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Supplements for Teachers: Tracks

--Curriculum Connection

Post-Civil War America, transcontinental railroad, Chinese immigrants, racial prejudice, California

--Discussion Questions

America has always been a land based on individual freedom and opportunity. Yet new waves of immigrants are routinely discriminated against. Why do foreign-born people still flock to the United States? Should the U.S. continue to "welcome" them?

One historian, commenting on the rapid changes the advancing railroad delivered, mentioned that on May 1, 1868 one settlement consisted of "two men, one woman, three pigs and a cow." Only a week later, with the railroad's arrival, there were "thirty buildings." How would this sudden growth affect the lives of the settlement's original inhabitants? Would the influx of people and commerce improve their lives? If you owned property in a remote area and buildings sprang up around you almost overnight how would you feel about the changes?

What if you developed a friendship with someone on-line or through letters without ever having met that person or seen a photograph of him or her? Would your friendship change once you had a visual image? How does physical appearance affect our relationships?

--Hands-On Projects

Imagine you are a Chinese worker on the transcontinental railroad. Write a letter to your family in China describing your experiences.

Research and prepare a meal typical for a white railroad worker. Prepare a meal typical for a Chinese railroad worker.

Learn how to play fan-tan (a game popular with Chinese immigrants) and share it with your classmates.

--Engaging References
Website of the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum and rich with primary source material. Railroad historians will answer questions posted at the site.

Makin' Tracks: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad in the Pictures and Words of the Men Who Were There (Lynne Rhodes Mayer and Kenneth E. Vose) Excerpts from letters, diaries and newspapers, and lots and lots of photographs.

(DVD) American Experience: Transcontinental Railroad (PBS Home Video).

(DVD) Modern Marvels: The Transcontinental Railroad (A&E Television Network).