Because the impact of railroads had been an important part of life,
there are many songs related to trains.  And because today's life rarely involves locomotives,
especially travelling by railroads, there is a need to keep railroad significance in the minds
of our society, especially our youth.

Here are some tunes you may enjoy hearing:

Orange Blossom Special

The Orange Blossom Special was a luxury train that rolled down the Florida tracks from 1926 until 1953.

Even though the train is no longer in service, the name is familiar to almost everyone who loves country music.
 
 

Orange Blossom Special (by Flatt & Scruggs)












 



Orange Blossom Special (sung by Johnny Cash)
      Look a-yonder comin'
Comin' down that railroad track.
Hey, look a-yonder comin'
Comin' down that railroad track.
It's the Orange Blossom Special
Bringin' my baby back!

Well, I'm going down to Florida
And get some sand in my shoes
Or maybe Californy
And get some sand in my shoes.
I'll ride that Orange Blossom Special
And lose these New York blues.

Say man, when you going back to Florida?
I don't know, don't reckon I ever will."
Ain't you worried about getting your
nourishment in New York?
Well, I don't care if I 
do-die-do-die-do-die-do-die.

Hey talk about a-ramblin'
She's the fastest train on the line!
Talk about a-travellin'
She's the fastest train on the line!
It's that Orange Blossom Special
Rollin' down the seaboard line.

 High Iron in the Hills Steam Locomotive 1309   (Baldwin No. 1309 Steam Locomotive Tribute) by Altar Billies

     Constructed in 1949 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Chesapeake & Ohio Railway steam locomotive No. 1309 was built to handle the railroad’s heaviest coal trains throughout Kentucky and West Virginia until it was retired in 1956.

Sixty four years later, No. 1309 underwent a meticulous and extensive restoration to service.   The locomotive has become an outstanding tourist attraction operating trains between Cumberland and Frostburg, Maryland, and the largest operating steam locomotive of its type in the world.  Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (a 501(c) 3 not for profit organization that has a focus on heritage railroading through restoration, education, and experience), has been providing excursions of all kinds for over 30 years in the heart of Mountain Maryland.
 

Hobo Heaven sung by Boxcar Willie - - >
Hobo Heaven
Me and Jimmie Rodgers
Me and Jimmie Rodgers by Tom T. Hall


The City of New Orleans
Arlo Guthrie sings The City of New Orleans

The City of New Orleans sung by Arlo Guthrie

     The City of New Orleans is an Amtrak passenger train which operates on an overnight schedule between Chicago and New Orleans.   The train is a successor to the Illinois Central Railroad's Panama Limited.
 The original City of New Orleans began in 1947 as part of the Illinois Central Railroad, and was the longest daylight run in the United States.   The daylight train under that name ran through 1971, when it was moved to an overnight schedule as the Panama Limited.   The present name was brought back in 1981, still on an overnight schedule. The Highwaymen sing The City of New Orleans

The Highwaymen sing
The City of New Orleans

The train operates along a route that has been served in one form or another for over a century.   The Panama Limited originally ran from 1911 to 1971, though the Illinois Central ran Chicago-New Orleans trains since the turn of the century.

The City of New Orleans

Riding on the City of New Orleans
Illinois Central Monday morning rail

Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields
Passin' trains that have no name

Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles
Good morning America how are you?
Say, don't you know me? I'm your native son
I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car
Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor
And the sons of pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel
Mothers with their babes asleep
Are rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel

Good morning America how are you?
Say, don't you know me? I'm your native son
I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Nighttime on the City of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee
Half way home, we'll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea
But all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rail still ain't heard the news
The conductor sings his songs again
The passengers will please refrain
This train got the disappearing railroad blues

Good night, America, how are you?
Say, don't you know me? I'm your native son
I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Willie Nelson sings The City of New Orleans

The original version of Willie Nelson singing
The City of New Orleans

Willie Nelson & Sheryl Crow sing The City of New Orleans

Willie Nelson & Sheryl Crow sing
The City of New Orleans


Engine Engine Number 9 Roger Miller sings Engine Engine Number 9  (Sung by Roger Miller)

Engine, engine number nine,
Coming down the railroad line.
How much farther back did she get off?
Old brown suitcase that she carried,
I've looked for it everywhere.
It just ain't here among the rest,
And I'm a little upset, yes tell me.

