Railroad Songs

Discussion related to railroads/trains that show up in TV shows, commercials, movies, literature (books, poems and more), songs, the Internet, and more... Also includes discussion of well-known figures in the railroad industry or the rail enthusiast hobby.

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Railroad Songs

Postby Aa3rt » Fri Jul 09, 2004 11:16 am

This topic has been discussed in a couple of other forums, but I thought I'd bring it up here...

About a month ago a gentleman sent me a message giving his website and a song he'd written titled "Railroad Waltz". The website is:

http://www.stlsongwriter.com/

You can follow the link and listen to it yourself.

How about the rest of you folks? My musical tastes are more along country/rock/folk and bluegrass lines. Check out the link, let's hear what you think and what are your favorite train songs?

You can find a BIG list of train songs/artists at:

http://www.spikesys.com/Trains/songs.html
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Postby theShrubber » Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:04 pm

A railroad song question:

There is a song called "Rock Island Line," which can be found on the CD "A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings," and also on the soundtrack for the movie "The General's Daughter" (renamed "Mighty Good Road").

The question: Is the Rock Island here related to Rock Island, Illinois, or is it some other Rock Island?

Thanks.

- Roger
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Postby Aa3rt » Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:51 pm

Roger-the Rock Island Railroad (officially the "Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific") was originally chartered in 1847 as the Rock Island and La Salle to connect the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Funding was not forthcoming as investors were sceptical of a railroad that was formed simply to join two waterways.

In 1851 the railroad was reorganized as the Chicago and Rock Island.

If you'll scroll down in the forums to "Fallen Flags" you will find a forum dedicated to the C, RI&P and some posters whose knowledge of the Rock Island is much better than mine.

Here's a link to the Rock Island Technical Society website, and a link to a brief corporate history of the railroad:

http://www.simpson.edu/~RITS/

http://www.simpson.edu/~RITS/histories/RIHistory.html

And, YES, that is Rock Island, Illinois that is referred to in the song.
Last edited by Aa3rt on Thu Feb 24, 2005 10:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby scannergeek » Sat Nov 13, 2004 5:28 pm

My favorite:

All aboooooooooooard Amtrak!

:P
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Postby Metalrailz » Thu Feb 17, 2005 12:41 am

My all time favorite is "City of New Orleans"

Art maybe you can help with this one, there is a folk song out there and the story is told of a runaway train smashing into a coal mine. One line from the chorus is"Blood on the Coal" Does this ring a bell?
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Roy Acuff & Boxcar Willie...

Postby Komachi » Thu Feb 17, 2005 4:11 am

You know, I'm probably one of a handfull of people of my generation (I'm 28) who can sing Roy Acuff's "Wabash Canonball" (and I used to know "Freight Train Blues," but it's a little rusty at the moment). Another favorite of mine is Boxcar Willie's "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," which is a song about a hobo who panhandles at a station. I play it at work every now and then (I'm a DJ at a country radio station).

And speaking of the Canonball, I just had a job interview for an assistant English teaching position in Japan this past Monday (2/14/05). I had heard from a couple of people who had done the job in the past that the selection committee sometimes had the interviewees stand up and sing (to show that you are not uncomfortable doing things in front of other people), so I narrowed my choices down to "The Girl From Iponema" and "The Wabash Canonball." Both are easy to sing, however, I wasn't asked to do so... but I probably would have let loose with "From the great Atlantic Ocean, to the wide Pacific shore..."
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Postby Aa3rt » Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:07 pm

Metalrailz wrote:Art maybe you can help with this one, there is a folk song out there and the story is told of a runaway train smashing into a coal mine. One line from the chorus is"Blood on the Coal" Does this ring a bell?


Metalrailz-I hadn't heard of this song before but your query prompted me to type this phrase in a Google search. "Blood on the Coal" was a song performed in the movie "A Mighty Wind". If you're not familiar with it, "A Mighty Wind" is a spoof on the folk groups reunions that were so popular on PBS a couple of years ago. Performed by "The Folksmen", this group was a parody of the Kingston Trio that was popular in the late 1950's/early to mid 1960's. The song itself is not a genuine railroad disaster ballad but a bit of "fakelore", a recently written song passing itself as folklore. But, I'd thought I'd like to see this movie and now that I have a DVD player I'll rent it, thanks to your reminder.

