In 1830 there were only twenty-three miles of railroad in the United States. This number grew to 30,000 miles of track by 1860. Trains hold a mystique and fascination for many: the romance of leisurely travel, the thrill of building detailed miniature models that actually run, the excitement of seeing a train pass through the countryside. Experience it all at the following railroading sites.

American Experience: Riding the Rails4 stars

"At the height of the Great Depression, more than a quarter million teenagers were living on the road in America, many criss-crossing the country by illegally hopping freight trains." This site, a companion to the PBS film of the same name, tells the story of why they left home and how they struggled to survive. Best clicks are the three Special Features (don't miss Striking a Chord: Railroads and their Musical Heritage) and the timeline which neatly summarizes the depression years of 1929 to 1940.

American Experience Streamliners: America's Lost Trains5 stars

The first shimmering silver streamliner was the Zephyr, who ran her inaugural journey from Denver to Chicago on May 26, 1934. Unlike any other train , it was powered by a compact diesel engine and could reach speeds of 100 mph. "By the 1940s, fleets of streamliners crisscrossed the country, making the U.S. passenger rail system the envy of the world. But within two decades the era of these supertrains was over, dozens of routes were discontinued and the cars sold off to Canada and Japan. The dramatic story of the streamliners is one of remarkable achievements and opportunities lost."

Trains.com5 stars

For train hobbyists, railroad enthusiasts and even the causal train traveler, something for everyone. Most of the site requires free registration with your email address and a zip code, so those under thirteen will need a parent to register for them. Fun clicks include the gallery of sounds (choo! choo!) found in Railroading, and the Making of the Hogwarts Express (in the Kids' Trains section.) There also is an excellent section for hobbyists, and an extensive history chapter.

Transit People: Train Era3 stars

For lower elementary ages, this single-page train history and self-scoring quiz is part of a larger online lesson titled "Transportation and Public Transit." To see the lessons on early transportation, cars and public transit, use the "Return to Cover" link at the bottom of the page. The entire lesson is also available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format for ease of printing and use in the classroom.

Union Pacific: It's Just Railroad Talk5 stars

This lexicon of "railroad-ese" is a fun jaunt through the specialized jargon of the railroad. A "hot shot," for example, is a train that has priority over others, such as passenger train on a tight schedule. After browsing around the glossary, check out the rest of the Union Pacific site by clicking on "General Public." There you'll discover pages of Union Pacific history along with company facts and figures. One hidden jewel is the collection of UP advertising posters dating back to 1921. Look for it in the Photo Gallery.

Honorable Mentions

The following links are either new discoveries or sites that didn't make it into my newspaper column because of space constraints. Enjoy!

Estonian Railway Museum: History of Railway

Harcourt St. Line

National Railroad Museum

Steel Rails and Iron Horses

Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Trains." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 15 May. 2002. Web. 30 Aug. 2015. < >.

About This Page

By . Originally published May 15, 2002. Last modified May 15, 2002.

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