Engine, engine number nine,
Coming down the railroad line.
I know she got on in Baltimore.
A hundred and ten miles ain't much distance,
But it sure do make a difference!
I don't think she loves me anymore.

I warned her of the dangers.
Don't speak to strangers!
If by chance she find new romance,
Warmer lips to kiss her,
Arms to hold her tighter,
Stirring new fires inside her.
How I wish that it was me instead!
He stands beside her.

Engine, engine number nine,
Coming down the railroad line.
I know she got on in Baltimore.
A hundred and ten miles ain't much distance,
But it sure do make a difference!
I don't think she loves me anymore.

No, I don't think she loves me anymore . . .


Wabash Cannon Ball

      The Wabash Cannon Ball was a passenger train on the Wabash Railroad that ran from 1950 to 1971. The train was named after the song "Wabash Cannonball". It was the second train to bear the name "Cannon Ball"; the first was the fast express Cannon Ball, which ran in the late 1800s to the early 20th century.

There had been several Wabash Cannon Ball trains traveling throughout the middle and western United States from as early as the 1880s.   The first Cannon Ball express train traveled from Chicago, Illinois, southwest to El Paso, Texas.   This express train traveled throughout the western part of the Midwest and the eastern part of the southwestern United States.   In addition to traveling on the Wabash Railroad, it also traveled on the "Great Rock Island Route" in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s.

Johnny Cash sings Wabash Cannon Ball

Wabash Cannonball

Wabash Cannonball

From the great Atlantic Ocean to the wide Pacific shore,
She climbs a flowery mountain other the hills and by the shore.
She's mighty tall and handsome she's known quite well by all.
She's a regular combination on the Wabash Cannonball.

Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar,
As she glides along the woodland o'er the hills and by the shore.
Hear the mighty rush of the engine, hear those lonesome hoboes call,
Traveling through the jungle on the Wabash Cannonball.

Well, she came down from Birmingham one cold December day.
As she pulled into the station you could hear all the people say,
She's from Tennessee she's long and she's tall.
She came down from Birmingham on the Wabash Cannonball.

Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar,
As she glides along the woodland o'er the hills and by the shore.
Hear the mighty rush of the engine, hear those lonesome hoboes call,
Traveling through the jungle on the Wabash Cannonball.

Here's to daddy Claxton may his name forever stand,
And always be remembered in the courts throughout the land.
His earthly race is over and the curtains round him fall.
We'll carry him home to Dixie on the Wabash Cannonball.

Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar,
As she glides along the woodland o'er the hills and by the shore.
Hear the mighty rush of the engine, hear those lonesome hoboes call,
Traveling through the jungle on the Wabash Cannonball.
 


Freight Train Boogie

Casey Jones, he was a mighty man,
But now he's resting in the promised land.
The only kind of music he could understand
Was a big eight wheeler under his command.

He made the freight train boogie
All the time.
He made the freight train boogie
As he rolled down the line.

When that fireman started ringing the bell,
Everybody on the line could tell
Casey Jones was a coming to town,
On a big eight wheeler that was burning 'em down.

He made the freight train boogie
All the time.
He made the freight train boogie
As he rolled down the line.

He'd wake up the people all along the line.
Oh Lord, how the man made the whistle whine!
He said to his fireman, better hold your feet
I'm gonna make this driver do the boogie beat!

He made the freight train boogie
All the time.
He made the freight train boogie
As he rolled down the line.

Roll it, Casey!

He made the freight train boogie
All the time.
He made the freight train boogie
As he rolled down the line.
 

Freight Train Boogie

Freight Train Boogie
sung by Doc and Merle Watson


Waiting for the A Train

All around the water tank, waiting for a train
A thousand miles away from home, sleeping in the rain.
I walked up to a brakeman to give him a line of talk.
He said "If you got money, I'll see that you don't walk.
I haven't got a nickel, not a penny can I show.
"Get off! Get off, you railroad bum!" and he slammed the boxcar door.

