The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust WSRHT

Learning Opportunities for Schools

EYFS/KS1: 'A trip to the Seaside'


Exploring and comparing how seaside holidays have changed over time with optional links to local history through the development of Minehead from small town to the big attraction (KS1).


The session takes the form of an imaginary seaside holiday; with opportunities for dressing up and role play. It explores how the railways made seaside holidays possible and invite children to compare the differences between past and present holidays using local photographs and handling objects.

  • Topic links to Seaside, Holidays and Transport

Curriculum Links 2014:

  • Identify similarities and differences between ways of life in different periods.
  • Understand some of the ways in which we find out about the past and identify different ways in which it is represented.
  • Events beyond living memory that are significant nationally.

KS1: 'Who was Isambard Kingdom Brunel?'


Exploring the life and achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the changes that his GWR and branch lines brought to our local area.


The session explores Brunel’s life and achievements within the context of the Industrial Revolution; with opportunities for dressing up and role play. It uses object sorting and handling to investigate the impact that Brunel’s railways had both nationally and locally on the everyday lives of people and encourages children to consider why we remember people like Brunel.

Curriculum Links 2014

  • Events beyond living memory that are significant nationally.
  • The lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements.
  • Significant historical events, people and places in their own locality.

EYFS/KS1: Living at Three Chimneys – ‘What might life have been like for the Railway Children?’

Based on E Nesbitt’s classic novel, our Railway Children inspired learning sessions to invite children
to find out more about early rail travel and life in Edwardian England


Exploring aspects of everyday life in Edwardian England and making comparisons with modern equivalents.


Using extracts from the book, along with costume and guided role play, the session encourages children to discover what life was like more than 100 years ago. Exploring aspects such as clothing and everyday activities, children are invited to compare the lives of Bobby, Peter and Phyllis with their own. Inspired by events from the story, they will find out how to save a railway using their underwear and how to prepare their best clothes for an award ceremony.

Curriculum Links 2014


  • Develop pleasure in reading, motivation to read, vocabulary and understanding by:
    o Listening to and discussing a wide range of poems, stories and non-fiction at a level beyond that at which they can read independently.
    o Being encouraged to link what they read or hear read to their own experiences.
  • Understand both the books they can already read accurately and fluently and those they listen to.
  • Ask and answer questions, choosing and using parts of stories and other sources to show that they know and understand key features of events.


  • Identify similarities and differences between ways of life in different periods.
  • Understand some of the ways in which we find out about the past and identify different ways in which it is represented.

KS2: Deadly Forces: Exploring safety on the railway – ‘Why did the Railway Children become heroes?’


Exploring some of the forces involved on a railway and understanding why safety is so important and what
measures are taken to prevent accidents.


Using extracts from the book, along with contemporary newspaper articles on rail accidents, children are
invited to consider what might have happened if the Railway Children had not been on hand to prevent the train from hitting the landslide. The session includes a series of STEM investigations designed to demonstrate what happens when a moving object impacts upon a stationary one. It concludes by introducing some of the systems put in place by the railway to ensure safety.

Curriculum Links 2014


  • Working Scientifically
    • setting up simple practical enquiries, comparative and fair tests
    • making systematic and careful observations and, where appropriate, taking accurate measurements using
      standard units
  • Forces
    • Explore falling/moving objects and raise questions about the effects of resistance.
    • Recognise that some mechanisms, including levers, pulleys and gears, allow a smaller force to have a
      greater effect.

KS2: Victorian Britain: How did the railways change people’s lives in our locality?'


Setting the scene by exploring aspects of pre-railway life such as transport, communication, diet and politics, the session explores how the railways became a defining part of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, changing people’s lives throughout the Victorian period and establishing the framework of the modern world.


Using object handling, picture analysis, discussion and role-play, children will be encouraged to explore how the GWR and its branchlines changed the life of ordinary people in the South West. Investigating the views of different groups of people in character, children are invited to consider whether they would be ‘for’ or ‘against’ the building of the railway.

Curriculum Links 2014

  • A study of an aspect of British History beyond 1066: A significant turning point in British History: The First Railways
  • A local history study

Current learning programme

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KS2: Operation Pied Piper: ‘What was it like to be an Evacuee during the Second World War?’

Note: for this session, we encourage children to come to us dressed as evacuees.


Using object handling, document analysis, discussion and role play, children will explore the important role played by the railways in the evacuation process. They will find out more about rationing, investigate the contents of an evacuee’s suitcase before finally facing the ultimate ordeal: being chosen by a new family. Some will be lucky – others not so much…

Curriculum Links 2014:

  • A study of an aspect of British History beyond 1066: A significant turning point in British History: The Second World War
  • Address and devise historically valid questions about change, cause, similarity and difference, and significance.

Understand how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources


Beginning by exploring the context behind ‘Operation Pied Piper’ the session investigates what life might have been like for a child during the Second World War, encouraging children to make comparisons with their own lives.

Railway themed STEM Investigation Sessions

Learning sessions can be extended with the addition of a STEM-related investigation- allow at least an additional hour in your visit for these. Many of these can be adapted to suit either a KS1 or KS2 class – let us know what you require when you book.

The Gauge Investigation

Exploring the differences between Brunel’s broad gauge and the standard gauge railway lines.

Beginning with a maths problem-solving activity using standard or non-standard measures, children investigate the difference in width between a broad gauge and a standard gauge line. They then explore the science behind Brunel’s design, comparing the stability of a broad-based structure over a narrow one.

Brunel’s Great Bridge Challenge

Based around Science and Engineering/DT, children are invited to explore some of the different types of bridge design before exploring, selecting and shaping different materials in order to design and build a bridge sturdy enough to hold a variety of different weights.

Stephenson’s Rocket Challenge

Based around science and engineering, the session explores how steam is used to power a locomotive, with children constructing their own compressed-air powered locomotive.

Further details on request.

Teacher-led Visits

If you wish to design your own visit to the Gauge Museum, our friendly volunteers are always willing to answer your questions!

In addition to our Family Trail, we also offer a range of STEM-themed scavenger hunts, which encourage children of all ages to explore our collections in greater depth.


Current trails include Materials and Forces