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Colorful History #78: History of the U.S. Railway

FREE - Suggested Donation: $2-$5

Ride the rails with Jimmie Rodgers, “The Singing Brakeman” in “History of the U.S. Railroad” as he explores the history of the train and railroad system in the U.S. — and considers its possible future.

Since the mid-1800s, trains and railroads have played a crucial role in shaping the history of the United States. From the transportation of people and goods, to influencing the choice of battlegrounds during the Civil War, to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, and even our modern rail shipping system—railroads have been vital to the United States’ economy and way of life.

Nonetheless, the popularity of railway travel has declined in the U.S., even as countries around the globe adopt high-speed electric railways and support more eco-friendly methods of travel and shipping.

In the comic, Jimmy “The Singing Brakeman” Rodgers takes students on a trip through time to investigate:

  • Early developments in the U.S. train and rail system
  • The rail system’s impact on indigenous people, the Civil War, westward expansion, Chinese rail workers, and more
  • The continuing importance of trains and railways in today’s world
  • How trains and rail transport and shipping can worsen — or improve — pollution that causes climate change and other environmental concerns
  • The future of shipping and transportation by rail in the United States

Each free download includes the 4-page comic (with process art and script) and a teaching guide with discussion questions, project ideas, and other classroom resources.

Estimated Lexile Levels:  

  • Comic: 1010 – 1200
  • Endnotes: 1010 – 1200

Projects and discussion questions are aligned to Common Core standards for grades 5-8.

  • Story and Art by Will Whitaker
  • Lettering by R. Alan Brooks

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