He put me off in Texas, a state I dearly love.
The wide open spaces all around me, the moon and the stars up above.
Nobody seems to want me, or lend me a helping hand.
I'm on my way from Frisco, going back to Dixieland.
Tho' my pocket book is empty and my heart is full of pain.
I'm a thousand miles away from home, waiting for a train.
 

Waiting for the A Train

"Waiting for
the A Train"
by
Jimmie Rodgers

This song is for truckers or train engineers - East Bound and Down -
East Bound and Down
Hey Porter!

Hey, Porter.   Hey, Porter!
Would you tell me the time?
How much longer will it be
'Til we cross that Mason Dixon line?
At daylight will you tell that engineer to slow it down:
Or better still just stop the train
'Cause I want to look around.

Hey, Porter!   Hey, Porter!
What time did you say?
How much longer will it be
'Til I can see the light of day?
When we hit Dixie wll you tell that engineer to ring his bell;
And ask everybody that ain't asleep to stand right up and yell.

Hey, Porter!  Hey, Porter!
It's getting light outside,
This old train is puffin' smoke and I have to strain my eyes.
But ask that engineer if he will blow his whistle please,
'Cause I smell frost on cotton leaves,
And feel that Southern breeze.

Hey, Porter!  Hey, Porter!
Please get my bags for me,
I need nobody to tell me now that we're in Tennessee.
Go tell that engineer to make that lonesome whistle scream.
We're not to far from home so take it easy on the steam. 

Hey, Porter!  Hey, Porter!
Please open up my door.
When they stop this train I'm gonna get off first,
'Cause I can't wait no more.
Tell that engineer I say, "Thanks a lot, I didn't mind the fare.
I'm gonna set my feet on Southern soil
And breathe that Southern air."
 

Hey Porter!
Sung by
Johnny Cash

The Transcontinental Railroad

     Congress began to discuss building a railroad connecting the east and west coasts in the mid-18th century.  Surveys from 1853 to 1855 reported on the terrain and local wildlife to help determine the route, which would later be chosen to follow part of the Oregon Trail.  Still, congress couldn’t decide whether the line should start in a northern or southern city.  In the end, they chose Council Bluffs, Iowa.

When the southern states started seceding in 1861, political deadlock over the route disappeared and president Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862.  In addition to greenlighting the project, this also created the Union Pacific Railroad Company in the midwest and the Central Pacific Railroad Company out west to build the railroad.  These companies would receive $48,000 in government bonds for every mile of track built, and so were set in competition with each other.  The Central Pacific Railroad Company was the first to break ground in January 1863, hiring Chinese immigrants to build the line.

      The Union Pacific Railroad Company didn’t start work until 1865 due to the Civil War, and when it did get started it employed many former soldiers discharged from both armies, as well as recent Irish immigrants.  In 1869 the two companies met at Promontory Summit in Utah.  The 1,912-mile feat had finished, and the journey time from New York to San Francisco dropped from months to days.  Today there are still sections of the railroad in use while others have been long since destroyed.

In total, the project cost a whopping $64.4 million, the equivalent of $1.3 billion today. 

Runaway Trains    By Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Runaway Trains

Call you up in the middle of the night,
Like a fire fly without a light,
You were there like a blow torch burnin',
I was a key that could use a little turnin'

So tired that I couldn't even sleep,
So many secrets I couldn't keep,
Promised myself I wouldn't weep,
One more promise I couldn't keep.

It seems no one can help me now,
I'm in too deep there's no way out,
This time I have really let myself pull stray.

Runaway train never goin' back,
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere,
Somehow I'm neither here nor there.

Can you help me remember how to smile,
Make it somehow all seem worth while,
How on earth did I get so jaded,
Last mystery seemed so naked.

I can go where no one else can go,
I know what no one else has known,
Here I am just a drowning in the brain,
With a ticket for a runaway train.

