Transcontinental Railroad Activities & Games

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

The Transcontinental Railroad was an engineering success that forever changed the history of the United States. Use these activities and games to help students learn about the Transcontinental Railroad.

Exploring the Transcontinental Railroad

The Transcontinental Railroad is often considered a symbol for adventure, westward expansion, and manifest destiny. When students learn about the Transcontinental Railroad, they can understand how transportation and infrastructure can change a country. Additionally, they can examine the effects that expansion and modernization had on the Western United States, including Native American populations.

Let's look at some activities and games to help students explore the Transcontinental Railroad and its impact on American history.

All Aboard!


  • Copies of historical advertisements, timetables, and maps for the Transcontinental Railroad
  • Poster board
  • Colored markers, pencils, and pens
  • Copies of a blank United States map
  • Online/print atlases of the United States

Teacher Directions

  1. Show the class a historical map of the Transcontinental Railroad and discuss the purpose of the railroad.
  2. Divide the class into pairs. Provide each pair with copies of historical advertisements and timetables for the Transcontinental Railroad, a blank U.S. map, an atlas of the U.S., and colored pencils and pens.
  3. Have pairs review the timetables for the railroad and draw the path of the railroad on their maps. Using a U.S. atlas, have pairs choose and label at least ten cities listed on the timetables on their maps.
  4. Have pairs review the advertisements for the railroad.
  5. Provide pairs with poster board and markers and have them create an advertisement for the Transcontinental Railroad geared towards one of the cities on the timetables. Encourage students to think about why the people, businesses, and industries in that particular area would want or need to use the Transcontinental Railroad.
  6. When pairs have finished, have them present their posters.

Discussion Questions

  • How would the cities that were reached by the Transcontinental Railroad benefit from its construction?
  • What advantages would the Transcontinental Railroad provide over traveling by wagon and horse?

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