City of New Orleans Lyrics

Ride That Train -  Best Train Song Ever?

A great train story at vinyl record

The City of New Orleans is a well-written train song with a beautiful message. The haunting lyrics re-create a time some 50 years ago when people traveled by train....from Chicago through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi to New Orleans.

Steve Goodman wrote the City of New Orleans Lyrics describing a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans via the Illinois Central Railroad.

He got the idea while traveling on the train for a visit to his wife's family.

Prior to Amtrak's formation in 1971 the train was operated by the Illinois Central Railroad along the same route.

Warm Images of  A Memorable Train Ride.

If you love the song you probably like trains. If you like trains, this song is sure to delight you. It's a wonderful tribute to Steve Goodman, the man who composed "The City of New Orleans," while riding the Illinois Central, while observing his fellow passengers and the passing landscape.

Who can forget the warm images Goodman recounted: of the old men playing cards, the young mother nursing her baby, the passengers being lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the rails and the grave-yards of the rusted automobiles?

"Everything in this song actually happened," Goodman once said; "I'm no good at fiction."

The song tells Goodman's story but I believe it will evoke stronger emotions from train riders of years gone by who remember the song and how it actually felt to "be gone 500 miles when the day is done." 

City of New Orleans Lyrics
The Artist, The Song and Respectful Final Farewell.

Ride that Train - City of New Orleans vinyl memories.

The song was originally recorded by Arlo Guthrie. Gurhrie's version of the song became a Top 20 hit in 1972. Goodman also wrote David Allan Coe's first big hit in 1974 called "You Never Even Called Me By My Name."

The song about the City of New Orleans train, would become an American standard. Willie Nelson's recorded version earned Goodman a posthumous Grammy Award for "Best Country Song' in 1985.

Steve Goodman was a devoted Chicago Cubs fan and wrote three songs about the Cubs.

Four days after his death in 1984 the Cubs clinched the Eastern Division National League title for the first time ever, earning them their first post-season appearance since 1945. Goodman had been asked to sing The Star-Spangled Banner for their first post season game.

Jimmy Buffett filled in, and dedicated the song to Goodman. In April 1988, some of Goodman's ashes were scattered at Wrigley Field, home of Steve's beloved Chicago Cubs.  Twenty eight years later his beloved Chicago Cubs would be crowned  World Champions of baseball.  

In 1970, Steve wrote a song which would eventually be called by many, "the best train song ever written." Please enjoy this great song and sing-a-long to the City of New Orleans Lyrics.

Special Mention:  In November, 2022, I received a nice email from 92 year old Ralph E. Shaffer, my newest train buddy, who lists "City of New Orleans" as one of his favorites. Ralph gave me some great information about trains that he and his dad, and later his entire family shared for a lifetime.

Sad news as son, Scott Shaffer informed me that his dad had passed away on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Another train buddy has left the station for the last time. Rest easy, my friend.

Thank you Ralph E. Shaffer, Professor Emeritus, History, Cal Poly Pomona, for all the great train memories. Let's give it one more "All Aboard" and ride that train again, Professor. This one's for you.

Steam Engine - City of New Orleans

Lyrics by Steve Goodman
Best Country Song in 1985
Vocals - Willie Nelson

Ridin' on the City of New Orleans
Illinois Central Monday mornin' rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail
All along the south-bound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
And rolls along past houses, farms and fields
Passin' trains that have no names
And freight yards full of old black men
And the grave-yards of the rusted automobiles

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

Dealin' cards with the old men in the club car
Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score
Won't you pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels grumblin' 'neath the floor
And the sons of Pullman porters...and the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpet made of steel
Mothers with their babes asleep...rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they dream

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
And I'll be gone five-hundred miles when the day is done

Night time on the City of New Orleans
Changin' cars in Memphis, Tennessee
Halfway home, and we'll be there by mornin'
Through the Mississippi darkness rollin' down to the sea
But 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 songs again
The passengers will please refrain
This train's has got the disappearing railroad blues

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
And I'll be gone five-hundred miles when the day is done
(repeat last line three times)

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