Most recently updated: 15th December 2014



Chronological, annotated list of pieces of music influenced by railways:


Appendix: music not included in the main list because date not known

Discography: collections of recorded railway music

Web-based resources



A tune was born in my head last week,
Out of the thump-thump and shriek-shriek
Of the train, as I came by it, up from Manchester;
And when, next week, I take it back again,
My head will sing to the engine's clack again.....

Robert Browning. Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day [1850]

After the train got going on its way
'Clickety-clack' is what it used to say,
And this romantic sound of yesteryear
Was music to a child's receptive ear.
Haydn, you'll find, was using it a lot
When young George Stephenson was in his cot.
He found a way to imitate a sound
Which up to then had never been around!
But if you listen to his symphonies
Clickety-clack is there in lots of these.

Jay Appleton. Clickety-clack

        It is now she begins to sing - at first quite low
        Then loud, and at last with a jazzy madness -
        The song of her whistle screaming at curves,
        Of deafening tunnels, brakes, innumerable bolts...
        Ah, like a comet through flame, she moves entranced
        Wrapt in her music no bird song, no, nor bough,
        Breaking with honey buds, shall ever equal.

        Stephen Spender. The Express

The introduction and development of railways has contributed immeasurably to our soundscape; it is not surprising that railways have inspired many responses from composers and musicians. The Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer devotes a short but fascinating section of his marvellous book The Tuning of the World(1980) to railways, noting that - despite Wagner's dislike of them - 'Of all the sounds of the Industrial Revolution, those of trains seem across time to have taken on the most attractive sentimental associations'. In his poem 'Clickety-clack' Jay Appleton mourns the clickety-clack of a train's wheels passing over joints in the track, a sound so elemental that it seems to have been heard since time immemorial and used by composers since long before the coming of railways.. What is perhaps surprising is that certain composers known to have been fascinated by railways never explicitly evoked them in their music; they include Dvorak, Bruckner, and Hindemith. Of course, listeners who know of these composers'  interest in railways are prone to hear trains in their music - hence the inclusion in this list of Bruckner's 4th Symphony (1874) and Dvorak's Serenade for Wind Instruments (1878) and Humoresque no. 7 in G Flat (1894). In August 1829 Mendelssohn persuaded a foreman to let him ride on a free-wheeling vehicle on a downhill gradient through a tunnel to the Liverpool docks, on the as yet unopened Liverpool and Manchester Railway. He described the experience of racing faster and faster into utter darkness as 'agony for the nerves!'

Elsewhere in his book, Murray Schafer notes that a colleague, Howard Broomfield, 'believes that railroads had an important influence on the development of jazz... Blue notes can be heard in the wail of the old steam whistles... Also the similarity between the clickety-clack of wheels over track ends and the drumbeats...of jazz and rock music is too obvious to go unnoticed, at least in the clever tape mixes Broomfield has made to prove the point'. Max Haymes has no doubt that sounds of railways can be heard in the piano or guitar accompanying many early blues, and that barrelhouse piano in particular 'imitated the sound or 'click' of the earlier railroads as well as capturing the sudden contrasting sounds that a train made when travelling over a trestle bridge, going through a tunnel, passing a busy marshalling yard full of freight cars, or rolling over a myriad of crossovers and switches' [see Bibliography]. The relentless rhythms of bluegrass seem to echo the sound of the train even where no such echo is intended; Charles Wolfe has argued that bluegrass, in its very nature, 'resembles the unique sound of the train: the clattering of the drivers echoed by the rolling banjo; the straight, true, hard steel rails resembling the empowering drive of the rhythm guitar; and the wail of the whistle calling up the long, edgy strokes of the low bow fiddle' (booklet accompanying Bluegrass Express album). The presence of railways in jazz, rock, folk and popular idioms is noteworthy indeed, and is only partially accounted for by the sounds of railways; apart from the sounds they make, railways have impacted on human lives in countless ways which have been given expression in innumerable texts and songs, and on stage and screen.

These Web pages provide a chronological list of pieces of music inspired by or evoking railways, with a note of available recordings known to the compiler. Bearing in mind the hundreds of songs, some of them performed by different singers at different times, the piano pieces, the many railroad-inspired jazz compositions and improvisations, passages of film music, and numerous pieces of 'light' music, all of which in one way or another are related to railways, this cannot ever be a comprehensive list. My aim is to include every significant work in the 'classical' genre, and works in other genres, which respond to the sounds of railways - and I have to acknowledge that hundreds of songs include echoes and imitations of railway sounds (cries of 'All Aboard', bells and whistles, and so forth), in many cases stereotyped and unimaginative, in other cases startling and enthralling. Because this list is chronological, I will naturally favour items which can be dated rather than those which cannot. At the end of the chronological list I have included another list, of pieces which I would like to include in the chronological list but cannot because I cannot date them.

