Songs about trains, from the prosaic to the grand to the otherworldly
Many of the classic examples include some sort of vocal or instrumental imitation of a train whistle, or (particularly in country music) the galloping snare drum that imitates the chugging of a train.
has a list of train songs
Compare Dancing on a Bus
. See also Car Song
. Not to be confused with songs by the band Train.
- "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" from Sun Valley Serenade.
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe" from The Harvey Girls.
- "Night Train to Mundo Fine" from Red Zone Cuba, sung by none other than John Carradine.
- "Casey Junior" from Disney's Dumbo. It's about the train that hauls the circus around.
- In Crossroads, blues legend Willie Brown instructs his protégé, Eugene "Lightning Boy" Martone that nobody will take him seriously as a blues guitarist until he can "make the song of a fast train to nowhere, chugging along the tracks, come outta your guitar". The old man constantly rags on the younger for his 'train song" being far too smooth. It isn't until the end, when Martone has finally felt true heartbreak, that he gets it right.
- "This Train is Bound for Glory" (see below) gave Woody Guthrie the title for his autobiography Bound for Glory, and thus gave a title to the 1976 film about Guthrie, Bound for Glory. David Carradine, as Guthrie, sings the song.
- "3:10 to Yuma", about the titular train from 3:10 to Yuma (1957).
- Rudyard Kipling's ".007" features a train song sung by the trains themselves - it is a badge of honour for the fastest express locomotives.
With a michnai - ghignai - shtingal! Yah! Yah! Yah!
Ein - zwei - drei - Mutter! Yah! Yah! Yah!
She climb upon der shteeple,
Und she frighten all der people.
Singin' michnai - ghignai - shtingal! Yah! Yah!
- "The Enchanted Train" from Sitting Pretty.
- "Train to Johannesburg" from Lost in the Stars.
- "Leavin' for the Promise Lan'" from Porgy and Bess.
- "On the Twentieth Century" from On the Twentieth Century.
- "Texas and Pacific" by Louis Jordan. Notably, many of Louis Jordan's songs, train-centric or not, used the distinctive "chugging" rhythm associated with this type of song, as did those of some other contemporary jazz musicians (like Louis Prima).
- "Downtown Train" from Rain Dogs, "Down There By the Train" from Orphans, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards and (believe it or not) "Train Song" from Franks Wild Years by Tom Waits.
- Many spirituals; e.g., "The Gospel Train" and "This Train Is Bound for Glory".
- Folk blues song "Rock Island Line".
- "Take the 'A' Train", written by Billy Strayhorn for Duke Ellington's orchestra.
- "Wabash Cannonball"
- "Last Train to Clarksville" by The Monkees.
- "The One After 909" from Let It Be by The Beatles.
- "Trans Europa Express" by Kraftwerk.
- "Moskow Diskow" by Telex.
- "Casey Jones"
- The Grateful Dead's "Casey Jones" which is quite different, but still involves a train.
- The Grateful Dead other train songs in "Tons Of Steel" and "The Monkey and The Engineer".
- Allan Sherman's Song Parody "J.C. Cohen", which is about a conductor on a runaway subway train.
- "City of New Orleans" is a folk song written by Steve Goodman, describing a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans via the Illinois Central Railroad in bittersweet and nostalgic terms. Although written by Goodman, it was popularized by Arlo Guthrie.
- Gladys Knight & the Pips created two songs: "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "Friendship Train".
- "Trem das Sete" (translates as something like "7 O'clock Train") by Raul Seixas.
- "Morning Train" is actually the English adaptation of "Trem das Sete" by Raul Seixas.
- "Marrakesh Express" by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
- "Rudy" by Supertramp has stock train sounds, an announcer at a train station, and many references to trains.
- Marillion's "Fugazi" has a reference to "the liquid seize on the Piccadilly Line", referring to The London Underground as a "dank electric labyrinth".
- "Hit The Rails" by Loudness
- "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne.
- "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens.
- "Love Train" by The O'Jays.
- "Party Train" by the Gap Band.
- Downtown Train" by Tom Waits. Later Covered Up by Rod Stewart.
- "Waiting for a Train" by Jimmie Rodgers.
- "Orange Blossom Special," traditional bluegrass fiddle tune, although the version done by Johnny Cash includes lyrics, and uses a harmonica and saxophone instead during the instrumental bridges.
- "I'm Movin' On," a mega-country music hit by Hank Snow from 1950 about a departing man who is leaving his unfaithful girlfriend by train: "That big eight-wheeler rollin' down the track/Means your true-lovin' daddy ain't comin' back."
- "She's Gone, Gone, Gone" by Lefty Frizzel, a country hit from 1965 where a young man bemoans the departure of his girlfriend by train. (A cover version by Glen Campbell, from 1989, replaces the train with an airplane as the departing girlfriend's mode of transportation.)
- "Mystery Train" by Elvis Presley from The Sun Sessions.
- "Long Black Train" by Josh Turner, a country gospel song where the title train is an analogy for Satan; hence, the song is a cautionary tale to not board said train, which leads only to trouble.
- "I'm a Train" by Albert Hammond.
- "Train Song" by Havalina Rail Co..
- "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum
- "Runaway Train" by Rosanne Cash, a No. 1 country hit from 1988.
- "Blue Train (Of the Heartbreak Line)" by George Hamilton IV, a top 30 country hit in 1973.
- "Meksicon pikajuna" ("Mexico express") by numerous artists. Is about a train robbery with a bawdy twist in the end.
- "Play a Train Song" by Todd Snider plays with this. Instead of being about a train, it's about an extraordinary man with a passion for life and train songs.
- Vocaloid Rin's song "Makuragi," which is either All Just a Dream or possibly alluding to a Afterlife Express.
- "Ghost Train" by Gorillaz
- "Locomotive" and "Ridin' With the Driver" by Motörhead.
- "Princess of the Night" by Saxon.
- "Auctioneer (Another Engine)" and "Driver 8" from R.E.M. Bonus points for the drums in Auctioneer sounding exactly like an oncoming train.
- "Last of the Steam Powered Trains" by The Kinks - Ray's singing metaphorically about himself here.
- "Last Train to Trancentral" by The KLF. (Trancentral was Jim Cauty's home and the band's recording studio. Apparently it was not nearly as impressive as the song makes it out to be.)
- "Last Train to London" by Electric Light Orchestra.
- "Not Just A Train" by Spirit Of The West
- "Train Train" by Blackfoot.
- "Die Eisenbahnballade" ("The Railroad Ballad") by German singer-songwriter Reinhard Mey, which manages to pack quite a bit of rail-centric history into its 11 minutes.
- "Train Kept A-Rollin'," originally by Tiny Bradshaw, later covered by The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, among others.
- "Locomotive" by Guns N' Roses
- "Sucker Train Blues" by Velvet Revolver
- Also, the video for "Dirty Little Thing" takes place on a train.
- Quite a number by Johnny Cash, including "The Wreck of the Old 97", "Down there by the train" and "Like the 309".
- "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers.
- "Locomotive" by Running Wild.
- "Train To Bedlam" by Twilightning.
- "5:15" by The Who. The slow beginning of the song symbolizes the train at the station before departure, then picks up tempo with the train in motion, then slows down again near the end to symbolize it arriving at its destination.
- "Tren Al Sur" ("Train To The South") by the Chilean rock group Los Prisioneros.
- "Tren Del Cielo" ("Heaven's Train") by Soledad Pastorutti.
- "Long Train Runnin'" by The Doobie Brothers.
- "Homebound Train" by Bon Jovi.
- "Locomotive Breath," "Journeyman," and "Raising Steam" by Jethro Tull. The title of "Cheap Day Return" also refers to a railway ticket, and the song refers to being on the platform at Preston station.
