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Facts about trains

Trains are a great way to travel. Whether a quick subway stop to another part of town or a long-distance journey across a country (or countries), trains are an essential part of travel that have reshaped the way that many countries have formed. In fact, trains are considered staples of history in countries like the United States since the railways opened the door to exploration and travel in ways that otherwise would have not been possible.

Trains can occasionally be painted brightly.
Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images

Trains have become a central part of many cultures. In America and Europe, toy trains were hugely popular with children (and even adult collectors) and the trend has since expanded to the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Japan is famous for its lightning fast “bullet trains” and many tourist travel to different countries in Europe via the railways since it’s often more scenic, cheaper and easier to travel by train than by plane.

Today, nearly everyone has taken a train at least once, even if it was only a short subway journey. Yet trains have an interesting history and many notable facts that few people are aware of. For instance, trains are considered to be safer to travel on than cars and they are responsible for transporting goods around a country.

Here are some other interesting facts about trains:

• Before the invention of trains people primarily walked or used animals or boats to travel. Small steam engines were invented and put to use in the early 1800s and this started society’s use of trains.

• In 1840, roughly 60 different railroads operated over 2800 miles of track in the 26 states that, at the time, encompassed America. By 1850, the rail mileage had increased to over 9000—by 1860 it was 30,000! Over the next 50 years the railroads continued to expand—including the building of a transcontinental railroad.

• By 1916, over 250,000 miles of track existed in the United States and over 1 million people worked for the railroads. Trains, not buses or cars, were the most popular way to travel long distances on land.

• In both World War I and World War II trains played an important role throughout several countries. They transported both troops and goods from one place to another.

• During the Great Depression in 1930s America nearly all rail companies were rendered almost bankrupt. Luckily, by the mid-1940s diesel locomotives started to replace steam locomotives (that were fueled by coal). Diesels were much cheaper to run than steam trains and by 1960 diesel trains had replaced 99% of the steam locomotives in America.

• Railway tracks and rail yards are private property. If you cross railway tracks anywhere other than an official level crossing, or if you enter railway property without permission, then you are trespassing, which is illegal, and you can be prosecuted.

• Trains always have the right of way over vehicles and pedestrians. If you fail to obey the warning signs and cross in front of an approaching train your details will be recorded by the train driver and passed on to police…if you’re lucky. Trains cannot stop short like cars can so, if you cross in front of a train, you have an excellent chance of being seriously hurt or killed.

• Trains can travel both day and night and in many places they never shut down and will run 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

• Train usually weigh about a thousand tons and can travel up to 62 mph. However, Japan’s famously fast “bullet trains” can reach speeds in excess of 200mph!

• Many people are fascinated by trains and there are numerous museums dedicated to this mode of transport throughout the world. In New York, the “Transit Museum” has an excellent collection of old train cars that guests can actually walk around inside of!

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