 Everything seems judded inside,
Day and night earth and sky,
Somehow I just don't believe it.

Runaway train never goin' back,
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere,
Somehow I'm neither here nor there.

Want a ticket for a runaway train?,
Like a madman laughin' at the rain,
A little out of touch little in the brain,
Its just easier to deal with the pain.

Runaway train never goin' back,
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere,
Somehow I'm neither here nor there.

Runaway train never comin' back,
Runaway train tearin' up the track,
Runaway train burnin' in my veins,
Run away but it always seems the same.






 


Streamliners

Long ago, there was a day.
When it looked like the rails would die away,
Other machines would go farther and faster,
The steamer trains were heading for disaster!
But then with steel in their vains,
About to save the railway trains!
They worked day and night,
When they were done,
A new era had just begun!

PEOPLE STARED, IN ALL IN WONDER!
THEY WERE FAST AND SLEEK!
AND FULL OF THUNDER!
THEY FOLLOWED THE PATH,
OF SMOKE AND FIRE!
THEY WERE CALLED,
THEY WERE CALLED,
STREAMLINERS!

When it looked like the rails would not survive!
Like a phoenix rising, they came alive.
Heading down that railway line,
Was a engine made for a future time,
The Hudston, Daylight,
(.............)
Standing proud,
Better than ever!
Flying by like the western wind,
A new railroad has punctured in!

Chorus

Music and talking is heard.

Long ago, there was a day.
When it looked like the rails would die away,
Other machines would go farther and faster,
The steamer trains were heading for disaster!
But then with steel in their vains,
About to save the railway trains!
They worked day and night,
When they were done,
A new era had just begun!

Chorus

Streamliners < - - - - Streamliners
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


Ghosts of the Rails
(New York Central)

New York Special

Ghosts Of The Rails (New York Central)
by James B. Coffey

With names that would be timeless, they were built sleek and fast.
Streamlined for the future and fuelled by the past,
They were tall as iron giants, cloaked in their steel shrouds,
Like chariots from the future arriving on misty clouds!

New York Central
Rail and machine, fire, smoke and steam.
New York Central,
Ghosts of the Rails.

From New York to Chicago travellin’ along the rails,
You could smell the history in the air with each breath that you’d inhale.
Like a noble knight of olden days, with his armour and his shield
And 400,000 pounds of iron, chrome and steel!

New York Central
Rail and machine, fire, smoke and steam.
New York Central,
Ghosts of the Rails.

With miles of cars behind them, faster than ever before,
The 20th Century Limited and the Majestic Commodore.
I remember the Mighty Mercury like it was yesterday,
The train of tomorrow dressed in gleaming gray!

New York Central
Rail and machine, fire, smoke and steam.
New York Central,
Ghosts of the Rails.
 


Big Mama

     The 20 Ton Big Mama locomotive is a large locomotive that is used to haul large loads over longer distances.   The locomotive is available with a range of options to meet most haulage needs.  The 20T can also be used like all Goodman Locomotives in a “combination” configuration where 2 locomotives on either end of a large train can be operated from either locomotive.

Roll On Big Mama    Roll on Big Mama by Joe Stampley

Roll on, (roll on) big mama,
I like the way you sing,
Roll on (roll on) big mama,
The night time lets her breathe,
Well, the feel of the wheel delivers me
From a life where I don't wanna be and the diesel smoke
With every stroke sings a song with a heavy note.

And rambling is the life I chose,
Sitting here between the doors,
And the yellow line a keeping time,
The things that's a running through my mind,
Through my mind.

Roll on (roll on) big mama,
I like the way you roll
Roll on (roll on) big mama,
You are my very soul.

On through the snow and the driving rain,
To the forty-below in Bangor Maine,
To the hundred-and-ten in the Texas sun,
There ain't no road that we ain't run,
Up through the Colorado mountain tops,
Down to the desert where Reno stops,
North to the green of Coeur D' Alene
There ain't no road that we ain't seen
We ain't seen.
Roll on (roll on) big mama,
You're singing out my song,
Roll on (roll on) big mama,
The highway is our home,
Roll on(roll on) big mama,

Hey anybody got a copy on this silver roadhog?
What's the smokey situation down the way, boys?
My they're fine, I'm a coming I'm a coming.
 


