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Facts About Trains For Kids


A train is a connected series of rail vehicles propelled along a track (or “permanent way”) to transport cargo or passengers. Although historically steam propulsion dominated, the most common modern forms are diesel and electric locomotives, the latter supplied by overhead wires or additional rails.

  • The earliest trains were powered by steam. This was because the first tracks used on the train cars were laid by coal mines, where steam power was an important component to getting the job done.
  • The first railroad lines in the United States were known as tramways. However, over time these became known as railways, which is still today how they are referred to today.
  • Trains can go faster than 100 mph (160 km/h) and travel over ungroomed tracks made of dirt or grass.
  • More than 1.3 billion people around the world live within a day’s train ride of a major city.
  • The largest working steam locomotive in the world is the Royal Scotsman, which measures 121 feet (36 m). It was built in 1865.
  • In the United States, the first passenger train stopped overnight on a train station built of stone. The first train station was referred to as an “attraction” because it was lit by gaslight and filled with people who would gather there to watch the rare event of a train pulling up.
  • In America, the first passenger railroad lines utilized horses as their primary source of fuel.
  • The largest train in the world is the US President’s Special, an Amtrak passenger train that can transport up to 300 passengers at a time.
  • There are 2.4 million passenger trains in the world today.
  • In order to speed up a train, engineers can manipulate friction between the track and the wheel on either end of a locomotive. This friction is known as adhesion and it can be increased either by raising or lowering one side of the wheel while simultaneously increasing or decreasing the amount of adhesion on the other side. This process is known as “shoehorning” and it allows for maximum speeds on some tracks exceeding 120 mph (194 km/h).
  • Train tunnels are constructed out of concrete because the interior is lined with steel and any movements made by the train can be easily detected.
  • Train tracks usually consist of two, three, or four rails, with a limited number of monorails and maglev guideways in the mix.
  • A train can consist of one or more locomotives and attached railroad cars or self-propelled multiple units.
  • Trains can also be hauled by horses, pulled by a cable, or run downhill by gravity.
  • In many parts of the world, particularly the Far East and Europe, high-speed rail is used extensively for passenger travel.
  • Freight trains are composed of wagons or trucks rather than carriages, though some parcel and mail trains are outwardly more like passenger trains.
  • In the United Kingdom, a train hauled by two locomotives is “double-headed,” and in Canada and the United States, it is quite common for a long freight train to be headed by three or more locomotives.
  • In most countries, the dieselization of locomotives in day-to-day use was completed by the 1970s.
  • Much of the world’s freight is transported by train, and in the United States, the rail system is used more for transporting freight than passengers.