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BrainBox S3 Ep4

Orphan Trains across America


How were over a quarter million orphans and unwanted children resettled by trains across the United States from 1854 until 1929? We speak with Alison Moore and Phil Lancaster, whose "Riders on the Orphan Train" programs tell this little-known story from American history. Alison and Phil discuss the circumstances that led to the orphan train movement in the mid-19th century (1:40), tell how the program actually worked (12:30), and relate stories of orphan train riders brought to Oklahoma (27:15). We also discuss how circumstances have changed for orphans and unwanted children and how these situations help us understand our country and ourselves (42:00), and we hear Alison and Phil's song "Ezra's Lullaby," inspired by the stories of the orphan train riders (1:05:00).


About our guests:

Alison Moore and Phillip Lancaster have done extensive research on the history of the orphan trains.  They have presented their acclaimed “Riders on the Orphan Train” program around the country for over 20 years, telling the story of the largest migration of children in American history.  Alison is the author of the historical novel Riders on the Orphan Train, published in 2012. That same year Alison and Phillip received the Charles Loring Brace Award for helping preserve the stories of the orphan trains. Alison and Phillip have also received several grants from Oklahoma Humanities to bring their program to over a dozen communities all around the state.


Additional information about topics discussed in this episode:


Alison Moore Phil Lancaster

View highlights of our guests’ “Riders on the Orphan Train” presentations, an outreach program of the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center featuring songs, stories, and video interviews with orphan train riders.

Natl Orphan Train Complex

Explore the online resources of the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center in Concordia, KS.

Orphan Train video still

View clips of the PBS documentary West by Orphan Train, which inspired our guests’ work.

Alison Moore book

Find out more about our guest Alison Moore’s historical novel Riders on the Orphan Train.



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