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Arlo Guthrie – The City Of New Orleans lyrics

Riding on the City Of New Orleans
Illinois Central, Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three Conductors; twenty-five sacks of mail
All along the southbound odyssey - the train pulls out of Kankakee
And rolls along past houses, farms, and fields
Passing trains that have no name, and freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobile

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

Dealing card games with the old man in the Club Car
Penny a point - ain't no one keeping score
As the paper bag that holds 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
And, mothers with their babes asleep rocking to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel

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

Night time on the City Of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis Tennessee
Halfway 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 bad dream
And the steel rail still ain't heard the news
The conductor sings his songs again - the passengers will please refrain
This train got the disappearing railroad blues

Good night, America, how are ya?
Said, 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

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Corrected bydeiderique

Music Facts about Arlo Guthrie and "The City Of New Orleans" song

The City Of New Orleans meanings

  • Ella-Anne
    This song is actually about the 'City of New Orleans' passenger train that started service in 1850 as the premier line on the Illinois Central Railroad, and was absorbed by Canadian National Railroad in 1998. It still operates today on the same route it used in in 1850; Chicago, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana. The first stanza of the song makes it clear that what is being sung about is the train known as 'The City of New Orleans', and nothing else:

    'Riding on the City of New Orleans, Illinois Central Monday morning rail. Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders, Three conductors and 25 sacks of mail. Good morning America, how are you? Say, don't you know me? I'm your native son.'

    The only deviation of service for the Illinois Central was during the Civil War, and 'The City of New Orleans' was put in storage and replaced with cargo trains that went as far as Cairo, Illinois and a Union Camp named 'Camp Defiance'. It mainly was used as a supply train to take Union Troops and goods to 'Camp Defiance', and carry freed slaves to northern States. After the Civil War, the tracks were repaired that the Confederate troops destroyed leading to New Orleans, and the 'City of New Orleans' was brought back to the rails and has been in service every since.

    The design of the train has changed over time and the ownership, but it's still the same old 'City of New Orleans' passenger service as operated by Illinois Central in 1850. Sadly, the train does not stop in Cairo any more, and the old Illinois Central depot was destroyed in Cairo. Recently, while doing road work at the site of that old IC Depot in Cairo. city workers discovered rooms under the sidewalk that had been used to house slaves until they could be put on the train and shipped north. 'The City of New Orleans' has an illustrious past, and shows no sign of leaving us any time soon.
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  • s
    Sandy McIntire
    The City of New Orleans carried black people out of the Jim Crow South into the North where they could find jobs and lead normal lives. Leaving friends, family and the only world they knew, Black people experienced both sorrow and excitement as they escaped their lives of poverty and indignities, looking forward to opportunities for education and meaningful work.
    1 reply
  • u
    I believe it's talking about how some things have to die when a culture/society progresses. Pullman porters were usually black. They got to take the luggage and board it, but in order to ride a train, they had to hop a freight car. Now their sons are riding along with the sons of the white engineers who drove the trains (progress). These trains had major roles to play in getting things, cattle and people to other places when America was much younger. Now people might take them for granted, like the old automobiles because of the planes and other transportation, they aren't as necessary as they used to be.
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  • u
    This song is very poignant to me and I first fell in love with it around 1973 I was a freshman in high school so it always takes me back to that time. It is about change and loss, and mourning time, which is why it speaks to my heart.
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  • j
    Jessica Roy
    I was singing this song when I was old enough to speak. I grew up listening to blues and folk music like this. My mother also knew Arlo and a handful of other musicians of her time who studied at the Old Town School of Folk Music where she went to school in Chicago, Illinois. Hence, I feel the need to clarify that Arlo he did not write the lyrics to this song. The songwriter and musician, Steve Goodman, who died in November of 1984 of Leukemia (my mother remembers this vividly because she was four months pregnant with me), actually wrote the song, and Arlo first performed and made the song famous. When Steve Goodman began to make a name for himself, he sang his own song.
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