Written and Illustrated by Brian Floca

Publisher’s Summary:
It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean.

Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

Primary Source Pairing:
Locomotive is a visual masterpiece. Readers of all ages can experience a ride on the railroad by studying the images in this book. Brian Floca’s artwork depicting the experience riding cross country makes you want to brush the dust from your clothes because you feel like you are right there with the people in the illustrations.

For this primary source pairing, invite students to study a map created by James T. Lloyd and Rae Smith in 1859. This map is titled “Lloyd’s American railroad map of the United States, showing the three proposed roads and the overland mail route to the Pacific.” The description of the map from the Library of Congress states: “Outline map of the continental United States showing drainage, state boundaries, major cities, forts, finished and proposed railroads” (LOC). The map also shows the drawn images of 28 railroad presidents around the outside border of the map. Students can use the Primary Source Analysis Tool for Analyzing Maps or the discussion questions included below. The map can be printed or viewed digitally, which allows students to zoom in and study the details much easier.

An extension activity for this map can be found on the Library of Congress Teachers website. The lesson uses Waldseemüller’s Map: World 1507,  but the same activity can be used for Lloyd’s Map. Print the map as large as possible and cut it into equal pieces. Students can work in small groups or individually. The entirety of this lesson can be found here. The lesson has been copied, in part, below:

  1. Discuss the parts of a map: compass, scale, title, legend or key, notations. Review types of maps: topographic, political, military, bird’s eye, weather satellite photo, raised relief.
  2. Introduction to Historical Maps. How are they different? Students should think like a historian and ask questions, find possible answers, compare with other maps and documents, consider previous knowledge, reflect on bias or point of view with this source.
  3. Pass out one section of the map to each student. Have students take a close look at their map section.
  4. Ask them to share their findings with their partner or small group. What are they noticing? What questions do they have?
  5. Students analyze the map, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Maps to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  6. Have students find another student with the same section and compare what they have found.
  7. On a large table, assemble the entire map, with each section being described by its pair. What new information is shared from each new piece? Does this piece confirm or eliminate guesses about the map?
  8. Students will share their findings of each of these map sections with the entire class.

Alternatively, invite students to study the sheet music for a song titled “Railroad Waltz” from 1835. Primary source analysis of sheet music is a unique pairing and an interesting cross-curricular visual literacy learning experience. Use the Primary Source Analysis Tool for Analyzing Sheet Music.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What size and shape is the map?
  • What graphical elements do you see?
  • What on the map looks strange or unfamiliar?
  • Describe anything that looks like it does not belong on a map.
  • What place or places does the map show?
  • What, if any, words do you see?
  • How does it compare to current maps of this place?
  • If this map was made today, what would be different? What would be the same?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Lloyd’s Map: Library of Congress
Map Lesson: Library of Congress
Railroad Waltz: Library of Congress

Additional Resources:
There is an abundance of Railroad Maps available from the Library of Congress. Click Here to access their collection.