If you know of works, recordings, or relevant information which should be included, please let me know: Philip Pacey, at

Instead of scrolling down the list, you can if you prefer jump to a particular decade by clicking on one of the following:


Meineke, C.
The Rail Road, for piano

Meineke, C.
Rail Road March (for the 4th of July), for piano
written to mark the first passenger train in the U.S.A.


In his book Railways and the Victorian Imagination (1999), Michael Freeman refers to and illustrates a number of mostly undated items of sheet music. These include Characteristic Rondo for pianoforte by S. Bryan, which Freeman suggests was published 'probably in the 1830s'. Its cover illustrates the viaduct over the Sankey valley on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, while the score 'is annotated to indicate the various stages in the journey from Manchester to Liverpool; the tempo is continously adjusted, according to assumed changes in speed. A crescendo is reached with the passing of the train through the Liverpool tunnel, echoing the striking combination of fear and fascination that such subterranean experiences brought to early railway travellers'.

Railways Now Are All the Go with Steam, Steam, Steam
A song said to have been sung in the Vauxhall Gardens in 1930. [Information from Philip Scowcroft].

The Railroad -
a pantomime with music [composer unknown], staged at the Theatre Royal, Doncaster
[ Information from Philip Scowcroft].

Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, to the tune of 'Patrick O'Neal'
Broadside ballad. Although undated, this ballad celebrates the opening of the railway in 1835. A copy can be found on the Bodleian Broadside Ballads Web site. A number of other railway-related ballads can also be found on this Web site; although not accompanied by music, some indicate (like this one) a popular tune of the day to which they are to be sung.

The music invariably played at the opening of new railways in England was 'See the Conquering Hero Comes', from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus. [Source: George Dow. Great Central volume 1 (1985)].

Strauss, Johann I
Eisenbahn-Lust - waltz ['Railway delight'], op.89
Beginning and ending with steam locomotive sounds, this piece celebrates the building of the first public railway line out of Vienna, to Breclav.
Marco Polo 8 223470/1

Fahrbach, Philipp
Locomotiv - galop, op.31
Marco Polo 8 223470/1

Gungl, Joseph
Eisenbahn-Dampf - galop, op. 5
Marco Polo 8 223470/1

Fine new sang [sic} of the battle fought on the Shields railway between a town councillor and an architect and the poliss [sic], to the tune of 'Cappy's the dog'.
Broadside ballad. A copy can be found on the Bodleian Broadside Ballads Web site.

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'Poputnaya pesnya' ('Travelling song'), from A Farewell to St Petersburg
These songs are settings of texts by Glinka's friend Nestor Kukol'nik. The 'Travelling song' is described in the New Grove Dictionary of Music as 'probably the first ever railway song':
'The steam rises, the engine whistles and roars.
On the platform, people laugh,
shout and hustle.
The crowd is full of joy.
The train shoots forward and speeds through the countryside,
freer than the wind....'
Opus OPS 30-227

Alkan, Charles-Valentin
Le Chemin de Fer op. 27
A vigorous piano piece, lasting nearly five minutes, evoking the sounds of a railway journey.
Naxos 8.553434

Gung'l, Jos [sic]
Railroad Steam Engine Galop
Joseph Gungl (see also 1838, above) was a Hungarian-born bandmaster and composer whose music anticipated but was eclipsed by that of the Strausses. This piano piece, composed and dedicated to the Misses Wilde of Thornhill, near Maidstone, in England; was published by R. Cocks and Co., London. An announcement from the publisher on the back cover of the sheet music, dated 22nd July 1844, warns of an impending removal to other premises in October. In addition to the piano, the music includes a stave for 'Locomotive Steam-Engine' containing a repeated C, an octave above middle C, on each of the two beats in a bar, with the instruction 'The noise which the smoke makes in the chimney of the locomotive steam engine, may be very naturally imitated by clapping the door of the tunnel of a stove'. Eight bars from the end of the piece the pianist is instructed as follows: 'In order to represent the stopping of the steam engine, the time must be gradually slower from this mark to the end'. This piece was subsequently published in America (Gungl toured the USA in 1849): the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection includes an undated edition of the sheet music, published in Philadelphia, with a lithograph illustration of the railroad depot at Philadelphia on the cover, and a copy of Gungl's Railroad Galop, arranged by H.M.Bosworth, published in San Francisco in 1869.(Many thanks to Jill Murdoch for drawing my attention to the original edition).

