Canada Rail Passenger Service: 

All Aboard for the Future!

Lesson Overview

For motivation, the lesson starts with a matching challenge that highlights famous passenger trains. The lesson next focuses on rail as a viable form of transportation in terms of its small carbon footprint.  In the culminating activity, students complete a brochure that promotes a passenger service on a selected three-hundred kilometre stretch of rail shown on CANADA'S STEEL ROADS poster-map. They will name the train; indicate the route on a map; describe points of geographic and historical interest that can be viewed through the window; and create a trip-related activity for children.

Grade Level

Grade 10

Time Required

Two classes 

Curriculum Connection (Province/Territory and course)

Atlantic Provinces Curriculum for Social Studies: Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET): Prince Edward Island

Geography 10:  Canada Studies

Additional Resources, Materials and Equipment Required

·         Famous Trains Matching Challenge (attached)

·         Brochure Assignment:  A 300 Kilometre Passenger Rail Trip (attached)

·         CANADA'S STEEL ROADS poster-map

·         Computers, display equipment and internet access


          Andy Hayes.  Famous Trains: The World’s Named Passenger Trains

          (Source for answers to the Famous Trains Matching Challenge)                        

          Canadian Atlas Online Tracking rail theme

Outline map of Canada (one can be found at: The Atlas of Canada)

          Railway Association of Canada (RAC) – Rail Facts


          Rail and the Environment

          Moving the Economy

          Moving People

          Rail by Provinces

          The Environment

Main Objective

The main objective has two parts: the short-term outcome, to engage students in exploring passenger rail service in Canada and its small carbon footprint; and the long-term outcome, to interest students in utilizing passenger rail services.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

·       understand that the Canadian passenger rail service leaves a small carbon footprint;

·       gather geographical information from maps and other sources;

·       synthesize information;

·       convey information in an interesting way.  

The Lesson


The Lesson


Teacher Activity

Student Activity



Instruct students to complete the Famous Trains Matching Challenge (attached).

Review the answers and ask:”What do you know about Canada’s trains?”.

Complete the challenge and share responses. 

Lesson Development













Divide students into five groups.  Assign each of the groups one of the websites below by the Railway Association of Canada: 

·         Rail Facts

·         Rail and the Environment

·         Moving the Economy

·         Moving People

·         The Environment

Ask groups to find two or three quotations that clearly present Canadian passenger rail service as a viable form of transportation in terms of its small carbon footprint. Instruct the groups to record the the quotations.

Ask students to present their quotations and explain what they have concluded.

Introduce CANADA'S STEEL ROADS poster-map. Indicate a sample 300 kilometre stretch of track on the map. Ask students to choose the 300 kilometre section of rail in Canada which they would be most interested in travelling. Ask them to explain their choice.

Introduce the Canadian Atlas Online Tracking rail theme and the section called Tourism under the broader title People. Its presentation of “the various destinations/trips one can access with passenger trains,” may help undecided students.  


Distribute the Brochure Assignment:  A 300 Kilometre Passenger Rail Trip.  Review the instructions and assign it to groups or individuals.

Request that students include a map of their section of track in the brochure.








Select two or three quotations. Record the title and the quotations.






Present findings.


Choose the stretch of track that is the most interesting and explain the selection.



Review the instructions to the Brochure Assignment:  A 300 Kilometre Passenger Rail Trip.

Create a brochure that includes a map.



Invite presentations and display the brochures.

Present/display brochures.

Lesson Extension

·         A plaque on the Charlottetown Railway Station states, “The building ceased operation as a station with the closure of the railway in 1989.”   Would it be viable to reintroduce this service?

·         Discuss the feasibility of a train tunnel under the Northumberland Strait.

Assessment of Student Learning

The brochures should be assessed in accordance with the criteria provided in the attached Brochure Assignment:  A 300 Kilometre Rail Trip.

