Photography has made a considerable impact on our knowledge and attitudes and this picture is a good example of the photograph as more than social history.
Why is this a shocking picture? (unexpected scene, extensive damage, possible injury or loss of life). Would it be different if the photo were in colour? If so, how? How is a black and white photo different - more bleak, stark, cold? Discuss the composition of the photo (dominance of crashed engine; triangle shape of train and building; effect of showing road as well as top of building).
How do we know that (a) this is not a recent picture? (older type of steam engine and buildings); (b) it is not in England? (French words on building). Why were there so many transport accidents in former times? (no Highway Code for roads; unreliable signalling systems on rail; no modern technology to cope with foggy or icy conditions, as in Manchester United Munich air crash in 1958).
Pretend you and your friends are the first on the scene of an accident like this. What would you do? Call police, ambulance ? (how?). Tell other grown-ups? (wh0?) Try to rescue people? (might be dangerous).
You are the police inspector in charge at the scene of a train crash. Describe how you organise everything.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University