Captain Ahab's Weird Wide World: Shopping on the Line

article by Karen Wasson , illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Learning Intention:

I am learning to respond to texts so that I can write imaginatively for a specific target audience.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify the elements of a diary entry
  • I can use the text, film footage and a comparative text to generate ideas for my diary entries
  • I can write diary entries for a week on the Tea and Sugar Train

Building the Field:

To assist all students in being successful in their learning, it is essential to build field knowledge when a topic is new or unfamiliar. The following information may assist teachers and students in developing a deeper understanding of this topic.

  • View this short film from the Australian film archives, to give students further information on the Tea and Sugar Train.


  • To give depth to the students’ research, show students’ this site featuring the trans-australian railway to identify places that the Tea and Sugar Train would visit including these Locations.


Reading and Viewing/ Interpreting, analysing and evaluating:

As a class, read through the text. The teacher may like to employ a variety of strategies to ensure all students comprehend the text. To assist with differentiation, if you have a digital subscription you may like to ask certain students to listen to the audio recording of this text, which will allow you take a guided reading group to assist children who need higher levels of support to access the text.

Students may rule up a table in their workbooks to complete a list under the headings; “Who might buy the goods and services” and “Items you could buy”. Ask students to suggest the customer that may buy the goods and services.

Ask the students to read the text and write down some of the goods and services that were available on the train.

Children may like to add information to their list that they acquired from the field knowledge.

If you have a digital subscription, complete the interactive activity that uses sequencing to create a diary for the Tea and Sugar Train.


Writing and Representing/ Creating texts

Create a diary entry for the Tea and Sugar Train

Explain to the students that a diary entry is a text type based on recount that is written in the first person in a sequence of dated entries. The diary entries are short, informal and will include facts as well as opinions. As a personal recount, it will include the date, what you saw, how you felt and a short description of what happened. On the Tea and Sugar train, the diary entry will have the traits of an autobiography, biography and travel literature.

Using your research from the text, film and location sites, ask students to create a week of diary entries for the Tea and Sugar Train. Ask students to first choose a character that they will write from the point of view in the diary.

Suggestions could include:

  • The train driver
  • A ticket collector that rides along on the train
  • A nurse that may be travelling for the week, providing medical service
  • A butcher who may be operating the butchery carriage for the week
  • A child travelling to the city with their mother or father

As a class, ask students to discuss ideas to add to this list.

Creating a diary entry for the Tea and Sugar Train

Remind students that a diary entry is a text type based on recount that is written in the first person in a sequence of dated entries.

Students need to first decide on their character who is “writing” the diary.

A sample framework below includes the prompts:


What day is it?

What happened?

What did you see?

How did you feel?

The students can follow the journey and list the departure town of Port Augusta, South Australia and the destination at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.


Remind the students of these key points in a diary entry;

  • Include a date for each entry
  • Explain that the past tense is being used (for example went, had, visited)
  • The diary is written in the first person using words such as (I, my, we)
  • Write from the point of view of the character you have chosen
  • Include the thoughts, feelings and opinions of your character
  • The writing style will be informal as though they are telling you what happened in a spoken recount.