Link to Canadian National Standards for Geography
Essential Element #1:  The World in Spatial Terms

·         Map, globe, and atlas use (e.g. observing and analyzing relationships)

Essential Element #2:  Places and Regions

·         Political and historical characteristics of regions

Essential Element #5:  Environment and Society

·         Environmental issues (e.g. global warming, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, ozone depletion, air pollution, water pollution, acid precipitation, disposal of solid waste)

Geographic Skill #2:  Acquiring Geographic Information

·         Systematically locate and gather geographic information from a variety of primary and secondary sources.

Geographic Skill #3:  Organizing Geographic Information

·         Make inferences and draw conclusions from maps and other geographic representations.

·         Use a variety of media to develop and organize integrated summaries of geographic information.





Famous Trains Matching Challenge

Can you match each of these famous world trains with its corresponding geographic description?

Geographic Descriptions:

1.      Also called the Harry Potter Railway, it connects from Fort William, near Glasgow, to Mallaig in the Highlands of Scotland.                      ______________________

2.      Traverses from St. Moritz to Zermatt in Switzerland.       ______________________

3.      From Thailand, through Malaysia, and into Singapore.      ______________________

4.      Its flagship line travels from Pretoria to Cape Town.        ______________________

5.      As one of the longest named passenger trains (in terms of route), it carries you almost 3 thousand miles across the entire continent of Australia, from Perth to Sydney.                                                           ______________________

6.      Depart Montreal in the evening and wake the next morning with the most incredible view of the Maritimes from your dome car.              ______________________

7.      Connects Uganda to Kenya, offering views of lions.         ______________________

8.      Follows the trail of explorers Lewis and Clark from Chicago to Seattle/Portland on the west coast of the USA.                                               ______________________

9.      VIA Rail’s flagship service from Vancouver to Toronto.     ______________________

10.  Starting in Saint Petersburg or Moscow, the train traverses across Asia and terminates in the Pacific port town of Vladivostok with alternative trains that go all the way to Beijing, China and Pyongyang, North Korea.    ______________________




The Eastern and Orient Express                The Ocean                        The Canadian

The Lunatic Express                               The Glacier Express             The Indian Pacific

The Blue Train                                       The Lunatic Express            The Empire Builder

The Jacobite



Bonus:          Can you name the world’s fastest trains and in what countries they are found?


                   What train goes from Britain to France under the English Channel?


Brochure Assignment: 

A 300 Kilometre Passenger Rail Trip


Choose a 300 km stretch of track from the thousands of “rail passenger kilometres” represented on CANADA'S STEEL ROADS poster-map.  Prepare a four-page promotional brochure intended to attract people to take this train trip. 


(1)  On page one, the cover page, write an interesting and attractive title and caption for your train trip.  On your blank map, clearly show the beginning and end of the journey.  Identify interesting geographic and/or historical features/landmarks that can be seen on the trip.  Use original art to reflect a highlight of the trip. 

(2)  On pages two and three, the centre of your brochure, expand upon your cover page.  Offer a brief but vivid narration (of about 200 to 250 words) of some of the interesting geographic or historical features that can be viewed through the window.  Will passengers see panoramic mountain scenery, blue-green rushing rivers, and prairie grasses stretching to the horizon?  Will they see certain human-made structures—grain elevators, abandoned rail stations, perhaps—that reveal something about the past or present human geography or history of the landscape?  Support your words with either original art or downloaded photography and art.  If you choose the latter, remember to acknowledge the source of these visuals.

(3)   On page four, the concluding page, present an original geographic activity for children between the ages of seven to twelve making the trip.  This activity is intended to enhance their trip and to pass the time.  You may, for example, prepare a word puzzle related to points of geographic interest on the trip.

(4)  Somewhere in your brochure, remark upon the small carbon footprint of rail travel (attractive information to some potential rail passengers).  If you wish, refer to the information collected from the Railway Association of Canada brochures.

Criteria for evaluation:

(a)  Quality of the map (Does it clearly show the route?) and of the other visuals (Do they interest people in taking the trip?)  (Value:  40%)

(b)  Quality of written expression (Does it interest people in taking the trip?):  (Value:  40%) 

(c)  Quality of the activity for children (Is it likely to engage them and enhance their trip?)  (Value:  20%)