All Aboard the Cockle Train

poem by Julia Wakefield , illustrated by Fifi Colston

Learning intentions:

I am learning to use comprehension strategies to analyse texts so that I can link ideas through intertextuality.


Success criteria:

  • I can use comprehension strategies to analyse the meaning of texts.
  • I can identify language features in texts.
  • I can compare texts with similar themes.


Essential knowledge:

More information about linking texts can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Intertextuality.


After reading the poem either as a class or listening to the audio recording, ask students the following questions:

  • What is the poem about? (A train ride)
  • What is the Cockle Train? (A train in South Australia – see the Cockle Train webpage)
  • Whose point of view is the poem from? (A passenger’s)
  • What is the monster referenced in the second stanza? (The train as seen by the roos)
  • What is the meaning of the second-last line? (The passenger has gotten off the train and is waving goodbye)
  • What is the meaning of the last line? (The steam train made the passenger feel like they were in the past, but now they are home and returned to the present, though the lovely memory, the ‘dream’ will stay with them)


Ask students if the poem reminds them of another poem. View the Scottish Poet’s Library page on Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem From a Railway Carriage. Brainstorm ways this poem is the same as All Aboard the Cockle Train and ways it is different. Students can use a Venn Diagram or other graphic organiser to arrange their ideas.


Ask students to find examples of the following in both poems:






Discuss as a class how both poems use these techniques in a similar way. Ask why Wakefield might have written a poem so similar to Stevenson’s. Examine the difference between the Australian imagery (tin roofs, withered trees, roos) and the British (meadows, driving rain, brambles), and how Wakefield might have wanted to make a version of the poem for Australia.


Extension: Select relevant sections of the NSW Education Department’s Word document A Framework for Responding to Poetry for students to complete.