Lesson Plan

I've Been Working on the Railroad

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Grade Level:
Lower Elementary: Pre-Kindergarten through Second Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes

Essential Question

What were some of the major job duties involved with maintaining and operating locomotive engines during the steam era?


This engaging ranger-led program is designed for early childhood students, Pre-K to second grade.

Students will learn about the many people who used teamwork to keep the trains running - the engineer, the conductor, the brakeman, and more. They'll tour a steam locomotive and several railroad cars and will learn about the function of each one. Incorporates storytelling, music and railroad safety. 

Approximately 45 minutes.



1.2. Reading, Analyzing and Interpreting Text. 1.2. PK.D - Use illustrations, clues and story sequence to infer and predict what happen next in a story.

1.5. Quality of Writing- 1.5.PK. B. Generate ideas for a picture, story, or shared writing.

1.6 Speaking and Listening - 1.6. PK. A. Listen attentively and respond in conversation.


A few days before your field trip to Steamtown:

Go over the list of  Vocabulary Words and Read the book "Locomotive," by Brian Flocka. Please find the book in your school or local library. If you cannot find the book, please email a Park Ranger as Steamtown may be able to mail you a copy. If that is the case, please bring that copy back to the park at time of your visit. 

Teach students the folk song "I've Been Working on the Railroad", using lyrics found in lesson materials.

Watch the video "Steel & Steam" to learn about the history of railroading in this region and get a sample of what you will be learning on your visit to the park.


Download Lesson Materials


This special program helps students connect with the concept that it takes many people performing many different types of jobs to run a railroad.

Students will visit a museum gallery to view statues representing many traditional railroad workers and their jobs and will come to understand that both hard work and teamwork are very important to railroading life.

They will have opportunities to learn about the jobs, tools and communication devices (whistle signals, flags, lanterns, etc.) used by the Engineer, Fireman, Conductor, Master Mechanic, Porter, Railway Post Office Clerk, and News Butcher.

While discussing the jobs of the Engineer and Fireman, students will learn how a steam locomotive works. They will learn the differences between freight and passenger trains.

Students will also be able to enter and experience some of the engines, cars, and buildings where these railroaders performed their jobs.

A big part of a railroader’s job is safety, and since there are many active railroads in the region, the program culminates with the introduction of some basic railroad safety rules.


Railroad Vocabulary Words

1.  Track - what trains ride upon.

2. Conductor – the boss of the train.

3. Engineer - runs the engine.

4. Fireman - fuels or feeds the engine so it can go.

5.  Switch - moves the track slightly, so the train can go in a different direction or onto a different set of tracks.

6.  Box Car - a freight train car that carries things or goods.

7.  Passenger car - a car of a train that carries people from one place to another.

8.  Coal - fuel for the steam locomotive.

9.  Whistle - Engineer blows the whistle to tell the train crew which direction the engine will be moving.

10. Caboose - this car is always at the end of the train and is the home and office for the conductor of the train and his crew.

11.  Turntable – a way of turning the engine around to go into one of the stalls of a roundhouse.

12.  Roundhouse - where the engines are fixed and stay before they go into service.

13.  Lantern - a light that the conductor uses to tell the engineer which way he wants the train to go.

14.  Shovel - used by the fireman to put coal into the firebox.

15. Bandana - covers the neck and face of the engine crew from cinders and soot. 


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Last updated: October 15, 2019