English Language and History .com is a collection of two-minute tales drawn from history, myth and fiction. Each tale is accompanied by word games testing grammar and expression, based on textbooks used in British schools from the 1920s to the 1960s.

The Train of a Life
Music: Ignaz Moscheles
In Charles Dickens’s tale set around Mugby Junction, a man sees his life flash by like a ghostly train.
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

AS the belated traveller plodded up and down, a shadowy train went by him in the gloom which was no other than the train of a life. From whatsoever intangible deep cutting or dark tunnel it emerged, here it came, unsummoned and unannounced, stealing upon him and passing away into obscurity.

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Six Posts
The Tanfield Railway
Music: Charles Avison
Opened in 1725, the Tanfield Railway is one of the oldest railways still operating anywhere in the world.

‘TYNESIDE roads’ was the name given to a network of 17th century wooden-track railways around the North East.

One of these was opened at Lobley Hill near Gateshead in 1647, and horses trundled coal along the wagonway to Dunston staiths on the Tyne, to be loaded on collier ships.

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The Stockton and Darlington Railway
two-part story
Music: John Field
George Stephenson and his son Robert created the world’s first passenger railway.

THE Stockton and Darlington Railway is celebrated as the first public railway for fare-paying passengers, and over 30,000 travelled the line in twelve months from July 1826. But their single, horse-drawn carriages on rails (fare one-and-six) were not the line’s real business.

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A Monument to Liberty
Music: Camille Saint-Saens
Samuel Smiles explains why the London and Birmingham Railway was an achievement superior to the Great Pyramid of Giza.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

THE Great Pyramid of Egypt was, according to Diodorus Siculus, constructed by 300,000 — according to Herodotus, by 100,000 — men. It required for its execution twenty years, and the labour expended upon it has been estimated as equivalent to lifting 15,733,000,000 of cubic feet of stone one foot high.

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The Railway Clearing House
Music: Cipriani Potter
All but forgotten today, the RCH was one of the most important steps forward in British industrial history.

BY 1840, there were some 1,600 miles of railway in Britain, operated by over forty different companies. Each was a little world, even down to observing its own miniature time zone.

Each had its own signalling conventions, so ‘go’ on one route could be ‘stop’ elsewhere. Freight was charged by the mile, but railways were largely unmapped, which led to expensive disputes over distances.

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Sir Sandford Fleming
two-part story
Music: Sir Hubert Parry
What George Stephenson was to the railways of England, Sandford Fleming was to the railways of Canada.

IN 1845, eighteen-year-old Sandford Fleming left home in Kirkcaldy for colonial Canada. He qualified as a surveyor, and kept busy with engineering work on the railways and with graphic design: his threepenny postage stamp was Canada’s very first, and it made the industrious beaver one of Canada’s enduring symbols.

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The Hat that Changed the World
Music: John Hebden
Young William’s hat caught the eye of Matthew Boulton, and the world was never the same again.

IN 1777, after walking there all the way from Scotland in search of work, twenty-three-year-old William Murdoch sat in the offices of the engineering firm of Boulton and Watt in Smethwick, fiddling nervously with his hat.

Matthew Boulton had to disappoint William, as the firm was not hiring, but to ease the awkwardness remarked on the hat.

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All Posts
Tagged Railways (19 posts)
page 1
1 The Train of a Life
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
In Charles Dickens’s tale set around Mugby Junction, a man sees his life flash by like a ghostly train.
2 Russia’s First Railway
Sixteen-year-old John Wesley Hackworth brought a locomotive over to St Petersburg, and Russia’s railway revolution was ready for the off.
3 A Monument to Liberty
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Samuel Smiles explains why the London and Birmingham Railway was an achievement superior to the Great Pyramid of Giza.
4 The Rainhill Trials
To prove that steam power was the future of railways, George Stephenson held a truly historic competition.
5 Britain’s Best Gift to India
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Samuel Smiles reminds us that until we brought the railways to India, we had little to boast about as an imperial power.
6 India’s First Railway
The opening of the Bombay to Thane line was the real beginning of British India.
page 2
7 The Railway Clearing House
All but forgotten today, the RCH was one of the most important steps forward in British industrial history.
8 Ireland’s First Railway
The Dublin to Dun Laoghaire line opened in 1834, and proved a remarkable testimony to the speed of technological progress.
9 Sir Sandford Fleming
What George Stephenson was to the railways of England, Sandford Fleming was to the railways of Canada.
10 The London and Birmingham Railway
The textile moguls of Manchester and Liverpool engaged the Stephensons to complete their link to the capital.
11 Burning Daylight
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson argued that his steam engines were solar-powered.
12 The Genius Next Door
William Murdoch’s experiments with steam traction impressed his next-door neighbour, with world-changing results.
page 3
13 The Hat that Changed the World
Young William’s hat caught the eye of Matthew Boulton, and the world was never the same again.
14 The Stockton and Darlington Railway
George Stephenson and his son Robert created the world’s first passenger railway.
15 The Gift of the Gab
There was one form of power that self-taught engineering genius George Stephenson never harnessed.
16 The Iron Horse and the Iron Cow
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Railways not only brought fresh, healthy food to the urban poor, they improved the conditions of working animals.
17 The Tanfield Railway
Opened in 1725, the Tanfield Railway is one of the oldest railways still operating anywhere in the world.
18 The First Train Journey by Steam
Richard Trevithick’s boss hailed the engineer as a genius. Today he’d have been fired. (Oh, and the train was delayed.)
page 4
19 Timothy Hackworth
Timothy Hackworth (1786-1850) turned steam locomotives into a reliable commercial success.
Authors
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
1 post
Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)
4 posts

Word Play: Opposites

Suggest words or phrases that are opposite in meaning to the words below.

Poor. Great. Teach.
New Stories
The only truly global conflict in history began when German troops crossed into Poland in September 1939.
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Richard Cobden questioned both the wisdom and the motives of politicians who intervene on foreign soil.
To the poor of England, the Worcestershire man gave affordable pots and pans, and to all the world he gave the industrial revolution.
After Louis XIV’s grandson Philip inherited the throne of Spain, the ‘Sun King’ began to entertain dreams of Europe-wide dominion.
New Puzzles
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Try writing complete sentences using these nouns as either the subject or the object of a verb.
Try writing complete sentences using these verbs in either the active or the passive voice.
Polyword ‘Rare’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Suggest opposites for these words, and illustrate them with example sentences.
Do you know ‘raised stitching on a cricket ball’ (4 letters), and ‘a 1901 Kipling novel’ (3 letters)?
Do you know ‘conclusive evidence’ (5 letters), and ‘perceptive realisation’ (6 letters)?
Do you know ‘pull along behind one’ (3 letters), and ‘self-evident or accepted proposition’ (5 letters)?
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (359)
Fiction (77)

letters game

Make words from two or more of the tiles below. What is the highest-scoring word you can make?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: ‘Scrabble’ letters game Games with Words

numbers game

Work across from the number on the left, applying each arithmetical operation to the previous answer. What’s the final total?

Tip: Click any of the four inner squares to check your running total.

More like this: Maths Steps Mental arithmetic