The feelings towards a railroad in the city of Baltimore were split amongst the citizens. The following activities are designed to encourage students to look more closely at the “railroad era” and to express themselves on issues related to both the building of the railroad and the preservation of its heritage.
The discussion of whether or not to build the railroad system in Baltimore leads to many people having very strong opinions, one way or the other. Discuss with students the advantages and disadvantages of building the railroad as opposed to traveling along a canal or the National Road. Have students decide how they would feel if they were a citizen of Baltimore during this time, and create a poster to persuade other citizens of Baltimore to build or not to build a railroad.
The issue of whether canals or railroads were preferable modes of transportation sparked a lively debate wherever it arose. This was especially true with regard to the B&O railroad and the C&O canal. Have students write a letter to a newspaper editor in which they express their support for one of these means of carrying goods and people. The letter should include a profile of themselves as a wealthy individual who has been solicited for money to support the construction of both the canal and the railroad. The letter should include an explanation of their decision about which of the two they have chosen to support.
A variation on this may be to have the letter be written by an “everyday” citizen who is expressing their support either for the canal or the railroad. Conduct a follow up discussion and compile a list of the arguments presented for both sides.