All About Trains! A Children's Guide August 09, 2014

Trains are transport vehicles that are used as a series of connected cars that run along a track. They are powered by various methods of fuel and are typically separated into different types, depending on their purpose. The railway system has a rich history and trains are fascinating for their appearance, sound and function, which is why many people like to study them or build model trains. These vehicles have opened doors for greater communication and transport throughout the world.


Trains developed as a method of transportation that reduced the work of horses. Originally powered by steam, early locomotives were used to connect people with other parts of the country, bringing goods and services to far-off places. Trains have continued to evolve, with different methods of power, including coal and diesel for fuel. The sizes and locations of trains have also changed, and some types of trains run across the country, while others remain local, ferrying people throughout cities and regional areas.

Central Pacific Railroad : Information and historical photographs about the Central Pacific Railroad of California.

Duke University: A description of the development of passenger trains in United States history.

Early Railroad Transportation: A history of the development of a railway system throughout Pennsylvania.

Kansas City Union Station: The history and development of Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, which began in 1914.

Railroad History: A timeline of significant events that occurred in railroad history, both in the United States and Europe.

Steam Train History: Details, specifications and history about steam trains from the Georgia Museum of Agriculture.

Texas State Library & Archives Commission: An explanation of the history of segregation of African-Americans for using railway transport.

Types of Trains

Trains serve various functions throughout the world. In many places, trains are a common form of transportation for people to commute to work or to travel cross-country. In other locations, trains are used to transport goods and freight that are for large workloads. The size and capacity of trains make them ideal for moving large volumes of items because they are sturdy and they can travel at high speeds.

Land Vehicles: An explanation of the different types of trains, from freight trains to passenger trains and subways.

Passenger Train: A history of the evolution of passenger trains, particularly during the 20th century.

The Texas Electric Railway: A brief history of a small type of train that moved freight and passengers during the early 20th century in northern Texas.

Trolleys: An explanation of trolleys, a smaller type of passenger train for shorter lengths of travel. The site specifically talks about the Fox River trolley found in Elgin, Illinois.

Types of Trains: A description of different types of trains, as well as a comparison of some characteristics between the various kinds.

Virtual Train Tour: A virtual tour that includes videos, photos and various facts about trains, provided by BNSF Railway.


Most trains run their courses without people thinking much about how they work or how they came into being. Trains as a system have developed in various areas, all of which have their own histories and all require knowledgeable workers who understand the mechanisms behind running a train, included horns. The railroad industry is its own environment, with people, terminology and even a language all its own. Exploring information about trains will reveal some lesser-known facts about this industry.

Amtrak National Facts: Statistics about Amtrak, a nationwide passenger rail system.

Fun Facts: Interesting facts and statistics about trains and rail systems from all over the world.

Railroad Slang: Words and phrases and what they mean in the railroad industry.

Train Facts: Information about how trains have developed throughout history and their growth toward the future.


Trains use various accessories that each have their own function. Some of these extras are still used by trains today, while others have become obsolete. The development of the railroad has called for train whistles, special lights and train cars that have all had their own functions. The operation of some of these items, as well as their withdrawal from use shows how much the railroad system has changed since its beginnings.

The Caboose: A brief history of the origin and functions of the caboose from Union Pacific Railroad.

Museum of Railway Lamps: An archive of many different types of specialty lamps used in the railway system throughout the world. The museum holds lamps that had specialty uses from hand-held lighting sources for conductors to those used for boiling tea in the train cars.

Whistle Signals: A list of what the different types of train whistle signals mean as forms of communication on the railway.


Learning about trains can be fun and incorporated into classroom work or home recreation. Online game systems teach about how to drive or repair a train and students can work at their own pace. Lesson plans and activities are also available to teach about the history of trains and the railway system. Many museums, curriculum programs and educational content companies provide resources for learning more about the exciting background of trains.

All Aboard!: A lesson plan for grades 3 to 5 about the impact of the railroad in the United States. Produced by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Creating Steam: An online resource for students to learn about how to make steam. The site is interactive and also shows how steam is used to power some types of trains.

Railroad Repair: An interactive site that allows students to move a train across the tracks, teaching about shape sizes and distance.

Train Girl: An online site that moves players through the life of Train Girl, a woman who travels and works on the railway. The site is produced by the International Society for the Preservation of Women in Railroading.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania: Pictures and script providing a virtual trip through the history of trains in the evolving world.

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