Orphan Train Rider

Orphan Train Rider
Oliver Nordmark - Age 15 - Esbon KS

Saturday, September 18, 2010


On September 11, 2010 the NATIONAL ORPHAN TRAIN COMPLEX hosted the annual National Orphan Train Reunion at the museum in Concordia Kansas where visitors were treated to an entirely new museum layout designed by curator Muriel Anderson. Among the many new exhibits and informative displays was this two cube exhibit highlighting the early life of Orphan Train Rider Oliver Nordmark (my grandfather). Each cube included two audio recordings that visitors could listen to through the headphones attached to the side of the display cases.
The first recording, and corresponding visuals, told of Oliver's experiences in the Children's Village Orphange in NYC after being removed from his home due to neglect. This included the story of his first night in the orphanage when he cried himself to sleep, fearful of what lay ahead for him, as well as his experience of being sent to the Power House Jail in the Orphanage after being caught breaking a uniform rule by wearing two uniform shirts instead of one on a particularly cold winter morning.
Oliver's second recording told of his feelings and experience of being chosen to ride an Orphan Train after being in the orphanage for one year. He and his younger brother Edward traveled to Bern Kansas where they were placed with a local farmer and his wife.
On the second cube, visitors listened to Oliver's tale of running away from his second placement - the McCammon's Farm - by jumping onto the side of a departing freight train as it pulled out of Esbon, Kansas on July 4, 1913. In search of a life of his own, Oliver traveled on the side of the train for nearly 200 miles to Goodland Kansas where he found work with a local farmer bringing in the wheat harvest.
In the final recording, Oliver tells the museum visitors of his experiences building and living in a sod house on the prairie outside of Goodland Kansas, complete with rats nibbling on his toes at night and rain dripping through the roof of the house for several days after a storm.
In an email I received from Muriel Anderson, she commented, "I've had a really great reception of the new exhibit. People really like to hear the voice of an actual rider."
This year's reunion featured, in addition to the new museum layout and exhibits, a tribute to MARY ELLEN JOHNSON - founder of the Orphan Train Historical Society of America (OTHSA).
For more information on the National Orphan Train Complex and upcoming State Reunions, be sure and visit their website at http://www.orphantraintdepot.com/