Two-minute tales from history, myth and fiction, accompanied by word games, grammar games and writing practice, all based on traditional school textbooks.

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Japan’s First Railway
two-part story
Music: Gustav Holst
As Japan’s ruling shoguns resist the tide of progress, a Nagasaki-based Scottish entrepreneur steps in.

FOR over two centuries, Japan isolated herself from the rest of the world, a policy vigorously pursued by the Tokugawa shogunate that had sidelined the Emperors. But from 1853, zealous American, Russian and British merchants and their modern wares were grudgingly admitted into selected Japanese ports.

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Six Posts
Russia’s First Railway
two-part story
Music: Mikhail Glinka; Johann Strauss (Jr)
Sixteen-year-old John Wesley Hackworth brought a locomotive over to St Petersburg, and Russia’s railway revolution was ready for the off.

IN 1836, sixteen-year-old John Wesley Hackworth arrived in the Russian capital, St Petersburg, bearing the heavy responsibility of delivering a steam locomotive, built by his father Timothy at Shildon in County Durham, to the Russian Empire’s first railway line.

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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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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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The First Train Journey by Steam
Richard Trevithick’s boss hailed the engineer as a genius. Today he’d have been fired.

IN 1803, the owner of the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, Samuel Homfray, brought Richard Trevithick over to South Wales to build a steam-driven hammer for his factory.

Instead, Trevithick mounted his steam engine on wheels and set it running along the factory’s primitive railway.

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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 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 (23 posts)
page 1
1 Japan’s First Railway
As Japan’s ruling shoguns resist the tide of progress, a Nagasaki-based Scottish entrepreneur steps in.
2 Thomas Brassey
The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
3 A Leader by Example
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
4 The Liverpool and Manchester Railway
Businessmen in Liverpool engaged George Stephenson to build one of his new-fangled railways.
5 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.
6 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.
page 2
7 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.
8 The Rainhill Trials
To prove that steam power was the future of railways, George Stephenson held a truly historic competition.
9 India’s First Railway
The opening of the Bombay to Thane line was the real beginning of British India.
10 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.
11 The Railway Clearing House
All but forgotten today, the RCH was one of the most important steps forward in British industrial history.
12 Ireland’s First Railway
The Dublin to Dun Laoghaire line opened in 1834, and proved a remarkable testimony to the speed of technological progress.
page 3
13 Sir Sandford Fleming
What George Stephenson was to the railways of England, Sandford Fleming was to the railways of Canada.
14 The London and Birmingham Railway
The textile moguls of Manchester and Liverpool engaged the Stephensons to complete their link to the capital.
15 Burning Daylight
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson argued that his steam engines were solar-powered.
16 The Genius Next Door
William Murdoch’s experiments with steam traction impressed his next-door neighbour, with world-changing results.
17 The Hat that Changed the World
Young William’s hat caught the eye of Matthew Boulton, and the world was never the same again.
18 The Stockton and Darlington Railway
George Stephenson and his son Robert created the world’s first passenger railway.
page 4
19 The Gift of the Gab
There was one form of power that self-taught engineering genius George Stephenson never harnessed.
20 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.
21 The Tanfield Railway
Opened in 1725, the Tanfield Railway is one of the oldest railways still operating anywhere in the world.
22 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.)
23 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)
5 posts
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Subject and Object

Use each of the words below as either the subject or the object of a verb.

Bell. Cat. Voice.

JB Cramer was one of the finest pianists of his day, though his reverence for Mozart made his own music more popular in the drawing room than the concert hall.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley says that the pinnacle of political achievement is the government not of others, but of ourselves.
By John Keats
(1795-1821)
Poet John Keats speaks of the beauties of Autumn, her colours, her sounds and her rich harvest.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Shelley calls on November’s sister months to watch by the graveside of the dead Year.
Cut
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.
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.
Polyword ‘Fen’
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
Practise your twelve times table against the clock.
Do you know ‘stout’ (6 letters), and ‘gloat’ (4 letters)?
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know which ‘Barry’ is the title-character of a novel by Thackeray (6 letters), and ‘thwart, perplex’ (6 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with LONG and finish with JUMP.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
A word-making and word-searching game with a dash of strategy to it.
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History (379)
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letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

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

More like this: Longest Word (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 Game) Mental Arithmetic