This enquiry is suitable for students aged 5-11, you can download a free, printable PDF version here.

How many different types of transport can children think of that people use today? Encourage them to think of a wide range – on land, water, in the air – even into outer space. How many of these have they travelled in/on?

Group the class into different types of transport, such as land, water, air, wheels, wings etc.

Show the children images of modern-day modes of transport – or give them some appropriate websites to use to research these themselves. Look at the images together and talk about:

  • What are they made of?
  • How do they work?
  • What makes them go?
  • Who uses these different modes of transport?
  • Where might they travel to?

Tell children they are going to find out what transport was like around 200 years ago. Talk about how long ago this is by giving children examples of what this is ‘before’, and asking them to give some of their own E.g. “200 years is before my granny was born…before TV was invented…before our school was built…” You could make a simple timeline together to show roughly how long ago each example was.

Show children the Velocipede and compare it with an image of a modern bike.

Ask children to look at both images very carefully:

  • What are these bikes made of?
  • What is the same?
  • What is different?
  • What makes these bikes go?
  • Who might have used them?

Repeat this with Locomotion I, SS Great Britain and the Air Balloon, comparing them with a modern day train, Ocean Liner and aeroplane.

Which of the four do they think is most similar to its modern day equivalent? In what ways?

Which is most different? In what ways?

Tell them that ALL these modes of transport were invented around 200 years ago. How might people have travelled before that? How would these inventions have changed people’s lives?

Which modes of transport that we know of today are missing from the historical examples?

Children can work in groups to label the different parts of each mode of transport (handlebars, pedals, funnel etc) and their modern-day equivalents to make a class display of similarities and differences.

Try these activities to help with the enquiry:

Transport pairs

Who am I?


Looking closely at images

Talking about a revolution

Useful Links

National Railway Museum, York

SS Great Britain, Bristol