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Best Railroad Songs

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Best Railroad Songs
Posted by shoot180 on Saturday, March 28, 2015 2:20 PM

Nominate your favorite rail-related songs.

I have 2 categories, I'm sure there will be others.

1) Specific Train

    City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman

2) Railroad Industry

    Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot

 

I won't post links to them as they are easily found.

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Posted by Wizlish on Sunday, March 29, 2015 10:47 AM

One of the best railroad songs NOT involving actual railroading:

Tom Rush, Panama Limited.

And a couple of good railroad-themed tone poems:

Arthur Honegger, Pacific 231

Gerry Mulligan, K4 Pacific (from 'The Age of Steam')

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Posted by MP173 on Sunday, March 29, 2015 10:50 AM

I nominate "Southern Pacific" by Neil Young.

Ed

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, March 29, 2015 2:44 PM

Baltimore & Ohio

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by D.Carleton on Sunday, March 29, 2015 3:22 PM

Driving the Last Spike, Genesis.

Editor Emeritus, This Week at Amtrak

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Posted by MikeF90 on Sunday, March 29, 2015 3:32 PM

One of the most underappreciated guitar players of any genre is the late Jerry Reed. This is the only performance of 'Wabash Cannonball' that I could find:

There are very few renditions of 'Orange Blossom Special' that appeal to me. Here is one by Seatrain, featuring the amazing Richard Greene on violin:

 

Map links ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, east of Tucson

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Posted by wanswheel on Sunday, March 29, 2015 3:33 PM
Possibly the worst train song I've heard all day
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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Sunday, March 29, 2015 4:01 PM

Harvest Train by Tamarack (1991) - most 'inside' lyric: "I curse you William C. van Horn" - who else would understand that ? 

Lyrics to Harvest Train

By the time I heard that evening train
he was gone, gone, gone
Headed for those fields of grain
in the far Saskatchewan

Oh the times they were so hard
and the fish were few
Oh, what's a Maritimer
gonna do

Oh my heart, the C.P.R. has taken
Every good man in Nova Scotia
Gone away on that Harvest Train
to the Prairie's Golden Ocean
Far from me
(Far from me)

Oh I had sensed his restlessness
ever since the autumn came
all those trains were headed west
they were calling out his name

Oh every time I heard that whistle blow
I wondered if it was his time to go
Oh my heart ...

I curse you William C. van Horn
you don't know what you've done
you've taken my man from the
place he was born
left me here with his new son

Oh the prairies always seemed
so far away before
now the railway's come and
made them close as an "All aboard!"

Oh my heart ...

- Paul North.

 

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Sunday, March 29, 2015 4:04 PM

Put me down for " you can hear the whistle blowing 500 miles by  peter,  Paul and Mary

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Posted by NKP guy on Sunday, March 29, 2015 4:44 PM

My favorite railroad song is "Fireball mail," sung by Hank Snow (or anyone else good).     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x-bK0Y-00I

Another is "City of New Orleans" as sung by Arlo Guthrie:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg8bKjXmE-s  

As a lad I loved the theme to the TV show "Casey Jones." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig3GcDBjQN4

And the classic folk song "John Henry" remains as profound a piece of music as any our country has produced.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66r3zZoO4dQ&spfreload=10

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Posted by Paul of Covington on Sunday, March 29, 2015 5:05 PM

   The railroad runs through the middle of the house...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4BYdTrkWoo

    And I've always loved Gerry Mulligan's "K4 Pacific" mentioned by Wizlish

_____________

   It may be true that hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?

ACY
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Posted by ACY on Sunday, March 29, 2015 5:23 PM

The O.P. has it right.  Nobody --- including Steve's friend Arlo --- ever sang a finer version of "City of New Orleans" than the writer, Steve Goodman.  Try to find an unaccompanied version, with just Steve and his guitar.

In deference to "City of New Orleans", I understand Gordon Lightfoot jokingly referred to his "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" as the second best railroad song ever written.  Joking or not, he was probably right.

