Home » History » Transcontinental Railroad-Choo Choo

Transcontinental Railroad-Choo Choo

Transcontinental Railroad. Late 1800s. 6th grade curriculum. 12 year olds who would rather be talking with their friends, facebooking, going to the movies. Do you see where I’m headed with this? I had to do SOMETHING that would keep them engaged. I wanted them to know:

1. How hard it was to build

2. How it felt to be mistreated 

3. How important it was to our country

Definitely got the 1st 2 across and hope they understood the 3rd one as well. 🙂

Each student had to wear a name card identifying who they were while building their part of the railroad. An apology to the Chinese immigrants who were treated unfairly.



The bottom railroad was made by one class who had more time to work while the top one was made by the class who didn’t have as much time.

It was ORGANIZED CHAOS in our room. 🙂

They had rulers to measure the paper, and I wrote the measurements on the board of what they needed to do.

However, here is a bit of wisdom.

DO NOT ASSUME that they all know how to measure with rulers. 

DO NOT ASSUME that they can do this by reading measurements on the board.

I think I will make a section of the track in front of them next year before I let them go at it. 🙂

It’s amazing the things I learn each day from my students!!

It ended up being an engaging activity that I will have them do every year that I teach history!


8 thoughts on “Transcontinental Railroad-Choo Choo

    • Lauren,

      I wrote them in my lesson plans which aren’t in front of me, but I think this was it:

      Each student’s section was 10 inches long. The width of each rail was 2 inches. The width of the cross rails were 2 inches. You might have to improvise it a little because they didn’t end up exactly alike because I didn’t specify how far apart the cross rails had to be from each other. I think. 🙂

  1. What are the background pictures behind the railroad? I can see California and the landforms. What else is there? This is just the type of activity I was looking for!! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Good evening! I came across your activity focused on the Transcontinental Railroad. I was wondering if you have this lesson/activity posted somewhere for purchase? I tried clicking on the link above to get into Evernote and didn’t see the activity. We are talking about the railroad and this sounds like a wonderful lesson!

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