Collection Inspiration: Trains

Posted on 5/21/2024

National Train Day is in May, so PMG is showcasing some banknotes depicting the locomotives and railways that have helped keep the world moving.

Once upon a time, trains were the world’s leading mode of transportation, both for passengers and for cargo. Though motor vehicles and airplanes have since become more common, trains still play a key role in getting people and goods where they need to go, while the history of train travel is celebrated and romanticized across the globe. With National Train Day marked annually on the Saturday closest to May 10, this month’s Collection Inspiration focuses on the trains and railways that are featured on banknotes around the world.

Ten Notes Featuring Trains

Great Britain 1990 5 Pounds

George and Robert Stephenson debuted their Rocket locomotive to the public in October 1829 during a competition to prove that steam locomotives were the best transportation choice for a developing railway. Rocket was the only locomotive to complete the trials. While not the first steam engine locomotive developed, the advanced technology of Rocket made it the template for future steam engine locomotives for the next 150 years. The Great Britain 1990 £5 note pictured here depicts George Stephenson — the father of rail transportation — and Rocket.

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Mississippi, Brandon 1837-38 $100

Prior to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, private banks and states often issued their own notes as currency. Along with state-issued currency, railroads also issued their own notes to be used as payment for the rail line’s services. This Mississippi, Brandon 1838 $100 note is an example of the currency once issued by the Mississippi & Alabama Railroad Company in the pre-Civil War era. It shows an early locomotive design at a time when railways in the United States were in their infancy.

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Spain 1884 50 Pesetas

Steam engine trains were invented in the United Kingdom in the early 1800s, but they didn’t reach Spain until 1848, when the first railway line was established in the Iberian Peninsula with a line that ran between Barcelona and Mataró. More lines were built throughout the 1800s and 1900s — many were used for coal and material transportation, but others were used for passenger transportation. A train is depicted on this Spain 1884 50 Pesetas note. The last steam-powered locomotive in Spain was retired in 1975 in favor of electric locomotives and high-speed transportation.

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Costa Rica 1901-1908 10 Colones

The first steam locomotive to run in Costa Rica was the Maria Cecilia, built in Pennsylvania and named after the granddaughter of former President Rafael Iglesias. It began running along the Pacific Railway in 1898 and was responsible for pulling both passenger cars and freight cars. This Costa Rica 1901-1908 10 Colones note depicts a steam locomotive — possibly the Maria Cecilia — pulling passenger cars behind it.

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China 1953 5,000 Yuan

China is one of the last countries still using steam locomotives on its railways. Though their commercial use ended in January 2024, there is still one steam passenger train running in Jiayang as a tourist attraction. This steam passenger train is in Qianwei County, Leshan City, Sichuan Province and acts as a sightseeing attraction.

Steam locomotives began running in China in 1876, making China one of the only countries to continuously manufacture and use steam trains for over a century. The back of this China 1953 5,000 Yuan captures steam locomotives in their prime in China.

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Fiji 1988-1995 2 Dollars

Unlike other trains that often transport coal or passengers, Fiji developed a special set of trains that exclusively transport sugar cane. The railways were designed to transfer cut sugar cane from the fields to a crushing mill. The cane train on this Fiji 1988-1995 2 Dollar note depicts one of these harvests, with field workers loading the sugar cane into the train for transport.

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Mexico 2010 100 Pesos Commemorative Note

The Centenario de la Revolución Mexicana was an event held in 2010 to celebrate 100 years passing since the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Trains served as an invaluable method of transportation during the Mexican Revolution. The steam engine shown with fighters on this Mexico 2010 Commemorative 100 Pesos was built shortly before the Mexican Revolution and is preserved today.

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Mauritania 2011 5,000 Ouguiya

This Mauritania 2011 5,000 Ouguiya note depicts an ore train on the Mauritania Railway, the western African country’s national railway. The railway opened in 1963 and serves as a connection between the iron mining center of Zouérat with the port of Nouadhibou. Interestingly, the Mauritania Railway is unique in its use of Soviet couplers, which is extremely uncommon in countries that were not formerly part of the Soviet Union.

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Canada 2013 10 Dollars

The Canadian is a transcontinental train that began servicing Montreal and Vancouver in April 1955. The railway train is credited with streamlining passenger service and the VIA network map by providing a singular route between Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Though it had several competitors over the years, the Canadian is now Canada’s sole transcontinental service. It is depicted on this Canada 2013 10 Dollars note.

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Bangladesh 2022 50 Taka Commemorative Note

This Bangladesh 2022 50 Taka Commemorative note depicts the Dhaka Metro Rail on both sides. The front specifically portrays Line 6 of the railway. It was Bangladesh’s first rapid transit line, which has been in service since 2022 and has 16 stations between Uttara North and Motijheel. Meanwhile, the back of the note shows a close-up of the track and the high-speed train, along with the Bangladesh Bank logo in the top-right corner.

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If these banknotes featuring trains inspire you, check out our other Collection Inspiration columns for more collecting ideas, including ones on ships, vintage planes and modern planes. Also, be sure to follow PMG on Facebook, on Instagram and on Twitter for other articles and interesting notes posted daily.

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