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Nostalgia & History > The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?


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Date: 08/12/19 16:13
The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: davew833

I've heard Arlo Guthrie's rendition of Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans" song several times lately on the Oldies station I listen to, and it led me to wonder if IC's "City of New Orleans" ever really got as bad as the song described. I know many trains did, and I know the whole song is a metaphor for the "disappearing railroad blues"-- the demise of the passenger train, the poor condition of east coast railroads in the 60s and 70s, etc., but did the City of New Orleans ever really have "15 cars and 15 restless riders, 3 conductors and 25 sacks of mail?" All of the photos I've ever seen of the CNO show a clean, well-maintained, fairly long train right up until Amtrak-- I assume it had good patronage during that time. It was continued under Amtrak, but moved to an overnight schedule and renamed the Panama Limited.

This photo from 1970 shows three matched E-units and a long string of cars, including at least one dome.
http://stationcarbondale.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/1970-09-ICRR-4020-31-Carbondale-IL-Mary-Rae-McPherson-collection.jpg



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/12/19 18:13 by davew833.



Date: 08/12/19 16:55
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: Espee2019

good questions



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/12/19 19:59 by Espee2019.



Date: 08/12/19 17:23
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: DavidP

IC’s mainline trains were relatively well patronized right up to Amtrak, at least by late ‘60’s metrics.  They also kept high standards in terms of frequency, speed, and service.  Of course, these two things were related.  Amtrak initially chose to keep the daytime City, but soon replaced it with the overnight Panama Limited.  As the Steve Goodman song grew in popularity, they eventually renamed the Panama to the City while sticking with the overnight schedule.

If you consider the lyrics of Goodman’s song, he’s actually describing one of the IC’s secondary trains such as the Creole.  He was a regular rider on the IC while attending college in downstate Illinois, and probably rode various trains.  But unlike the train Goodman describes, the City made it all the way to New Orleans by about midnight.

Dave



Date: 08/12/19 17:40
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: wabash2800

I wouldn't take this fantastic song literally word by word. It's poetry with music, but it does lament the downfall of American passenger service. I don't know about you all, but it really gets my heart strings. Yes, one guy wrote it and the other sang it, destined to make it famous. Unfortunately, I don't hear it much on the radio anymore, even though I work for a world class music distributor that pipes music into the warehouse.

Victor A. Baird
http://www.erstwhilepublications.com



Date: 08/12/19 17:57
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: Lackawanna484

wabash2800 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I wouldn't take this fantastic song literally word
> by word. It's poetry with music, but it does
> lament the downfall of American passenger service.
> I don't know about you all, but it really gets my
> heart strings. Yes, one guy wrote it and the other
> sang it, destined to make it famous.
> Unfortunately, I don't hear it much on the radio
> anymore, even though I work for a world class
> music distributor that pipes music into the
> warehouse.
>
> Victor A. Baird
> http://www.erstwhilepublications.com

The Boston Pops invited Arlo Guthrie to sing the song at their Independence Day celebration this year.



Date: 08/12/19 17:59
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: wabash2800

Oh God, that's awesome! Maybe I can catch that performance on Youtube some day.

Victor A. Baird
http://www.erstwhilepublications.com


Lackawanna484 Wrote:
----
> The Boston Pops invited Arlo Guthrie to sing the
> song at their Independence Day celebration this
> year.



Date: 08/12/19 17:59
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: MEKoch

Has the CONO become a NICE bus?  You can get up and walk around; go to the snack bar; and kill time.  Dining cars are history.  Sleeping cars will be next on Anderson's chopping block.  

Amtrak has never understood what they are selling.  America loves trains - it is part of our historical consciouness.  People want service, some speed and a pleasant experience.  



Date: 08/12/19 18:27
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: tomstp

"Willie" aslo made a recording of it.



Date: 08/12/19 19:04
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: E25

Willie Nelson's rendition of the song is perfection!

Greg Stadter
Phoenix, AZ



Date: 08/12/19 19:22
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: wabash2800

Sorry, Willie is good but Arlo Guthrie's version is the greatest, including the instrumental. (I really like the piano too.) I've heard covers that were great and sometimes better than an original, but in this case Arlo's is the best.

Victor A. Baird
http:www.erstwhilepublications.com

E25 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Willie Nelson's rendition of the song is
> perfection!



Date: 08/12/19 20:33
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: HardYellow

wabash2800 Wrote:

> Unfortunately, I don't hear it much on the radio
> anymore, even though I work for a world class
> music distributor that pipes music into the
> warehouse.
>
> Victor A. Baird
> http://www.erstwhilepublications.com


Well, as a retired engineer who became is a struggling musician, maybe ASCAP and BMI might have some responsibility. Lots of great songs die on the vine because you're not allowed to preform them in public.



Date: 08/12/19 20:42
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: agentatascadero




Date: 08/13/19 01:32
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: ClubCar

HardYellow Wrote:
> Well, as a retired engineer who became is a
> struggling musician, maybe ASCAP and BMI might
> have some responsibility. Lots of great songs die
> on the vine because you're not allowed to preform
> them in public.
This is not true, you can perform them in public as long as you or the establishment where music is performed (bar, restaurant, or banquet hall, etc.) pays a fee.
John in White Marsh, Maryland



Date: 08/13/19 05:28
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: march_hare

It was originally a Steve Goodman song, since covered by many including Joan Baez and Willie Nelson. But I think Arlo Guthrie did the best version of all. The Baez version is awful, IMO.  

I sing a reasonable version of it myself, and have collected several free beers from other passengers in Amtrak lounge cars for singing it late at night. 



Date: 08/13/19 06:35
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: HardYellow

ClubCar Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> HardYellow Wrote:
> > Well, as a retired engineer who became is a
> > struggling musician, maybe ASCAP and BMI might
> > have some responsibility. Lots of great songs
> die
> > on the vine because you're not allowed to
> preform
> > them in public.
> This is not true, you can perform them in public
> as long as you or the establishment where music is
> performed (bar, restaurant, or banquet hall, etc.)
> pays a fee.
> John in White Marsh, Maryland

Not a fee...they must join ASCAP and BMI and that's lots of money for a restaurant. This is a complicated subject and not for a railroad forum. Trust me...ASCAP and BMI are helping kill the music.



Date: 08/13/19 07:02
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: sfbrkmn

Can't beat the 1983 version by Willie Nelson



Date: 08/13/19 08:03
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: ntharalson

sfbrkmn Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Can't beat the 1983 version by Willie Nelson

Yes you can!  Willie is an acquired taste, one that I never acquired in 36 years as a country on-the-air disc jockey.  

Nick Tharalson,
Marion, IA



Date: 08/13/19 13:11
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: HardYellow

From what I was told...John Denver bought the rights to the song. He also changed a lot of the words.



Date: 08/13/19 16:48
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: ATSF3751

Riding the City of New Orleans on a rainy mid-winter Monday morning probably would have been fairly empty. Still, 15 cars and 15 lonesome riders does however sound more like a secondary train such as the Creole, as was mentioned before,  which often filled out with head end cars. No reason for IC to operate a lengthy City of New Orleans for such a small head count. Plus, to the best of my knowledge, the City did not require a changed of cars in Memphis for those bound for the Crescent city. 



Date: 08/13/19 17:28
Re: The City of New Orleans: Did it really get that bad?
Author: Lackawanna484

My January 1968 Official Guide doesn't suggest any changing of cars in Memphis TN. I believe the song was written in 1969

Rolling Stome offers background on the song, and on the "coda" added to the song years later.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/steve-goodman-city-of-new-orleans-839618/



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