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Freight Train.  Jack Delano took this photograph of a Santa Fe freight train near Chicago sometime before 1944.  Click to see a high resolution version.
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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm) ,
Big Indoor Trains(tm), and Creek Don't Rise(tm)

Freight Train, a Classic Train Song from Family Garden TrainsTM

Elizabeth Cotton grew up with her brothers alongside a rail yard. They played near the tracks and knew the fireman, the brakeman, and the conductor for one of the daily routes. They also played music together, and this is a song she wrote when she was about twelve. It is still under copyright (1957), so I can't post the tune, but here is one version of the lyrics, based on Mike Seeger's liner notes for the album Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes.

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    Freight train, Freight train, run so fast
    Freight train, Freight train, run so fast
    Please don't tell what train I'm on;
    They won't know what route I've gone;

    When I am dead and in my grave
    No more good times here I crave.
    Place the stones at my head and feet
    Tell them all that I've gone to sleep.

    When I die, Lorde, bury me deep
    Way down on old Chestnut street.
    Then I can hear old Number 9
    As she comes rolling by.

MP3 clips from Amazon

    Freight Train - Elizabeth Cotton
    - the original artist.
    Click to here a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on
    Freight Train - Joan Baez
    - a live concert version, very pretty
    Click to here a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on
    Freight Train - Peter, Paul, and Mary
    - their 1963 cover with all of their great harmonies and picking.
    Click to here a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on
    Freight Train - Chet Atkins
    - An early recording with electric guitar.
    Click to here a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on

More Sound Clips of This Song

Unfortunately this song isn't as well known as many others. And sadly the name "Freight Train" brings up bad movies, and lots of other stuff you may not want to wade through. Still, if you want to browse more clips for yourself, please click the following link:

You-Tube Videos of This Song

When I started these pages, I was embedding videos so you could just click and watch without leaving our pages. But whenever a user who has posted a lot of videos has been kicked off of You-Tube for whatever reason, all of the videos he or she posted are taken down at the same time. And that happened to a couple folks who really liked train videos, so suddenly all the links I had broke, leaving big black squares where they used to be. So now, I'm just posting links that I like that are online this week, and if they go away next week, that's sad, but doesn't make my pages look like vacant storefronts or something.

Some You-Tube links I like as of this writing are below:

  • Elizabeth Cotton - her voice isn't as strong as it used to be, but she can still pick in this video.

  • Pete Seeger in concert, using his 12-string.

  • Mike Seeger telling about his experience meeting Elizabeth Cotton, then plays the song in a singalong at a concert.

  • Nancy Whiskey and the Charles McDevvitt Skiffle Group - Skiffle was the UK parallel to the US Folk Revival movement, incorporating washboards and other aspects of traditional UK street performers (the kind parodied in the "Supercalifragilistic" part of Disney's Mary Poppins). If that sounds like a weird mashup, you may find this version a little disturbing. But keep in mind that George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon's first group was a skiffle band and George used to play the washboard until his fingers bled.

  • Joan Baez' live version; unfortunatly it shows only a still photo.

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Paul Race playing a banjo. Click to go to Paul's music home page.Whatever else you get out of our pages, I hope you enjoy your music and figure out how to make enjoyable music for those around you as well.

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