Teaching children the history of trains

by Melissa Draper on June 3, 2011


at railway station pictures

Learning all about trains: Sarah, Brittni and Pat

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Melissa Draper

“I thought I would share something we’re going to try and do for a bit this next week with our Family Structured Learning Time. We are taking a little 2 day vacation and later this summer a week long vacation and each one involves riding trains, the latter being a steam engine, so….I went to the library and checked out some books on trains in general which would give me an idea about the history of trains: the transcontinental railroad (we aren’t far from Promentory, Utah where the meeting of the rails took place), a railroad mogul’s biography, etc.

I downloaded a cutout paper train from Dover’s free children’s sampler (Free coloring pages). I have several coloring pages that have to do with trains. We have some train toys…Here’s the cool part: I have plans to make and use a steam engine toy with my girls.

This involves fire, cutting tin cans and metal tubing, etc, so I’m not going to just turn them loose with it, but I will have the materials in the Closet with the instructions and we will build it together. (Definitely a reason to keep yourself engaged with what they are doing, right!)”

kid with steam engine pictures

Brittni and the steam engine

Doesn’t this sound like a fun summer activity for kids? I loved it. You can come up with great inspirational ideas when you take a look at vacations and outings that your family is planning. That is why a Master Inspire Plan can be so helpful. Read on.

“We left in the morning for Heber Valley. In the car for the 2 1/2 hour drive were a bunch of books on trains from the library, as well as some educational handouts I had printed about the mine in Park City Park City History, which is where we planned to spend the night and part of the next day.

thomas the train images

Thomas the Train - now this is a famous train!

After grabbing lunch we went to the Heber Valley Railroad and picked up our tickets to ride Thomas the Tank Engine. Before our ride, we looked at one of the old engines and some of the rail cars. We also went inside the railroad station and looked at the original building where tickets were bought and sold and trains were boarded and loaded. Because it was “A Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine” there were several activities for the children: singing and dancing activities, playing with Thomas trains, a hay bale maze, and so forth. Our 4 year old had the most fun looking at the original trains and the station. This event is geared to younger kids, so our 11 year old wasn’t thrilled with all of the activities, but she looked at a lot of what was going on and the trains, grounds, people, etc.

We got on board one of Heber Valley’s coaches and got to enjoy a 30 minute ride into Heber Valley. We saw how the railroad tracks and the roads intersect and that the cars have to wait for the trains at most of the crossings. Their are steam engines and diesel engines at Heber Valley and my girls are already a little familiar with the differences: steam engines burn coal or wood to make steam to run and diesels burn diesel (like trucks and tractors) to run.

little girl on train pictures

Brittni found learning about trains really fun!

After our train ride and a few more pictures, we headed to Park City and we walked up the old Main Street before dinner. There we passed the Mine Museum that we had planned to see and a restaurant that had just caught fire. We also popped into a jewelry store that was giving away free rocks for the kids and got to see some amazing geodes full of amethyst crystals. We had yummy dinner and then went to our hotel to swim.

We are going to do one or more of the steam experiments I found during the next few weeks to further our study of trains, steam, etc. and then we’ll be off to Durango, Colorado to ride the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad!

That trip leads to a discussion on the different types of gauges, the economic importance of railroads, mining, logging, etc. and the history of the west.”

I have to tell you that while the Draper’s were in Park City both girls, the dad and mom all became ill. So their plans were derailed and they headed home. But they know where the mine museum is and plan to head back that way and have an adventure all about minerals, rocks and mining. They learned a great deal about the history of trains and they are looking to continue the adventure.

When you are making your summer plans think about how you can really make the experiences meaningful for your children. If you are going to an amusement park look up the history of amusement parks. Where did they begin? What are the most famous parks and rides? If you are going camping learn about John Muir the famous naturalist. Make a nature journal. There are so many fun ways to lead our children on learning adventures if we follow Rule 5 and do a little planning ahead.

For those of you who may need a little help in the planning department take a look at  A Dozen Weeks of Summer FUN package and pick up your FREE Summer Gift.

Have a SPLENDID and love of learning summer. : )

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