Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance

“On a Saturday night in a town like this I forget all my songs about trains A bar with a jukebox and you on my arm heaven and earth are pretty much the same”

So sang Josh Ritter in “Me and Jiggs” and he put me to thinking of songs about trains. I posted some train songs on Facebook and some friends added their own suggestions. And from there the idea sprawled…

There is something very romantic about a train, or at least something very romantic about the idea of a train. Loneliness, hope, the notion of motion and the promise of a destination. Trains still retain that romance and Paul Simon evoked it beautifully with the lyric “Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance, Everybody thinks it’s true”.

This list is in no particular order and by no means exhaustive, so I’d be delighted if you had any additions. For instance, I could have done an entire piece, and I may do, on Johnny Cash’s train songs…

By the way, I have stretched the definition of a train song here and there. My choices have been limited to an extent by YouTube’s content, hence less Dylan than I’d like. That said, by looking elsewhere I’ve found one or two. I’m especially happy to locate Bob’s “When The Deal Goes Down“: “The midnight rain follows the train, we all wear the same thorny crown, soul to soul, our shadows grow and I’ll be with you when the deal goes down…”

All aboard!

Meade “Lux” Lewis: Honky Tonk Train Blues (1927)

Louis Jordan: Choo Choo Ch’Boogie (1946)

Hank Williams: I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (1949)

The Jubalaires: Casey Jones (1944)

Woody Guthrie: Train Blues (1944)

Jimmie Rodgers: Waitin’ for a Train (1929)

Junior Parker: Mystery Train (1953)

Rev A. W. Nix: The Black Diamond Express to Hell (1927)

The Carter Family: Wabash Cannonball (1929)

Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington: Take the A-Train (1961)

Bob Dylan: Freight Train Blues (1962)

The Band: Rag Mama Rag (Live – 1996)

The Beatles: One After 909 (1970)

Freddy King: Lonesome Whistle Blues (1961)

Johnny Burnette and the Rock ‘n’ Trio: Lonesome Train (On A Lonesome Track) (1956)

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: This Train (1939)

The Velvet Underground: Train Round The Bend (1970)

The Glenn Miller Orchestra: Chattanooga Choo-Choo (1941)

The Band: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (1969)

Al Stewart and Laurence Juber: Night Train to Munich (1995)

E.L.O. Last Train to London (1979)

Tom Waits: Downtown Train (1985)

Woody Guthrie: Railroad Blues (1944)

Randy Newman: Dixie Flyer (1988)

Steve Reich: Different Trains (Europe – During the war) (1988)

The Clash: Train in Vain (Live) (1981)

Woody Guthrie: Train 45 (1944)

Louis Armstrong: 2:19 Blues (1940)

John Coltrane: Blue Train (1957)

Johnny Cash: Train of Love (1956)

Bob Dylan: Train of Love (1999)

New Riders of the Purple Sage: Glendale Train (1971)

Bruce Springsteen: Jesse James

REM: Driver 8 (1985)

Bob Dylan: It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry (Live) (1971)

Radiohead: Black Star (1995)

Muddy Waters: Still A Fool (Two Trains Running) (1951)

Johnny Cash: Wabash Cannonball (1966)

The Box Tops: The Letter (1967)

Cat Power: Paths of Victory (2000)

Elvis Presley: Mystery Train (1955)

Dillard and Clark: Train Leaves Here This Morning

Josh Ritter: Harrisburg (2010)

Gladys Knight: Midnight Train to Georgia (1973)

Johnny Cash: Folsom Prison Blues (1955)

Laura Cantrell: Yonder Comes a Freight Train (Live) (2013)

Randy Newman: Gone Dead Train (1969)

Doobie Brothers: Long Train Running (1973)

The Piccadilly Dance Orchestra: Daybreak Express (Live) (2008)

Goldfrapp: Train (2003)

Delmore Brothers: Freight Train Boogie (1946)

Stiff Little Fingers: Last Train From The Wasteland

The KLF: Last Train To Transcendental (1989)

Gordon Lightfoot: Canadian Railroad Trilogy (1967)

Chet Atkins: Wabash Cannonball (1967)

The Who: 5:15 (1973)

Steve Goodman: City of New Orleans (1971)

Cat Stevens: Peace Train (1971)

Tom Waits: Train Song (1987)

The Monkees: Last Train to Clarksville (1966)

Freddie White: Desperadoes Waiting For A Train (Live)

Lucinda Williams: Can’t Let Go (1996)

Arlo Guthrie: Last Train To Glory

Taj Mahal: She Caught The Katy (And Left Me a Mule To Ride) (1968)

Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band: Texas Eagle (1999)

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Click Clack (1972)

Curtis Mayfield: People Get Ready (Live)

Kraftwerk: Trans Europe Express (1977)

Leadbelly: Midnight Special (1934)

Little Eva: The Loco-Motion (1962)

Brendan O’Dowda: Are You Right There Michael, Are You Right? (1958)

Bruce Springsteen: Land of Hope and Dreams (2012)

Bob Dylan: Duquesne Whistle (2012)

Errors and Omissions:

Dan Sullivan’s Shamrock Band: From Galway to Dublin

For John Kelly, whose hugely influential and much-missed Mystery Train means that any collection such as this could only be the sincerest form of flattery.

Magnetic Fields: Born On A Train

David Bowie: Station to Station

Guana Batz: Train Kept A Rollin’

Arcade Fire: Born On A Train

(Via Brian Coffey)

The Waterboys: Fisherman’s Blues

The Waterboys: Meet Me At The Station

The Waterboys: Some Of My Best Friends Are Trains

(Via Harry Covére)

Bruce Springsteen: Downbound Train

AC/DC: Rock ‘n’ Roll Train

(Via David McCullagh)

Lisa O’Neill: No Train To Cavan

(Via Claire Prior.)

Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Mystery Train

Roseanne Cash: My Baby Thinks He’s A Train

(Via John Masterson.)

The Furey Brothers and Davey Arthur: Leaving Nancy

(Via June Shannon.)

Howlin’ Wolf: “Smokestack Lightning” Live 1964

Elizabeth Cotten: Freight Train

Jesse Fuller: The Monkey And the Engineer

(Via Justine Doody.)

Disclaimer: I do not own the copyright on any of these songs and if you are in any way displeased, I refer you to the good folks at YouTube.

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