for a train rider and/or his/her family. Finally, we do not and will not have a website; there are too many websites on the internet already!

We look forward to hearing from you!