I would also offer for your consideration any railroad song by Bruce "Utah" Phillips.  His version of "Wabash Cannonball", paired with his "Tolono" is moving. "Daddy What's a Train" is a classic.  "Starlight On The Rails", a poem with musical accompaniment, will stir your soul, and "Old Buddy Goodnight" will bring you to tears:  "There's some things worse than dyin' alone, and one of 'em's livin' that way."  Phillips was a true poet.

Tom

P.S. MikeF90, I like Seatrain's version of "Orange Blossom Special", but have you heard the version Vassar Clements did on the Will The Circle Be Unbroken album?

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Posted by dakotafred on Sunday, March 29, 2015 5:51 PM

So many. For starters:

  "Big Midnight Special," the version by Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper

  "Lonesome Whistle," by Hank Williams

  "Ben Dewberry's Final Run," by Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman

  "Streamlined Cannonball," by Roy Acuff

  "Railroad Lady," by Lefty Frizzell

  "Lonesome Joe," by Roy Acuff

  "Sunshine Special," by Roy Acuff

  "The Last Ride," by Hank Snow

  "I'm Movin' On," by Hank Snow 

  "Cherokee Fiddle," by Johnny Lee

  Yes, and "In the Baggage Coach Ahead," by Mac Wiseman!

  "The Engineer's Child," by many, from Vernon Dalhart thru Hank Snow

  "Hummingbird," by Johnnie & Jack

  "The Gambler," by Kenny Rogers

  "Waiting for a Train," by Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman

  "Life's Railway to Heaven," by many

  "The Bluegrass Express," by the Osborne Brothers

  "Wreck of the Old 97," by many

  "Night Train to Memphis," by Roy Acuff

  "Bringin' in the Georgia Mail," by Charlie Monroe and many others

  "Southern Dixie Flyer," by Marty Robbins

  "Teardrops Falling in the Snow," by Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper; also by Porter Wagoner

Thanks a lot for getting us started, Shoot180!  (I'll be kept up tonight remembering 20 more.)

 

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Posted by efftenxrfe on Sunday, March 29, 2015 7:35 PM

Dakota Fred,

My Bro, Mi Amigo,

Every one of your list's entries bears fomdness from my recollections of '40's, 50's and later.

How 'bout some from the 30's. Of course that circles the singin' brakeman, Jimmie Rogers songbook; I want to through in 2 recordings of what I think are original music.

A western oriented singing group from the depession-wracked eastern U.S. went to California maybe "riding on the rods."

2 songs came out: "Way Out There" and "One More Ride."

The railroad references are faultless, after listening if you're not there, then listen to the (really) the yodeling. 

It replicates the classic and required crossing warning whistle/horn sound.

Roy Rogers may have been in that group of the original "Son's of the Pioneers."

       

 

 

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Sunday, March 29, 2015 8:06 PM

"Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash; also "The midnight Special"

http://www.johnnycashonline.com/music/story-songs-of-the-trains-and-rivers 

http://www.thespoon.com/trainhop/songs.html 

Check out this list of 23, with commentary about each one, some with multiple artists:  

http://harpers.org/blog/2014/06/the-twenty-three-best-train-songs-ever-written-maybe/ 

- Paul North.

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by Murphy Siding on Sunday, March 29, 2015 8:29 PM

Look a yonder comin'
Comin' down that railroad track
Hey- look a ynder comin'
Comin' down that railraod track
It's the Orange Blossom Special
Bringin' my baby back...

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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Posted by matthewsaggie on Sunday, March 29, 2015 9:52 PM

Paul of Covington

   The railroad runs through the middle of the house...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4BYdTrkWoo

    And I've always loved Gerry Mulligan's "K4 Pacific" mentioned by Wizlish

 

i have not heard that song in 50 years! My daughters have always thought I made it up. Thank you for posting it.