Labitzky, [Joseph?]
3 Railroad Polkas and The Prague and Vienna Railroad Polkas
These items, also published by R. Cocks of London, are advertised on the back cover of the Railroad Steam Engine Galop noted above. The date of publication cannot therefore be later than 1844; it could possibly be earlier.

Berlioz, Hector
‘Le Chant des Chemins de Fer’ from Feuillets d'Album op. 19 no. 3, for tenor, SATN and orchestra.
Text by Jules Janin.
This piece was commissioned in 1846 by the Chemin de Fer du Nord to mark the opening of the railway line from Paris to Lille; it was first performed at Lille on 14th June, 1846. The music has been described as 'decidely laboured, partly because it was written for outdoor performance...'. In Britain the work was performed at the Royal Albert Hall at a concert to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, in September 1975, and I'm told it was also performed at the ceremony launching the Eurostar services from London to Paris and to Lille in 1994, along with a newly commissioned work by Paul Patterson (see 1994, below). The Chant des Chemins de Fer acclaims the building of the railway in words that could apply equally to almost any comparable achievement. (C'est la grand jour... Soldats de la paix, c'est votre victoire...'). Only a passing reference to mountains conquered and rivers crossed hints at the nature of the enterprise. The vocal score was published in 1850 and the full score in 1903.
EMI Classics [2] 557499-2
An MP3 file, accompanied by an informative introduction and the text of the libretto, can be found at

Bruton, James
Railway Mania
A music hall song

Balfour, Charles
'The Iron Horse'
The words of this song were written by Charles Balfour, stationmaster at Glencarse, Scotland, and sung to the tune 'The Piper of Dundee'. Recorded by Ewan MacColl on his album Second Shift.

Lumbye, Hans Christian
Københavns Jernbane Damp Galop [Copenhagen Railway Steam Galop]
Written to celebrate the opening of the Copenhagen-Roskilde railway. Incorporates sounds of whistling and the calling of the guard.
8 223470
HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

W. H. [identified by Richard Stewardson as J.W.Herbert - thanks, Richard]
Canadian Grand Trunk Railway Galop

Allen, George N.
The Underground Rail Car! or, Song of the Fugitive
For solo voice, SATB and piano.
An 'underground railroad' was a term for a route used by escaping slaves to reach Canada. The cover of this piece of sheet music depicts a real (overground) steam train. A copy can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection.

W. H. [presumably J. W. Herbert; see also item listed at1853 above]
St Lawrence Tubular Bridge Mazurka Polka


Paling, William H.
The Sydney Railway Waltz
Wriiten for the opening of the Sydney to Parramatta railway.
Recorded on Trains of Treasure [see Discography]

Underground Railroad March, arranged for piano by Fr. H.
As in the item above, the word 'Railroad' is used metaphorically and symbolically to represent an escape route, from one safe house to another, but once again a real train is depicted on the cover. A copy can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection.

Lindblad, Otto
Malmö Järnbanesång, for male voice choir.
Written for the inauguration of the Lund-Malmö railway.

'Un Petit Train de Plaisir. Comique-Imitatif'; from Péchés de Vieillesse, 6. Album pour les enfants dégourdis - for piano
Rossini detested railways. In this piece the excursion train crashes soon after departure, and the souls of the victims make their way to heaven. Rossini annotated the score with a series of subtitles and comments.
Several recordings, including MDG 618 1108-2
Sheet music: Cinque pezzi per pianoforte. Milan: Ricordi, 1992


Strauss, Johann (Baptist) II
Spiralen Walzer, op. 209
Written for an annual railwaymen's ball in Vienna, this waltz celebrates the use of spiral tunnels to gain altitude on trans-Alpine lines.
Marco Polo 8 223237, 8 223471

The Lyon-Geneve railway was inaugurated on 16th March 1858 with a ceremony at Bourg. A blessing of the locomotives was followed by a 'magnificent collation' during which the town choral society is said to have performed a specially composed cantata. [Information from Glyn Williams]

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Hoyer, Franz
Jernban - galop
Marco Polo 8 223470/1

Charming Young Widow I Met in the Train
A music hall song

Scott, Gustave A.
Pacific Railroad Polka, for piano
Sheet music in the 19th century California music collection

Hoyer, Franz
Helsingfors-Tavastehus Jernbane-Galopp
Written for the inauguration of Finland's first railway.

