SEE PAGE 14. Trains may seem slow, but children need to understand the huge significance of this picture of one of many 19th-century developments in mass transport.
You are going on holiday to Spain. How long will it take? (By air, two hours; train, two days; bicycle, or horse and cart, two to three weeks; walking, at 30 miles per day, more than a month.) If you attended a school 15 miles away, how long would it take to walk the 30 miles return each day (at least eight hours)? How has rapid transport changed lives (holidays, shopping, traffic, work and leisure)?
When and where were the great railways built? (Eg, Stockton to Darlington, 1825; Stephenson's "Rocket", 1830; many western European countries, 1825 to 1835; Central and Union Pacific across America, 1863 to 1869; China 1876 onwards; the Trans Siberian Railroad, nearly 6,000 miles, 1891 to 1916.) Problems included: crossing rivers, mountains, raising money, size of gauge (UK and many others 1.4 metres, but Japan 1.1m, Russia 1.5m).
Why do children love trains (eg, Thomas the Tank Engine)?
Write the conversation between the chief engineers of Central Pac-ific and Union Pacific when they met in 1869, having just joined a large stretch of America by rail.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University