Monthly Archives: September 2013

Riders of the Orphan Train to be Remembered In Performances at Union Depot on Oct. 3 & 6

September 3, 2013

More than 250,000 children were given away throughout the U.S.

 from legendary “orphan trains”

ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 3, 2013 — Between 1854 and 1929, more than 250,000 children were put on trains primarily in New York City and sent all over the United States to be placed with new families. One of those stops was Union Depot in St. Paul, and now Union Depot will commemorate that experience with two performances of Riders on the Orphan Train on Oct. 3 & 6.


Novelist and scholar Alison Moore and musician Phil Lancaster of Austin, Texas have teamed up to create an unique audio visual experience, comprising historical fiction, actual interviews, archival images and musical ballads that bring the Orphan Train movement to life.


Moore and Lancaster describe the motivation behind their performance: “Few people today know much about the largest child migration in history. This seventy-six year experiment in child relocation is filled with the entire spectrum of human emotion and reveals a great deal about the successes and failures of the American Dream.”
Riders on the Orphan Train has been performed nationally since 1997. Moore, author of the historical novel “Riders on the Orphan Train”, and Lancaster were awarded the Charles Loring Brace Award in recognition for helping to preserve the stories of the Orphan Trains.


In the late 1850s, the estimated 30,000 homeless children in New York City troubled Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children’s Aid Society. He believed that there was a way to change the futures of these children. He proposed that the children be sent by train to live and work on farms out west. Many of the children were not orphans but “surrendered” by parents too impoverished to keep them. The New York Foundling Hospital, a Catholic organization, also sent out children to be placed in Catholic homes.
“Union Depot is a historic site, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough, chair of the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority.  “Bringing Riders of the Orphan Train to Minnesota is just one way we can keep the memories created at Union Depot alive for future generations.”


Moore and Lancaster invite any surviving Minnesota orphan train riders and their families to tell their own stories at these two performances.


What:         Multimedia performance of Riders on the Orphan Train, with historical fiction, interviews, images and music. This 60-minute presentation tells the story of 250,000 children, primarily from New York City, who were given away at train stations throughout the country from 1854-1929.


Who:          Performers Alison Moore and Phil Lancaster (
When:        7 p.m., Thursday, October 3rd and 2 p.m., Sunday, October 6th

Where:      Red Cap Room – Concourse Second Floor

Union Depot

214 E. Fourth Street, St. Paul, MN, 55101
Tickets:     Tickets may be purchased online at  Price is $12; $10 with promotional code, ORPHAN. Ticket price only includes admission and tickets are nonrefundable.


Parking:    Union Depot parking entrances are located off Kellogg Blvd. E. at Sibley St., Broadway St. and near the LaFayette Bridge.