If you're truly interested you can find the lyrics at:

http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/amightywind/bloodonthecoal.htm

A definitive book on genuine railroad disaster ballads is Scalded to Death by the Steam, subtitled "Authentic stories about railroad disasters and the ballads that were written about them" by Katie Letcher Lyle. Copyright 1983 & 1988 and published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (NC), Ms. Lyle has extensively researched the wrecks, providing both photographs of period railroading and histories of the wrecks that spawned the songs. There are 17 different songs, with words and lyrics provided.

Probably the two most recognizable numbers are "The Wreck of Old 97" and "The Wreck on the C&O" also known as "The FFV". Most of the wrecks covered are from the Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee & West Virginia area with one from Pennsylvania thrown in for good measure.

I don't know if this is because Ms. Lyle based her research here or if the Scotch/Irish who settled in these regions, and who are credited with spawning country/bluegrass (AKA "hillbilly") music were more prolific songwriters at the turn of the last century than others.

A worthwhile volume if you're interested in the subject and with enough trainwreck photos to delight Gomez Addams.
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Postby Guest » Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:19 pm

"Fast Freight" from the first Kingston Trio album circa 1958.
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Postby sjl » Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:37 pm

this seems a good place to mention Gordon Lightfoot. Although many of his popular songs are ballads or are about the sea, he has numerous railroad songs to his credit, the best known of which may be "Canadioan Railroad Trilogy".
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Postby Metalrailz » Tue Feb 22, 2005 10:08 pm

Performed by "The Folksmen", this group was a parody of the Kingston Trio that was popular in the late 1950's/early to mid 1960's. The song itself is not a genuine railroad disaster ballad but a bit of "fakelore", a recently written song passing itself as folklore. But, I'd thought I'd like to see this movie and now that I have a DVD player I'll rent it, thanks to your reminder.


Thanks Art :-D

Have you looked into NETFLIX for renting your DVD's?
Blockbuster is being investigated by the NJ attorney general. Supposedly the new rental promotion "The end of late fees" is coming under alot of scrutiny for misleading customers.
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railraod songs

Postby bill haithcoat » Thu Feb 24, 2005 1:23 pm

The "Wreck of old 97" was referred to above.

My mother used to sing that song to me.

And of course it involved a real life mail train wreck between between Lynchburg and Danville, Va., where the Amtrak Crescent travels to this day.

One thing which could easily be over looked is this: in the song there is a line which says "....it was not 38, but it was old '97....."


That reference to "38" was the old numbers of the Crescent, pre-Amtrak. It was number 37-38 in those days.

Thus, the song is not as completely out ov of all our generations as one might at first think.
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Postby LI Loco » Fri Feb 25, 2005 3:37 pm

Just prior to being taken over by New York State, the Long Island Rail Road did some TV advertising with this jingle:

[Anncr.] Travel easy on the Long Island Rail Road, where...

[Jingle] We have mid-day trains for ladies
Commuter trains for Dans
Weedend train for families
Money saving plans.

We have racetrack trains for gamblers
party trains for teens
More darn trains of every kind
than you have ever seen

We have tours to Sag and Montauk
Mystic and Jones Beach,
Road and Rail in Suffolk
Every bus a peach.

We have bar-type cars for thirsties
Parlor cars galore
Boxy cars for boxes
and many, many more.

We have air conditioned beauties
recently arrived,
Rugged riding oldies
that shouldn't be alive.

We do our best to run them
Clean and swift and true.
You can bet your drivers license
We've got a train for you.

On the Long Island Rail Road...all aboard
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Postby BR&P » Fri Feb 25, 2005 11:32 pm

For those interested in railroads in song, get the book "Long Steel Rail, The Railroad In American Folksong" by Norm Cohen. University of Illinois, 1981. This is a 700+ page book which covers the songs, the artists, has lyrics, the music itself, and extensive cross-referencing. It goes into extensive detail on each song's origin, variations, recordings, etc. All you ever wanted to know, and then some!
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railroad songs

Postby bill haithcoat » Mon Feb 28, 2005 1:17 pm

Does anybody know the words to the song , "Pan American" by Hank Williams Jr.?
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Postby Aa3rt » Mon Feb 28, 2005 1:31 pm

Bill-I have this song on an album by "The Seldom Scene" bluegrass band but never realized until reading your post that this is a Hank Williams tune. Here's a link to the lyrics you requested:

http://www.lyricsfirst.com/lyrics/162684/Hank_Williams/Pan_American
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