model train set on track

Association of American Railroads Teacher’s Kit – Part I

e*Train Issue: Jan 2007   |   Posted in: ,

Presented by Bill Fuller

In the early 1940s, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) offered a Teacher’s Kit for use in teaching public school students about the transportation industry. Of course, in the mind of the AAR , transportation equaled railroads , and the kit includes over 50 photographs of railroad scenes. Each photograph is accompanied by a descriptive story, each of which becomes a short history lesson in the place of railroading in American culture and economy. A complete copy of the original kit is in the archives of the High Plains Western Heritage Center , Spearfish, South Dakota . Its contents have been scanned and reprinted for public viewing in the Heritage Center by TCA member Bill Fuller, who has also provided a copy to e*Train. Each new issue will feature one of the photographs and its story. This issue features story and photograph 1, presented in the second part of this article titled “Story 1”.

“By way of explanation, What are you looking at?

This binder contains the photographs and copies of the descriptive text from a Teacher’s Kit furnished by the Association of American Railroads. The complete kit contained the 56 photographs now in this binder and two booklets:

A Study of Railway Transportation • Volume 1, Teacher’s Manual for Primary and Intermediate Grades with Bibliography


A Study of Railway Transportation • Volume 2, The Stories Behind the Pictures for Primary and Intermediate Grades.

Also in the shipping envelope is a colored booklet advertising the textbook series Study Arithmetics, 1943 Revision, published by Scott, Foresman and Company.

Judging by the latest dates of statistics and tables presented in the Volume 2 booklet, printed dates on the title pages of both booklets, and the publishing company advertisement, it is probable that the information in the kit was collected in 1941, printed in 1942, and distributed in 1943. The original booklets, the publishing company advertisement, and the original mailing envelope are in the archives of the High Plains Western Heritage Center , 825 Heritage Drive , Spearfish , SD 57783 , Acquisition Number 340.

The “East and West Railroad” or “E & W” shown in the photographs never existed. Actual railroad names were replaced in the photographs probably to avoid the appearance of giving free advertising to some railroad lines while slighting others.

What is the Association of American Railroads?

The 1941 – 1943 Teacher’s Kit containing these photographs and descriptive text was published by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The following information about this organization is quoted from the AAR Web sites and , retrieved November 23, 2004 :

The AAR was formed in 1934. But its history really goes back much further–all the way to 1867 when the Master Car Builders Association was formed to conduct experiments aimed at standardizing freight cars.

Soon other organizations representing other railroad subjects were formed. By the early 1930s, there was an alphabet soup of organizations representing the industry. Included were the Association of Railway Executives, the American Railway Association, the Bureau of Railway Economics, the Railway Treasury Officers Association, the Railway Accounting Officers Association and the Bureau for the Safe Transportation of Explosives and other Dangerous Articles. These and others were folded into the new Association of American Railroads, when it was established on October 12, 1934 .

The unification of rail associations was a fallout from the Great Depression. In 1933 the Rail Transportation Act was passed and a Federal Coordinator of Transportation was appointed to deal with depression-era problems affecting railroads. Beset by a plethora of voices representing the railroad industry, Coordinator Joseph B. Eastman – with the support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt – soon recommended that railroads unify into one organization that could speak for the entire industry, leading directly to creation of the AAR .

AAR members include the major freight railroads in the United States , Canada and Mexico , as well as Amtrak. Based in Washington , DC , the AAR is committed to keeping the railroads of North America safe, fast, efficient, clean, and technologically advanced. Much of the AAR focus is on Washington , bringing critical rail-related issues to the attention of Congressional and government leaders.

The AAR is also very much involved in programs to improve the efficiency, safety and service of the railroad industry. Two AAR subsidiaries – the Transportation Technology Center, Inc., and Railinc – ensure that railroads remain on the cutting edge of transportation and information technology.

Railroads are the vital link to our economic future. More than 40 percent of all US freight moves by rail – more than from any other single mode of transportation. As Fortune Magazine recently observed, “While Internet companies scramble for sound business footing, many of America ‘s trains are running on Internet time – at a profit.”

© 2004 AAR 50 F Street, NW , Washington , DC 20001-1564 •• 202-639-2100

Used with permission”

Story # 1

This verse tells in simple fashion the fascinating story of the beginning of steam transportation on one of America ‘s pioneer railroads. The events that led up to the race form an interesting chapter in American railroad history.

In 1829, the people of Baltimore were greatly interested in the new railroad to Ellicott’s Mills, thirteen miles away. This railroad was crudely built of wooden rails capped with thin strips of iron. The iron strips added to the durability of the rails and provided a running surface for the wheels. The railroad company transported passengers and freight in horse-drawn cars. In its efforts to find a better type of motive power, the company also experimented with treadmill cars and cars equipped with sails.

Peter Cooper, an enterprising young manufacturer with a mechanical turn of mind, had been hearing about the success of experiments with steam locomotives in England . Mr. Cooper decided to try his hand at building one. He discussed his plans with the people who were interested in the Baltimore railroad, and they agreed to let him try out the engine on their road.

Mr. Cooper learned all he could about steam engines and spent many weeks building his locomotive. It was a strange little contrivance, not much larger than the modern sectionmen’s motor car. It was built of odds and ends. Old gun barrels were used as flues in the boiler. Because of its small size, Mr. Cooper called the locomotive the “Tom Thumb.” Mr. Cooper had a great deal more confidence in the successful operation of his locomotive than did some of the persons who watched him put it together.

The “Tom Thumb” was placed on the track and tried out in September, 1829, but it was not a success. Instead of giving up, Peter Cooper took the engine apart and rebuilt it. Finally, its defects were overcome to such an extent that it would run for miles under its own power.

One day in August, 1830, the directors of the railroad rode from Baltimore to Ellicott’s Mills and back in an open car pulled by the “Tom Thumb.” It was indeed a strange experience. Never before in American history had a locomotive been used to transport passengers. People lined the railroad to witness the strange spectacle of an “iron horse,” driven by steam, pulling a carriage or car on rails at a speed equal to that of the best horseflesh!

On the return trip the “Tom Thumb” was met by a car drawn by one of the fastest stagecoach horses in that part of the country. The driver of the horse car challenged Mr. Cooper to a race. Mr. Cooper accepted, and the contest was soon under way. One of the passengers on that historic trip wrote that “the start being even, away went horse and engine, the snort of the one and puff of the other keeping time and time.”

For a while the horse had the best of it and forged ahead. Then, as the steam pressure increased, the locomotive picked up speed until it began to gain on the horse. But, alas, just when the “Tom Thumb” was getting the better of the horse and success seemed about to be achieved, a belt on the engine’s blower slipped! Before Mr. Cooper could restore the belt to its proper position, the steam pressure had dropped and the “Tom Thumb” had fallen behind in the race. By the time steam was up again, the horse was too far ahead to be overtaken, and the “iron horse” lost the race!

Bu the performance of the little engine, despite its mishap, convinced the railroad managers of the practicability of seam power for the movement of railway cars. Many men, including Matthias Baldwin, E.L. Miller, John B. Jervis and Phineas Davis, began to interest themselves in this new type of machine. Other and better locomotives and other railroads were built, and before many years had passed steam rail transportation had been introduced in several states, from Maine to Georgia and as far west as Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.