LAST TRAIN HOME: An Orphan Train Story
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More About This Title LAST TRAIN HOME: An Orphan Train Story


LAST TRAIN HOME, an orphan train story, is a Dickensian novella about cultural identity and family history set during the nineteenth century at a time when America received an enormous influx of immigrants, and a quarter of a million children whose fates would be determined by pure luck were sent west from East Coast cities by orphan train. Would they be adopted by kind and loving families, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?
The narrative highlights a little known, but historically significant moment in our country’s past by tracing the individual journeys of two children, Johnny and Sophia, bringing about the distinction between the “placing out” of these children to find families and homes. History, culture, and geography celebrate the survival of these children, by weaving individual stories into triumph over tribulation building strength of mind and character into an incredible reserve.


Author, Renée Wendinger (Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York), is an eminent orphan train historian, and an honored essayist supporting historical prose. She has researched the epoch of the orphan trains for decades. She is the honorary president of Orphan Train Riders of New York, and an established sought after public speaker on the subject of the orphan trains. Her protagonist, Sophia, in Last Train Home, An Orphan Train Story, happens to be the author’s mother, substantiating first hand information. Johnny, a lead character in the story, exposes his life through chronicles of hand written journals owing to Wendinger’s authentic orphan train knowledge, research, and quality assurance in history.


Praise for Last Train Home: An Orphan Train Story and author Renée Wendinger

Renée Wendinger has written a thoughtful and moving novella based on the real life stories of Johnny and Sophia, both orphaned in the early 1900s under heart-wrenchingly difficult circumstances. I was struck by the similarities between the characters in Last Train Home and my grand-mother’s creation, Anne of Green Gables, and the will to live a positive and productive life. The author is clearly a gifted writer.
Kate Macdonald Butler, granddaughter of Canadian author, L.M. Montgomery

History at its most capacious, authoritative research, beautifully written, and panoramic in viewpoint about the people who “made history” aboard the orphan trains of New York. Renée Wendinger tells a tale of how one event in a life can change everything. This is a story about a moving time in our nation’s history when hope and faith held us all strongly together. A great novel for lovers of historical fiction.
Novelist of Nicki and Thanks to Nicki (American Girl Books) The Magic of Ordinary Days, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie

This richly detailed historical fiction from Wendinger (Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York) draws upon the real-life stories of John Arsers and Sophia Kaminsky. Wendinger’s subject is orphan trains, a popular child adoption method used in the U.S. from the middle of the 19th century until well into the 20th. When five-year-old Italian boy Johnny Arsers’s mother dies, his father sells him into the padrone system, essentially making him a child slave, and he is shipped off to New York City in 1871. After a brief, precarious hand-to- mouth existence on the streets, Johnny is placed with the Children’s Aid Society, which is run by philanthropist Charles Loring Brace. Johnny’s fortunes improve markedly when the kind Mildrum family offer him a home in Iowa, and he embarks on the orphan train traveling west through the heartland. The New York Foundling Society places young Sophia; the novel’s other protagonist, with Anna Greim, a childless, middle-aged German widow. The cold-hearted, dictatorial Anna keeps Sophia “working hard at all times,” and reinforces the girl’s labor regimen with frequent beatings. Wendinger’s intriguing narrative humanizes the thousands of children who rode the orphan trains.
Publishers Weekly