Strauss, Johann (Baptist) II
Vergnügungszug - polka galop op. 281
Translates into French as 'Trains du Plaisir', that is, excursion trains, of which the destinations might be concealed until the last minute. For Rossini's take on 'Trains du Plaisir' see 1857[-68] above.
Many recordings

Macfarren, George
Song of the Railroads - part-song
(Macfarren later became Principal of the Royal Academy of Music)

Clifton, Harry
Railway Bell(e)
A music hall song

Meyer, Jean
Jernvägs - galop, for orchestra
Marco Polo 8 223470/1

Offenbach, Jacques
La Vie Parisienne [operetta]
The opening scene, 'Nous sommes employés de la ligne de l'Ouest', set outside the Paris terminus, lists 22 destinations on this railway. Klaus Matzka, to whom I am grateful for drawing this work to my attention, notes that today it would be necessary to utilise 3 termini to reach all 22 places. Unfortunately, much of this is lost in Phil Park's English version:

This station on the lively Left Bank of the Seine
is where you see Parisians returning by train...
This terminus is 'PARIS' from all stations west
Saint Valéry, Saint Malo, Le Touquet, and Brest...

St Valéry is the town on the Normandy coast, as distinct from St Valery sur Somme in Picardy. But Le Touquet was surely reached via the Chemin de Fer du Nord? Several recordings.

Glyn Williams writes: Just been looking at your page again.  The inclusion of Le Touquet is an error of Phil Park, not of Offenbach nor his librettists (Henri Meilhac and Ludovic_Halévy). A further error by Park is his placing the station on the Left Bank. The principal station of the Ouest was St Lazare in the northwest of Paris. Although the Ouest did have a station on the left bank, at Montparnasse, not all the 22 destinations listed could have been reached from there.
Full libretto in French here:


Briggs, George A.
D.O.R.A. Railroad Polonaise, for piano and sandpaper (the latter to be used to simulate the sound of a train)


Morales, Melesio
La Locomotiva
Performed at the opening of the Mexico-Puebla railway on 16th November 1869, this piece is described in the New Grove Dictionary of Music as 'an early attempt at an orchestral interpretation of the sound of a locomotive'.

Strauss, Eduard
Bahn Frei - polka galop, op. 45
Several recordings available

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Martyn, F.L.
Standing on the platform
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Rowe, Henry S.
Union Pacific Grand March for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Work, Henry G. Continental Railroad Chorus. crossing the Grand Sierras
for SATB quartet, SATB chorus and piano duet.
A copy can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection.

Dibble, Frank D.
Peninsular railway march for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Grahl, Traugott
Greetings from Sweden to Norway - waltz
Marco Polo 8 223470/1

The Launceston and Deloraine Railway Line
Written to mark the opening of this railway line in Australia, but sung to an American tune, 'Marching through Georgia'. [Information from Brian Dunnett. See also the book When we rode the rails, by P. Adam-Smith [Sydney: Landsdowne, 1983]

Strauss, Eduard
Mit Dampf - polka schnell, op. 70
Marco Polo 8 223470
HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Sullivan, Arthur
Thespis - comic opera
The music of this first comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan is almost entirely lost. However, the opera included a song about a magnanimous railway chairman:

Each Christmas Day he gave each stoker
A silver shovel and a golden poker,
He'd button-hole flowers for the ticket sorters
And rich Bath buns for the outside porters.
He'd mount the clerks on his first-class hunters
And he built little villas for the roadside shunters...

The song was apparently accompanied by a railway bell, a whistle, and other sound effects imitating a train in motion. (Less substantial references to railways can be found in other works by Gilbert and Sullivan).


Mack, E.
Pullman car (Sunbeams) for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Richter, Charles J.
Railroad Galop for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Snowed-in Galop
Sheet music in the 19th century California music collection, with a lithograph cover illustration of a snowbound Union Pacific Railroad train.


Chester, George D.
The Railroad accident at Richmond Switch, R.I.
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University

Drumheller, C.
Iron Mountain Railroad for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Stephenson, T.
The Gospel Railroad
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection


Symphony no. 4 ('Romantic')
Research by Ken Ward has exposed as a mischievous rumour the suggestion that Bruckner was interested in railways and that sounds of whistling locomotives inspired the beautiful solo horn passage which opens the  4th Symphony. In 1986 David Elliot (son of Sir John Elliott of the Southern Railway)  produced a radio programme with the title 'A Composer on the Footplate, some revealing new evidence on the sources of Bruckner's inspiration'. This programme was supposed to have been broadcast by the BBC on 1st April 1986 as an April Fool's joke. Unfortunately it was not  actually broadcast until 26th May 1986.

