Click to go to the Classic Train Songs™ home page.
You Are Here.
Jump to other pages.
City of New Orleans
Learn all about running trains in your back yard.
Learn about setting up indoor railroads and holiday displays, especially with On30 and O gauge trains.
Many ideas and resources for setting up Christmas-themed railroads, including buyers' guides of the best Christmas train choices.
Best Choices for Beginning Garden Railroaders: a short list of things you're most likely to need when starting out
Collectible Trains and Villages: On30 Trains and accessories designed by Thomas Kinkade and othersFree Large Scale Signs and Graphics: Bring your railroad to life with free, downloadable street signs, business signs, and railroad signs
Christmas music histories, sound clips, and videos from Family Christmas Online™
Buyers' guides and many free projects for creating your own Halloween railroad or village.
Stories and songs about the West National Road
Collectible Trains and Villages: On30 Trains and accessories designed by Thomas Kinkade and others

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 Trains™

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 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.

    Chorus:
    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
               F              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.

    Chorus:
    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 Amazon.com
    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 Amazon.com

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.

    Click to see messages in the Train Song Discussion Forum.New for 2014! Train Song Discussion Forum

    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.

    If you want to sign up to add to the discussions, click: here. It's a manual signup, because it's the only way we can block hundreds of robospam attempts a week, so it may take us a couple days to get you signed in, but once you are in, you can post in any of the forums.

    Click here to return to the Classic Train Songs page.


    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.

    And please stay in touch!

        - Paul Race Click to see Paul's music page on Facebook Click to see Paul's music blog page Click to see Paul's YouTube Channel. Click to see Paul's music home page












































































All material, illustrations, and content of this web site is copyrighted © 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006,
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 by Paul D. Race. All rights reserved.
Classic Train Songs(tm) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

For questions, comments, suggestions, trouble reports, etc. about this page or this site, please contact us.

Musician's Friend Stupid Deal of the Day


Visit related pages and affiliated sites:
- Music -
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Visit musings about music on our sister site, School of the Rock With a few tools and an hour or two of work, you can make your guitar, banjo, or mandolin much more responsive.  Instruments with movable bridges can have better-than-new intonation as well. Acoustic-based, traditional, singer-songwriter, and folk music with a Western focus. Check out our article on finding good used guitars.
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs. X and Y-generation Christians take Contemporary Christian music, including worship, for granted, but the first generation of Contemporary Christian musicians faced strong, and often bitter resistance. Different kinds of music call for different kinds of banjos.  Just trying to steer you in the right direction. New, used, or vintage - tips for whatever your needs and preferences. Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album. Explains the various kinds of acoustic guitar and what to look for in each.
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments. Learn 5-string banjo at your own speed, with many examples and user-friendly explanations. Explains the various kinds of banjos and what each is good for. Learn more about our newsletter for roots-based and acoustic music. Folks with Bb or Eb instruments can contribute to worship services, but the WAY they do depends on the way the worship leader approaches the music. A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.
- Trains and Hobbies -
Free building projects for your vintage railroad or Christmas village.
Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Building temporary and permanent railroads with big model trains Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Click to sign up for Maria Cudequest's craft and collectibles blog.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments