For most of history, man moved around through one of three methods – by walking, by animals or by boat. After the invention of the wheel, people made carts, wagons and carriages that were pulled by horses, oxen or even humans. Carriages moved slowly and were often uncomfortable. Later, people invented wagons that were pulled by horses on tracks. The tracks allowed the wagons to move more quickly than if they were being pulled on flat ground.
In the early 1800s, Richard Trevithick attached a steam engine to a carriage. His boss made a bet that he could haul ten tons of iron along a road with his steam engine. Richard succeeded!
Not long after, the first steam locomotives were invented. People used steam engines to propel boats, carriages and wagons on tracks, which led to the development of the first trains. Of course, trains couldn’t run unless they had tracks. People started building tracks across the United States. In the 1860s, railroad companies built tracks from New York City to California. People could travel all the way across the country. Trains changed the way people lived. They could get fresh food that was grown far away. They could work in the city and live in the country.
Fun Facts about Trains for Kids
- The streets of New York were very crowded in the late 1800s. Inventor Alfred Ely Beach wanted to build a train underground. The government said no. So, he built it in secret, digging out of the rented basement of an apartment store. His subway opened in 1870.
- Trollies moved on tracks through cities around the country.
- Today, trains are fueled by electricity or diesel fuel.
- During the Great Depression, more than 250,000 teenagers and men left home to look for work. Many of them got across the country by hopping on and off train cars.
- Some trains are freight trains. They carry cattle, food, coal, lumber and other goods across the country.
- Other trains are passenger trains. They carry people quickly and safely from place to place.
- Propel: move or drive
- Crowded: full, tightly packed
- Great Depression: a period during the 1930s when food, money and resources were scarce
Learn More All About Trains
Watch this old school video about the first train:
A video about the first steam engine train.
Train Question & Answers
Question: Who invented the train?
Answer: A Scottish man by the name of James Watt invented the train, but it was an Englishman by the name of Richard Trevithick that built the first locomotive that was fully functional in 1804.
Question 2: Where is oldest railway station in the world?
Answer 2: The Liverpool Road Station in Manchester UK is the oldest railway station still standing. It was opened as far back as 1830.
Question 3: Where is the world’s longest railway tunnel?
Answer 3: The world’s longest railway tunnel is Gotthard Base Tunnel located in the Swiss Alps http://www.gottardo2016.ch/en
Question 4: Where is the world’s longest railway passenger route?
Answer 4: Russian Railways has a passenger route that is 10267 km in length running from Moscow (Russia) to Pyongyang (North Korea). A long journey like this will take you over 8 days to complete.
Question 5: What is the longest US railway passenger route?
Answer 5: The longest passenger railway route in the US is from Chicago to Los Angeles covering 4390 km.
Question 6: Where is the Channel Tunnel?
Answer 6: The Channel Tunnel operates from Folkstone in Kent (UK) to Coquelles in France. The tunnel runs for 50.5 km or 31.40 miles. The Channel tunnel runs under the English Channel.