Dallas

End of the Track for Trains at Children’s Medical Center

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Former patients of Children's Medical Center in Dallas are making a special plea -- save the trains that have been a part of the hospital for decades.

At 8-years-old, Janelle Tole battled Leukemia and won. Now 32, Tole told NBC 5 the train display at Children's Hospital helped motivate her through years of painful procedures.

"Being able to see them and see them go through the different tunnels and come out in different places, it's like these trains are going somewhere, I can go somewhere, too," said Tole.

Now, the 30-year fixture is going away.

The hospital said that's to make way for what they call a "family-centric" support space.

Plans include a courtyard, a playground, and a Starbucks.

"We understand change is always hard," Children's Senior Vice President Kari Kaiser said. "It's hard for us too."

Kaiser said it wasn't an easy decision, but the hospital is out of space and needs to add amenities for the nearly 300,000 patients and their families the hospital sees each year.

'This is all about how can we make life better for children and their family and for staff," Kaiser said. "We really are looking for more way sto be able to give those same patients a break."

"The trains were a legitimate break from it all," said Tole's father, Gary. He watched his daughter beat cancer and is supporting her efforts to save the trains.

"I absolutely love the trains! I don't want them to go," 8-year old KariAnn Kath said. She's been going to Children's for cancer treatment since she was 5-years old. "I love the trains a whole bunch. They're just, like, so cool!"

"I think you're taking away a big piece of tradition," Meg Whittaker said. She used to work as a children's life specialist at the hospital. "I don't know of any parent that would trade time with their kids in the hospital for a cappuccino."

An online petition has already gathered more than 8,000 signatures and Janelle hopes the trains can continue to bring future patients joy.

"We want to keep the trains, revamp them, make them better, make them greater," said Tole.

The hospital said it will hold a "last ride" ceremony later in January. It is considering ways to keep a small part of the train set or commemorate it in some way, and is working to find a way to donate the trains to the community.

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