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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm) ,
Big Indoor Trains(tm), and Creek Don't Rise(tm)

City of New Orleans, a Classic Train Song from Family Garden TrainsTM

This page is dedicated to the City of New Orleans, a Steve Goodman song that has become far better known than its author. Goodman was a folksinger who accompanied McGovern (a Democratic candidate in the 1972 national election) on a train trip through the American heartland. He couldn't help noting the bittersweet aspects of rail travel in a day when everyone "important" was traveling by airplane.

The City of New Orleans itself had been an Illinois Central passenger train that ran between Chicago and New Orleans. In the early and mid 20th century, it conveyed many African Americans from the deep south to Chicago.

By the time Goodman rode that train, it had already seen better days. Afterwards, Amtrak changed the schedule, the kinds of passenger cars used, and even shortened its route for a time. Goodman's song, though, caused Amtrack to treat the train with a little bit more respect, I understand.

When Goodman sang this song for Arlo Guthrie, Arlo added it to his repertoire and it became one of his biggest hits. In fact, the "for sale" MP3 version of this song below includes Arlo's explanation of how the song came to him.

Though Goodman died in 1984, the song goes on, having been recorded by Willie Nelson, John Denver, and Jimmy Buffet, to name a few.

If you have a favorite train song, or a favorite performer that I've left out, please contact me and I'll try to track him, her, or it down. Also, if you don't see the link for a particular song, hit refresh - it seems like Amazon can never populate all of the links at the same time.

A Note about Copyright - Though many of the songs on our Classic Train Songs pages are public domain, this song is still under copyright. So I can't legally publish the sheet music or provide a free recording of the song without somehow working out things with Steve Goodman's estate. However, lots of folks have the lyrics posted online, sometimes with the chords, so I'll post those and hope I'm not crossing any lines. Also, I've posted links to Arlo Guthrie's and Willie Nelson's performances of this song near the bottom of the page in case you aren't quite familiar with it and want to hear it all the way through. The chords are the ones I play when I perform this song in the key of D.

    D                       A                D
    Riding on the City of New Orleans,
    Bm                    G                         D
    Illinois Central Monday morning rail,
    D                           A                        D
    Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
                                           A                                D
    Three conductors, and twenty-five sacks of mail.
            Bm                                                     F#m 
    All along the south bound odyssey, the train pulls out of Kankakee,
    A                                                           E7
    Rolls along past houses farms and fields
    Bm                                                            F#7m
    Passing trains that have no name, and freight yards full of of old black men
                    A                              A7                      D
    And the graveyards of their rusted automobiles.

    G                             A7              D
    Good morning America, how are you?
             Bm                            G                       D
    Say, don't you know me, I'm your native son.
    A7       D                           A                  Bm      E7
    I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans
               C              G            A                        A7      D
    I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

    Dealing card games with the old men in the club car,
    Penny a point, ain't no one keeping score.
    Pass the paper bag but hold the bottle,
    Feel the wheels rumbling 'neath the floor.
    And the sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers
    Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.
    Mother with her babes asleep, rocking to the gentle beat,
    And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.

    Chorus. (As above)

    Nightime 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 dark dream,
    And the steel rail still ain't heard the news.
    The conductor sings his song 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.

MP3 clips from Amazon

    City of New Orleans - Steve Goodman
    Song by the original composer.
    City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie, Studio
    Arlo sounded so natural singing this song that it becames his biggest radio hit, and most folks still think he wrote it. For a long time this wasn't available online, and frankly, I like the live version (below) as well or better. But the one you heard on the radio is back again.
    Click to hear a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on
    City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie, Live
    With an introduction by Arlo telling how he first came across what is now a classic.
    City of New Orleans - Willie Nelson
    Willie's classic take on this favorite
    City of New Orleans - Randy Scruggs
    Randy's Nashville take on this classic song
    City of New Orleans - John Denver
    John's smooth vocals in a popular cover
    Click to hear a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on

More Great Sound Clips of This Song

Amazon has dozens more great sound clips of this song by first-tier artists. But if I try to put more than a few on this page, it won't load very well on some computers. So if you want to browse more clips for yourself, please click the following link:

You-Tube Videos of This Song

    Most of the videos I link to here get taken down within a few weeks, which makes me wonder if I'm doing something wrong. :-) Also I used to embed them on this page so you could watch them without opening a new window, but YouTube changes the way they process that and those links break as well. So now I'll just list the links I like that are up at the moment.

    The first link below goes to a great Willie Nelson/Highwayman performance. The second one goes to a live Arlo Guthrie performance. It gets taken down every so often and someone else puts it back up. So if the link breaks, do a search for it yourself and you may find it. The third link is young Steve Goodman, the composer himself, singing the song during a sound check for a local television show. It helps you see just what a loss it was to our community when he passed. The last video is one of Willie singing it with Sheryl Crow.

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    There is now a Train Songs section on our Creek Don't Rise Forum Page. Here's where we post information about updates and information that doesn't really fit anywhere on the Classic Train Songs site(yet).

    When we get a question about train songs, we post it there, so other people can see it and respond if they want to. Of course, if you're signed up, you can post questions and replies yourself.

    If you want to jump to the forum to see it and read other folks' posts, click here.

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All material, illustrations, and content of this web site is copyrighted ? 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006,
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