My baby thinks he's a train
   My baby thinks he's a train! sung by Rosanne Cash
              Union Pacific Big Boy
     Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941.  The locomotives were 132 feet long and weighed 1.2 million pounds.   Because of their great length, the frames of the Big Boys were "hinged," or articulated, to allow them to negotiate curves.  They had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, which meant they had four wheels on the leading set of "pilot" wheels which guided the engine, eight drivers, another set of eight drivers, and four wheels following which supported the rear of the locomotive.  The massive engines normally operated between Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyo.

There are seven Big Boys on public display in various cities around the country.   They can be found in St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941.   The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service.   Union Pacific reacquired No. 4014 from the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California, in 2013, and relocated it back to Cheyenne to begin a multi-year restoration process.   It returned to service in May 2019 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad's Completion.

Tender Type: 14-wheeled
Water Capacity: 25,000 gallons
Fuel: Coal, 56,000 lbs. - Today: #5 oil
Gauge of Track: 4 ft. 8-1/2 in.
Cylinder: Diameter: 23 3/4 in.
Stroke: 32 inches
Driving Wheel Diameter: 68 inches
Boiler: Outside Diameter: 106 9/16 inches
Pressure: 300 lbs.
Fire Box: Length: 235 1/32 inches - Width: 96 3/16 inches
Tubes: 2-1/4 in. Diameter: 75 x 22 ft. 0 inches - 4 in. Diameter: 184
Wheel Base: Driving: 47 ft. 3 in.
Engine: 72 ft. 5 1/2 inches
Engine & Tender: 132 ft. 9 7/8 inches
Weight in Working Order,
Pounds: Leading:   97,000
Driving:    540,000
Trailing:   125,000
Engine:    762,000
Tender:    427,500
Evaporating Surfaces,
Square Feet: Tubes: 967
Flues: 4,218
Fire Box: 593
Circulators: 111
Total: 5,889

Maximum Tractive Power: 135,375 lbs.

Roll on Big Boy performed by Nebraska 66
Roll On Big Boy

Big Boy

A legend from the past, is born again at last.
To rumble over mountains and the plains.
From the golden age of steam, An engine sails unseen.
By those who never lived and backed on days.

Big Boy was her name and went on the railroad fame.
As the largest engine known on the U.P. line.
The last of all her class, she survived throughout the past.
To show the power of steam in modern times.

Roll On, Big Boy.
Roll On, Big Boy.
Rumblin' across the Northern Plains.

Roll On, Big Boy.
Roll On, Big Boy.
Climbin' up the Wasatch Mountain Range.

In 1959, they took her off the line.
And wrote her off as progress for the time.
No dry eye could be found.   And Jungles over in towns.
Where one Big Boy had rolled within her prime.
From the junkyards of the past, Forty-Fourteen is the last.
To carry on the legacy of steam.
At four, eight, eight and four, and a part of railroad lore;
She roars from out the past like some lost dream.

Roll On, Big Boy.
Roll On, Big Boy.
Rumblin' across the Northern Plains.

Roll On, Big Boy.
Roll On, Big Boy.
Climbin' up the Wasatch Mountain Range.


 


Folsom Prison Blues

I hear the train a-comin';  It's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when,
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison and time keeps draggin' on.
But that train keeps a-rollin'
On down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, son.
Always be a good boy; Don't ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowin'
I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folks eatin' in a fancy dining car.
They're prob'ly drinkin' coffee and smokin' big cigars,
well, I know I had it comin',  I know I can't be free,
but those people keep a-movin',
and that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison, 
if that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move it on over a little farther down the line,
far from Folsom Prison, that's where I want to stay,
and I'd let that lonesome whistle
blow my blues away!

Folsom Prison Blues    Johnny Cash                               same song ---->
Johnny Cash and the Highwaymen   sung along with the Highwaymen



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