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Posted by matthewsaggie on Sunday, March 29, 2015 9:55 PM

Let me add " The Wreck of C&O #5" sung by Pick Temple. (Those who grew up in the DC area in the 1950's will remember Pick).

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Posted by ChuckCobleigh on Sunday, March 29, 2015 9:58 PM

I'm kind of partial to Johnny Cash's first hit "Hey Porter" from the early fifties on the Sun Records label.

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Posted by wanswheel on Monday, March 30, 2015 1:35 AM
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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, March 30, 2015 10:04 AM

Paul of Covington

   The railroad runs through the middle of the house...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4BYdTrkWoo

    And I've always loved Gerry Mulligan's "K4 Pacific" mentioned by Wizlish

 

Ah, yes; I well remember this one from the late fifties. There is one line in it that raises doubts--"...and the trains are always on time."

There was a song about the Rock Island that came out in the early fifties--which declared that the eastbound train was on a westbound track and the northbound train was on a southbound track. Knowing the routes of the Rock Island, I knew such was possible.

The only lyrics I could find this morning with mention of track direction was sung by Johnny Cash (and he did not know where the road went), but there is no mention of eastbound/westbound.

Johnny

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Posted by samfp1943 on Monday, March 30, 2015 10:26 AM

A couple of favorites of mine: ".. Mystery Train..."  By Elvis from early stuff in the 1950's and then there was "...Frankfort Special..."  after he came back from Germany '60's.     The one I wish he had done was an old gospel song: "...Glory Train.." . Never heard him do more than just a few bars, but you knew what it was when he was humming it.  Cool

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by power58 on Monday, March 30, 2015 5:57 PM

Mean Old Frisco Blues , Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter

Golden Rocket Hank Snow

Railroad Bum Jim Reeves

 

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Posted by dakotafred on Monday, March 30, 2015 6:43 PM

efftenxrfe

Dakota Fred,

My Bro, Mi Amigo,

Every one of your list's entries bears fomdness from my recollections of '40's, 50's and later.

How 'bout some from the 30's. Of course that circles the singin' brakeman, Jimmie Rogers songbook; I want to through in 2 recordings of what I think are original music.

A western oriented singing group from the depession-wracked eastern U.S. went to California maybe "riding on the rods."

2 songs came out: "Way Out There" and "One More Ride."

The railroad references are faultless, after listening if you're not there, then listen to the (really) the yodeling. 

It replicates the classic and required crossing warning whistle/horn sound.

Roy Rogers may have been in that group of the original "Son's of the Pioneers."

Hi, Eff,

I detect a fellow old-time C&W fan -- and glad for the company! One of the best hobby mixes I know blends old-time C&W and railroads.

Your candidates are great ones I should have thought of myself. The Pioneers, especially Nolan and Spencer, knew their railroads AND the Old West.

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Monday, March 30, 2015 6:53 PM

Singing brakeman:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbzc77Tz6PA

 

 

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Posted by wanswheel on Monday, March 30, 2015 8:14 PM
ACY
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Posted by ACY on Monday, March 30, 2015 8:49 PM

Green Light on the Southern by Tony Rice.  One of the rare ones that seems to be accurate in the details.  Unless I missed something.

Tom

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Posted by wanswheel on Monday, March 30, 2015 8:50 PM
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Posted by Thechief66 on Monday, March 30, 2015 9:14 PM

"He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track Oh, the engineers would see him sitting in the shade Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made People passing by they would stop and say Oh my that little country boy could play...."

Johnny B Goode By Chuck Berry

In other words, the sound of a steam locomotive is rock n roll! (or vice versa!)

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Monday, March 30, 2015 9:37 PM

Mischief  Is a subway song eligible for this list ? 

"Charley on the MTA" - http://ingeb.org/songs/letmetel.html (see the notes at the bottom).  

For those who don't know it, here's the refrain:

Chorus:
"Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned." 

- Paul North. 

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)

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