All aboard everyone! From horsepower to steam to the magic of magnetic levitation, it’s time to uncover all the best fun facts about trains!
When was the last time you were on a train? Were you traveling through the countryside during a vacation? Were you a little kid riding the tiny rails at an amusement park?
Or maybe you ride the train every morning to get to work? In fact, billions of people still depend on trains everyday for the delivery of materials, leisure, travel, and the daily commute.
The invention of steam power really brought the train into the mainstream and is often listed as one of the greatest inventions of humankind. But this is just one of the fun facts about trains that we’ve uncovered. Keep on reading to find out more!
We’ll dive into the world of train robberies and speed records. Travel through the claustrophobic London Metropolitan to the massive Grand Central Station.
Then we’ll throw in a Trans-Siberian journey, a cross-country funeral procession, and a few stray dogs too.
And we can’t forget about Japan, who have the fastest, most reliable train service on Earth.
We promise you’ll learn something new about trains after reading all of our train facts. So let’s board this train and get started, shall we?
21 Fun Facts About Trains
1. The greatest invention?
The train is often listed as one of the most important inventions of humankind.
Starting with horse-drawn wagons along tracks, to the first steam engine, the invention of the train allowed for the quicker shipment of people and goods leading to industrial revolution.
2. The speed record
The magnetic levitation train, also known as a mag-lev, hovers above the track allowing for astonishing speeds.
In fact, a Japanese Railways mag-lev topped out at speeds of over 373 mph (600 km/h) in 2015. Hypothetically, mag-lev trains have the ability to still go much faster.
3. I’ve got the power
Okay, it’s time for a train facts pop quiz. Can you name the four power sources that trains have used starting with the earliest? Take a few seconds before you read the answer!
The power sources in order are: horse, steam, diesel, and electricity. How did you do? Get them all right?
4. Cross-country funeral
After President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, his body was transported by train across America through 180 cities on the journey back to his home state of Illinois.
In fact, this procession is considered a driving force behind the burgeoning popularity of train travel in the USA at the time.
5. War train
Speaking of Lincoln, trains were also a deciding factor in the American Civil War.
During the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, trains carried over 20,000 Union soldiers 1900 km in 11 days to the front lines, eventually leading to a victory for the North.
6. Measure this in horses
James Watt, one of the inventors and leading scientists in steam engine development, invented the word horsepower in order to sell his technology.
He found that prospective buyers couldn’t understand how efficient steam power was, so he used the horsepower measurement because everyone at that time knew what horses were capable of.
7. Train on time
Do you ever get annoyed by a delayed plane or a late bus? Well riding the train in Japan might be the solution.
The Japanese train system is so reliable that even a delay of a couple minutes will net you a free voucher and a personal apology! Forget the Germans, the trains run to clockwork efficiency in Japan.
8. Steam vs Diesel
While steam dominated the world of trains up until the 1940s, when diesel took over it was pretty much game over.
A diesel engine performed more efficiently, propelled the train faster, and didn’t require as much labor. By the 1960s steam trains had become a novelty at best.
9. Russian train dogs
Here’s one of the fun facts about trains we discovered that is absolutely unforgettable. Stray dogs in Russia will take the train from the suburbs into the city of Moscow each morning to scavenge for food.
In the evening, it’s back on the train to the quiet world of the suburbs for a good night’s sleep! It’s a dog’s life, eh?
10. A massive train station
Grand Central Station in New York City is one of the largest train stations in the world and probably the most iconic.
It boasts the most train passenger platforms with 44 and sees over 270,000 passengers per day. That’s almost 100 million per year!
11. Going underground
The first underground railroad was inaugurated in London, England in 1863. The Metropolitan was a steam engine system that snaked through a series of small tunnels underneath the city.
The problem however was ventilation, with the smoke from the steam engines often overwhelming the tunnels causing poor visibility and disastrous breathing conditions.
12. The great train robbery
On August 8th 1963, a Royal Mail train traveling from Glasgow, Scotland, to London, England, was taken over by a 15-man crew.
The men knocked the conductor unconscious with a steel pipe and were able to get away with £2.6 million. While the money was never recovered, most of the robbers were apprehended and sent to prison. This was known as the Great Train Robbery and is still talked about in whispers to this day.
13. Reading for the train
Looking for your next great read? Look no further than these classic books set on trains.
There’s the murder-mystery classic by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express (1934). The Christmas favorite, The Polar Express (1985) by Chris Van Allsburg. Or how about a psychological thriller? Strangers on a Train (1950) by Patricia Highsmith.
14. Who can lay the most track?
When it comes to sheer amount of railroad track, the USA has every other country beat. There is an astonishing 125,000 mi (201,100 km) of track criss-crossing the country.
Second is China with 99,000 mi (160,000 km). Third is Russia with 89,000 mi (143,000 km).
15. Train songs
Trains are metaphors for life journeys, out of control emotions, and reunions. Maybe that’s why so many great songs have been written about trains.
Our favorites include Midnight Train to Georgia (1973) by Gladys Knight and the Pips, Love Train (1972) by The O’Jays, Train in Vain (1979) by The Clash, and Crazy Train (1980) by Ozzy Osbourne.
16. Japanese ingenuity
Here’s one of the train facts that really surprised us. The engineer responsible for designing the Kamikaze plane for Japan during World War II also developed the Shinkansen, otherwise known as the Japanese bullet train. We bet you didn’t know that one!
17. All aboard!
The longest route you can take on a single train is on the Trans-Siberian Express. The train spans a vast expanse of Russia, from Moscow to Vladivostok covering 5,778 mi (9,297 km).
The 6 or 7 day journey makes between 74 and 145 stops and costs a reasonable $169 USD.
18. Longest train trip on Earth
Are you ready to spend the next 12 days on a train? If you are, you can travel from Porto, Portugal, all the way to Hanoi, Vietnam.
The 10,056 mi (17,000 km) train journey will take you through many countries and many train transfers through France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and China.
19. Straight as an arrow
The longest straight line of train track in the world will take you through the desolate Nullarbor Plain along the edge of the Great Victoria Desert in Australia. With not a single bend or curve the track runs east-west for 297 mi (478 km).
20. The best train films of all-time
There have been some epic movies set on trains. The tension of a speeding train always adds to the action! Which of these have you seen?
The General (1926), The Great Train Robbery (1978), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Snowpiercer (2013), Train to Busan (2016).
21. A heavy load
To finish off, here’s another one of the train facts that’s almost impossible to believe. The heaviest recorded train ever was a 7.3 km long freight train in Australia that weighed in at 95,000 tons!
That’s the equivalent weight of over 300 Boeing 747 jets! What was that train hauling?
We really hope you enjoy our fun facts about trains! If there are any facts we missed, let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them to this list!