The Orphan Trains: Cleveland and Room 204

My dream was to bring a train into my classroom and expose my students to the real world of trains and the history of trains and the rails in our local area. After getting the “high-ball” (go-ahead) on my classroom grant, I began building the research base to support the lessons in class. I went to the Main Library downtown and grabbed as many children’s train books, videos and DVDs that they would allow and brought them home. One of the books in that tall stack was about orphan trains. I had never heard about this period in our history and started to read the book. I could not put the book down and once finished, I went to the Internet and started my search for more information. My searches lead me to a PBS documentary, more children’s non-fiction books as well as a story by a Newberry Award winner. I ordered that book from B&N and once delivered, read it in one day because it was that good. My wife took it to her middle school and it has been circulating through the English department. I also found a primary book by Eve Bunting called Train to Somewhere. I read that story to the class and had a deep discussion about being an orphan and riding the rails to Somewhere. Since Rivers Roads and Rails was the framework for this grant I began to search to see if the orphan trains went through our area. As of this time I found one reference from a diary of a woman who traveled with the New York children through Cleveland on the Nickel Plated Railroad. It was thrilling to hear the voice of someone who did travel through our area on her way west with a group of children in hopes of providing them with a fresh start in life.  “Track” our experience with the daily exposure of a MTH O-scale, 2-8-0 Baltimore and Ohio passenger train running in the classroom. “Couple” that with a ride on the Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad and you have a very successful Rivers, Roads and Rails grant project.

Letter Written by CAS Agent Anna Laura Hill: (search word – Cleveland)


Children’s Aid Society:

Rozinda by Georgene Bramlage: