The Last Train by Gordon Titcomb

Visiting Author


Read the foreword to The Last Train. It is written by Arlo Guthrie.

As you read it, what questions comes to mind?
1. Who is Arlo Guthrie
2. What does he mean when he states "a gorgeous tribute that preserves as it distills for future generations the life of a little railroad station"?
List the questions the students generate. Ask the students which questions can be answered by a "google search" (ie Who is Arlo Guthrie? or What does distill mean?) and which questions will require analysis of the text, The Last Train. Choose a question (such as #2 above) to be your essential question as you read and analyze the text.

Re-read the foreword and ask students to notice what specific word choice or phrase stands out? What does that word choice or phrase possibly reveal about The Last Train?
He refers to "the Last Train" as a perfect song. Is this book the lyrics to a song?
He refers to this book as a tribute. Who is it a tribute to?
"Captures the imagination of anyone..." He tells us who will appreciate The Last Train.
"Memories of times past...fading. He indicates times past will be eventually forgotten.
Inference: He values the little railroad stations of the past.

Next Stop...Digging Deeper

As you read the book aloud, project it under document camera so all students can view the illustrations. Mention to the students that the illustrations in a picture book are essential to understanding the full meaning of the story.

Prompt the students: As you listen to a reading of The Last Train, pay close attention to the illustrations that accompany the text.

After reading, ask students to re-visit the essential question: How is this book a "gorgeous tribute that preserves as it distills for future generations the life of a little railroad station"?

If it is a tribute, then who is telling the story? Who is the narrator speaking to? If the author is trying to preserve memories for future generations, he needs to make us want to care. What emotions is the narrator trying to evoke in the reader? We need to go back into the text. Pass out copies of the text. Go back to the essential question. Ask students to re-read the text, and to circle all words or phrases that provide evidence to support how the author influences the reader emotionally. How is he pulling the reader in to want to care?

Have students share in small groups and then discuss as a whole class.

Next Stop... Deeper still!

As the students re-read the text, they should have lingering questions. (see handout)

Spend 3-5 minutes generating questions.

OPTIONAL: Grades 4-6 Students post questions on a Padlet. If possible, group the questions into categories (are there unknown vocabulary questions, are there historical context questions, etc). See if you can determine any keywords from the text that could be researched in order to answer students' questions.

Students will research keywords and also investigate any of the following sites. As students locate answers to any of the questions posted on the Padlet, have the students post the answers on the Padlet.

An author often includes links for further investigation into the topic of a book. Gordon included a number of "Railroad Museums" in the notes section of this picture book.

Websites to explore:

1. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

2. National Railroad Museum

3. Illinois Railway Museum

4. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum

5. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum

6. Orange Empire Railway Museum

7. Train Mountain Railway Museum

8. Colorado Railroad Museum

9. Southeastern Railway Museum


Have the students take 5 minutes to complete an exit slip.

Exit slip prompt: Do you agree with Arlo Guthrie's assessment of this text? Why or why not.