There have been songs, poems and stories written about train travel and railroads since they became a viable mode of transporting freight and people across fast stretches of land throughout the world. Some of the most breathtaking scenery can be viewed from the rails. I have fond memories of trains since I used to be a locomotive engineer in my previous life. So, I caught myself singing this 1972 Arlo Guthrie hit that I would like to share with you. If you so desire, I recommend listening to him sing it, as it is very pleasant. It was composed by Steve Goodman, a singer-songwriter in 1970 as he and his wife were riding this train to visit her grandmother, and she fell asleep. Steve witnessed all he wrote about. He produced eleven albums before he died at the age of 36 from leukemia. His songs were recorded by many famous musicians, and in 1984 Steve was posthumously awarded the Best Country song when Willie Nelson made it a #1 hit in 1984. Arlo Guthrie was also a prolific singer-songwriter, but he didn’t write this one. Arlo’s father was the legendary folk singer, Woody Guthrie.
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 of Kankakee-rolls along pasts houses, farms and fields. Passin’ trains that have no names, freight yards full of old black men, and the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.
Good morning America, how are you? 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 man 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. And mothers with their babies asleep are rockin’ to the gentle beat, and the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.
Good morning America, how are you? Don’t you know me, I’m you 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. And all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream; and the steel rails still ain’t heard the news. The conductor sings his song again, the passengers will please refrain; this train’s got the disappearing railroad blues.
Good night America, how are you? 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.