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Facts About Trains

You have most likely seen a train. It may have been passing through your town, or you might have even been lucky enough to ride on one.

Trains are a cool way to travel. Read on to discover all about trains. We will be exploring some of the history of this vehicle, the Golden Age of Steam, and much more.

Are you ready to jump on board and discover the train? Let’s go!



The History of the Transcontinental Railroad

The earliest trains were just a series of carts joined together. These ran along wooden tracks and were usually pulled by horses, mules and even people.

Around 1775, steam was being experimented with as a power source. By the early 1800s, the steam engine was invented and incorporated into the train. This made hauling cargo easier and a lot faster. Great Britain began to lay down railroad tracks and the craze was on. People and products were being carried off to new and exciting locations.

By the time the 1860s rolled around, the idea of the train had chugged its way into the United States. Here trains were being used to haul grain from the farmers to the factories. Business boomed for the railroad owners. Soon these wealthy people wanted to take the train all the way to the Pacific coast.

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

Two companies earned the privilege to take on this mighty task; Union Pacific and Central Pacific rail. These two companies began laying track from Omaha and Nebraska (running west) and from Northern California (running east) . The plan was to meet in the middle.


The laying of hundreds of miles of iron track took thousands of migrant workers. They worked in all weather conditions, over the rugged terrain and blasting their way through large mountains. It took over six years and many lives to complete the first transcontinental railroad.

A huge celebration was planned for the meeting of the two rails. However, both men who were the head of each rail almost didn’t make it. Angry workers from the Union Pacific chained Thomas Durant’s train to the tracks and demanded the money owed to them for three months’ work. Leland Stanford (head of the Central Pacific) had his train derailed when the workers failed to see his locomotive barrelling toward the log they had left on the track.

Despite the problems, on May 10th, 1869, the final spike (the Golden Spike) was pounded in and the two tracks were officially connected.

Ponder This: The length of the railway system in the US alone grew from 85,295 to 394,289 kilometers (53,000 to 245,000 miles) between the years 1870 to 1916.

The Golden Age of Steam

With the perfection of the steam engine, trains were making their way throughout the world. People flocked to this new way to travel as it was quicker and far less expensive. Some of the most famous trains increased the way tourists began to see the world. Check it out.

  • 1883 – The Orient Express was a luxury train for passengers. It travelled between France and Turkey (through 13 countries).
  • 1928 to 1963 – The Flying Scotsman carried passengers non-stop from London to Edinburgh. It could reach speeds over 130 kilometers-per-hour (80 miles-per-hour).
  • 1916 – The Trans-Siberian Railway is noted for being the longest railroad. It runs between St. Petersburg Russia and Vladivostok Russia, which is around 9,000 kilometers long (5,592 miles).
  • 1938 – The Mallard was the fastest train in this era. It could reach speeds of 202 kilometers-per-hour (125 miles-per-hour). It ran between London and York.

Ponder This: Which two of these trains are still in operation today? Find the answer in, More Freaky Facts.



A Better Train

Today our trains are no longer powered by steam. They have been replaced by a faster and more effective way to driver the engine; diesel fuel and electricity. Check it out.

Ponder This:What depths can a submarine dive to?

Diesel Fueled Train Facts

  • Diesel fuel began to replace the steam engine around the 1930s.
  • In 1957, the super-powered-diesel, Trans-Europe Express connected the
  • Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Germany.
  • Europe introduced the diesel-powered train in the 1960s.
  • Today, freight trains still use diesel fuel to pull large cargo.

Ponder This: How many “wagons” did the longest freight train have?

Electric Train Facts

  • 1950s saw the dawn of the electric-powered train.
  • The first high-powered electric trains were invented in Europe. These could reach speeds of around 128 kilometers-per-hour (80 miles-per-hour).
  • In 1964, Japan invented the Bullet Train. These speedy locomotives could travel 209 kilometers-per-hour (130 miles-per-hour).
  • 1982, Paris France and Lyon were linked by the use of the Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV). This powerful locomotive could move on average of 270 kilometers-per-hour (168 miles-per-hour).

Ponder This: How fast can the modern TGV trains travel?

More Freaky Factoids

We haven’t chugged past all the fun just yet. Here are the answers to you ponder these questions. Check it out.

Did you know…

  • the Orient Express and the Trans-Siberian trains are still operating today?
  • the longest freight train had 660 wagons and took 16 engines to pull it?
  • today’s TGV trains can reach speeds of 299 kilometers-per-hour (186 miles-per-hour)!

Now that you have learned all these fascinating facts, go and impress your friends and family with your new-found knowledge.

Who knows?

You might just help “train” them with all your locomotive-lessons.