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    SUBJECTS — U.S./1865 - 1913.
    Age: 8 - 11; No MPAA Rating; Animated; 24 minutes; 1989; Color;

    Description:     The Peanuts gang describes the building of the transcontinental railroad (1866 - 1869).

    Children will enjoy this film even if they are not familiar with the Peanuts characters.

    Benefits of the Movie: This film will introduce children to the effort to link the East and West coasts of the United States by rail.

    Possible Problems: NONE.

    Parenting Points:     Your child will be intrigued to learn that this cartoon has some relationship to real events. Review the Helpful Background section and talk about the transcontinental railroad. You will not be able to cover everything but do the best you can. Immediately after the movie, or at odd times over the next week (for example at the dinner table or in the car on the way to school) bring up some of the Discussion Questions, starting with the Quick Discussion Question in the sidebar. Don't worry if you can only get through a few questions. Just taking the film seriously and discussing it is the key. Allow your child to watch the movie several times and continue to ask and help him or her answer more discussion questions.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  None.

      Featured Actors:  None.

      Director:  Sam Nicholson.


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Why was it important for the United States to link the two coasts?

Suggested Response: A transcontinental railroad allowed people to easily travel back and forth across the country. At that time it took many months of arduous travel for wagon trains to cross the continent. The only alternative was a long ocean voyage around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. The ability to travel back and forth between across the country built commerce and bound the nation together.

    Helpful Background:

    To enhance the educational value of this cartoon, parents or teachers need only watch the film with their children and comment on two or three points made in the film. Additional helpful background is set out below.

    Beginning in the 1830s, visionaries advocated construction of a transcontinental railroad. At that time, trade with the West Coast required either an arduous trip by land across the continent or a long ocean voyage around Cape Horn. Proponents of the transcontinental railroad argued that it would increase U.S. influence in the West and provide economic benefits not only to the West but also to points along the route. The settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute in 1846, the acquisition of Western territories through the Mexican war in 1848, and the California Gold Rush of 1849 increased the need for a transcontinental rail link.

    In 1853, Congress ordered the government to study possible rail routes to the West. The two primary options were a northern railway from St. Louis to Northern California and a southern line from New Orleans to Southern California. Sectional rivalry between North and South prevented any decision on which route to build. When the South seceded from the Union, Congress enacted a law mandating the northern option. In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act, which granted charters to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad companies. The Union Pacific was to build west from Omaha, Nebraska, the western terminus for the railroad network that already existed. The Central Pacific was to start laying track east from Sacramento through the Sierra Nevada. The railroads were to be joined where they met. The Act gave the railroad companies generous grants of public land along the right of way and loans for each mile of track laid.

    In 1863, the Central Pacific Railroad began laying track east from Sacramento. Work in the beginning was slow and difficult. After the first 23 miles, the Central Pacific faced terrain that rose 7,000 feet in 100 miles. Eventually the Central Pacific employed 25,000-30,000 laborers imported from China. Because of the Civil War and a shortage of funds, the project got off to a slow start, especially in the East. In 1865, after the conclusion of the Civil War, construction began to move forward more quickly. The Union Pacific Railroad used Irish immigrants and former soldiers as the bulk of its labor force.

    Passenger train service began five days after the golden spike joined the two rail lines. The fare from Omaha to Sacramento was $40 for immigrant class, $80 for second class, and $111 for first class. The trip was scheduled to take four days but there were often delays for track problems, mechanical breakdowns, Indian raids, and robberies.

    In 1881, a second transcontinental railroad was completed and the number grew to five in the ensuing years. With increased competition from trucking, five transcontinental rail lines proved unnecessary. The tracks of the original railroad, laid in the 1860s, were torn up for scrap metal.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: transcontinental, "public lands", grant, "right of way."

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    Discussion Questions:

    1.  See Discussion Questions and Projects for Use With Any Documentary.

    2.  What were the difficulties involved in building the transcontinental railroad?

    3.  What political dispute delayed construction of the transcontinental railroad?

    4.  Why was the railroad built beginning on each side of the country, working toward a meeting in the middle?

    5.  Why was each line racing to lay track?

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: This film is part of a series entitled This is America Charlie Brown. Other films in the series include: The Birth of the Constitution, The Mayflower Voyagers, The Smithsonian and the Presidency, The Music and Heroes of America, The Great Inventors and The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. This Six Pillars of Ethical Conduct are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)


    (Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)


    (Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)


    (Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don't take advantage of others; Don't blame others carelessly)


    (Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)


    (Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

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    Bridges to Reading: None.



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