- "Kundalini Express" and "Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)" by Love and Rockets.
- "Train Of Consequences" by Megadeth.
- "Runaway Train" by Elton John and Eric Clapton.
- "Just Like This Train" by Joni Mitchell.
- "Nighttime in the Switching Yard" by Warren Zevon.
- "Been On A Train" and "Poverty Train" by Laura Nyro.
- Folsom Prison Blues - the train the prisoner keeps hearing is a symbol of freedom, movement, wealth... basically everything the prisoner doesn't have.
- Station to Station by David Bowie. There's probably some religious symbolism about the Stations of the Cross too, but the song starts with locomotive sound effects.
- "Spanish Train" by Chris de Burgh is about an Afterlife Express.
- "Blue Smoke" by Dolly Parton is a Break Up Song about leaving on a train. The chorus includes the onomatopoeic lines "clickety clickety clickety clack" and "choo-choo, choo-choo, woo woo woo".
- "Broken Train" by Beck
- "Spice Train" by Thomas Dolby
- "Outside The Door" by Can from "Monster Movie"
Can you hear the train whistle... ?
- "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains" by The Kinks from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is a song about - and from the point of view of - a train preserved in a museum.
- "Freight Train Blues", covered by Bob Dylan on Bob Dylan.
- "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" by Bob Dylan from Nashville Skyline:
I can hear that whistle blowin'
I see that stationmaster, too
If there's a poor boy on the street
Then let him have my seat
'Cause tonight I'll be staying here with you.
Throw my ticket out the window
Throw my suitcase out there too
Throw my troubles out the door
I don't need them any more
'Cause tonight I'll be staying here with you.
- "Slow Train" from Slow Train Coming by Dylan, where the train is to be understood as a metaphor for trouble coming up.
- "The Canadian Railroad Trilogy" and (less well known) "Steel Rail Blues" by Gordon Lightfoot.
- Deltics, by Chris Rea; there is even a photo of the prototype Deltic on the back of the album cover.
- Believe it or not, "Trains" by Porcupine Tree. Also "Deadwing" refers to looking from "the yellow windows of the last train", while The Incident has a song called "The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train". Trains are a recurring theme in Porcupine Tree's work in general, mostly from Steven Wilson spending his childhood a stone's throw from Hemel Hempstead train station.
- "Downbound Train" by Bruce Springsteen (from Born in the USA); it's a lament for a lost love, a woman who left a man after he lost his good-paying job at a lumber yard and had to start working at a car wash.
- "Trains" by Ryan Adams (from Jacksonville City Nights) uses trains as a metaphor for the thoughts that keep the speaker up at night.
- The first verse of "The Engine Driver" by The Decemberists (from Picaresque) is about, well, an engine driver—i.e. a train driver—"on a long run" who's pining for his woman.
- John Denver's final album, All Aboard, is a collection of songs about trains, including several songs listed above. It won him a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children.
- "Sonderzug nach Pankow" by German rock singer Udo Lindenberg, which uses the tune of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo". The title of the song translates as "Special Train to Pankow". Pankow is a suburb of Berlin which during the Communist era was the area preferred for residence by the Party elite - the song is a protest against the East German government's refusal to allow Lindenberg to play in East Berlin. It finally embarassed them so much that they agreed.
- "Midnight Special", a traditional blues song that was covered by Lead Belly and Creedence Clearwater Revival among others, is about a train that passes by a Texas penitentiary regularly at midnight, sung about in the chorus longingly from the point of view of an inmate (who also sings about the conditions of the prison).
- "Hot Rails to Hell" by Blue Öyster Cult, about a train bound for hell.
- "Ghost Train" has to be the most overused title in music. A quick Youtube search will reveal an ever-increasing number of songs of that very title, verbatim (not to be confused with the defunct Gothabilly band Zombie Ghost Train), as a literal or metaphorical title:
- Australian folk song "On A Queensland Railway Line"