The history of trains is a fascinating aspect of any transport project and many children may have toys, stories and videos about trains (especially Thomas the Tank Engine). They are often fairly knowledgeable at a young age, so may already be inspired to learn more.
DK’s Findout! Has a History of Trains page which is split into sections covering:
- First Railways
- Steam Locomotives
- Luxury Trains
- Early US Locomotives
- First Underground railways
- Electric trains
- High Speed trains
- Diesel Locomotives
- Freight trains
- Fastest Steam trains
- Mountain Railways
I can imagine many young children, boys especially, wanting to do their own “genius hour” type of project, or making their own little book on this topic.
It is easy for us to imagine that the first railways carried people as they do today but in fact they existed long before that: “From the mid 1500s onward, railways were used in some European mines to move heavy wagonloads of coal and mineral ore along tunnels… The wagons ran first on parallel wooden planks and then on iron rails…” (DK) Follow the link to find out more!
There are really lovely, clearly annotated pictures of the trains which are absolutely fascinating. I particularly love the luxury train picture, it is something that none of us will see today unless is a specialist museum. Facts like “ By the 1850s, trains were being fitted with heating, lighting and toilets…” Imagine a long journey without any of those things! “Some long-distance trains were truly luxurious, with plush seats, private sleeping compartments, and restaurant cars for fine dining” (DK)
Once children have studied the sections of the history, there is also a quiz, where they can find out for themselves how much they know!