Campiani, Lucio
La Ferrovia Mantova-Modena (piano duet)
A waltz in the manner of Strauss, for four hands at one piano; published in Milan [undated, but thought to date from 1874]

The Patent Rail-way Punch
4 part song with piano accompaniment. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Hassler, Simon A.
Rail Road Galop for piano and percussion
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Strauss, Eduard
Ohne Aufenthalt Polka Schnell ['The Non-Stop Fast Polka'], op. 112
Performed at, and written for (?), the annual Austrian railwaymens' ball in Vienna, 25th January 1874. Incorporates the blowing of whistles and clanging of bells as the band gradually gathers speed.
Marco Polo 8 223470/1

Albert, Fred
Bradshaw's Guide.
A music hall song by Fred Albert with lyrics by Henry S. Leigh. The words pay humorous tribute to the comprehensive nature of Bradshaw's. The chorus is as follows: 

    Birmingham and Sandringham, Ulverton and Wolverton
    Dorchester and Porchester, Rochester and Ryde;
    Arlington and Darlington, Torrington and Warrington
    She said she'd sure to find it in my Bradshaw's Guide

Goolman, J.N.
C. B. & Q. Waltz for piano
The C. B. & Q. was the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection 


Clark, M.B.
Lightning Pleasure Train, for piano
Sheet music in the 19th century California music collection. A 'descriptive piece', evoking a train leaving the depot [station], accelerating, whistling, braking, running through a wood, over a bridge, homeward bound, and entering a depot. The cover carries a woodcut illustration of a Union Pacific Railroad train.

Hickman, Clara A.
The Junction Railway for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection


Devere, Sam
Riding on the elevated railroad
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Serenade for Wind Instruments, op.44
Jochem Valkenburg suggests that the 3rd movement 'sounds very much like the speeding up of a steam train'. What do you think?
ASV (possibly no longer available).

Musgrave, Fred
Prisoner at the Bar, musical
An 'opera buffet'; set in a railway refreshment room.

Foster, S.C. [Stephen]
Old folks at home
'Way down upon de Swanee ribber...'
Stephen Foster's well known song actually dates from 1851, but this sheet music edition is of interest because it was published as a souvenir of the Swanee River route of the Georgia, Southern and Florida Railroad. A copy is in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Joseph. John.
New York Elevated Railroad Galop for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Kelley, T.B.
Riding on the Elevated Railroad
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Over 300 items of railway-related 19th and 20th century sheet music, mostly songs or piano pieces, can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection. Click on 'Search the Collection, and enter 'Railroad' in the 'Search for' box.

Items of British sheet music, including piano music and songs, are noted in
the second supplement [and perhaps the first?] of [Ottley's] [A] Bibliography of British Railway History [1966, 2nd ed. 1983, supplement 1988, 2nd supplement 1998], in Section P 'Humour'.

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Denza, Luigi.
Funiculi, funiculà - a song to commemorate the opening of the funicular railway to the summit of Vesuvius; it was adapted by Strauss, orchestrated by Rimsky Korsakov, given jazz/big band treatment by the Dorsey brothers and a rock interpretation by The Grateful Dead in 1977.
Many recordings

'Anyone maintaining that Donizetti is better than Verdi shall be dressed as a woman, mocked openly before the battery and its guns, shall wear a cooking pot upon his head, and, in extreme cases, shall be required to sing 'Funiculi Funicula' and any other songs about railways that Captain Antonio Corelli shall from time to time see fit to determine'. [Louise de Bernières: Captain Corelli's Mandolin].

For a borrowing of this by Richard Strauss, see 1886. For version by Schoenberg, see below under the year 1921.

Marenco, Romvaldo
Music for Excelsior, a spectacle devised and choreographed by Luigi Manzotti.
Manzotti's shows have been described as 'not ballets...but a succession of related episodes expressed in mime'. Excelsior, a celebration of the progress of technology, comprised 12 scenes 'full of scenic tricks'; a steam train crosses the Brooklyn Bridge in scene 4, and scenes 9 and 10 feature the construction of the Mont Cenis tunnel. The music was 'largely made up of mazurkas, marches, etc'. Manzotti's creations were very popular in their day; improbably, Excelsior was revived in 1967, and again at La Scala Milan in 1975, 1976, and 1977, and again in 2002.
Rai Trade/TDK DVD [a recording of the 2002 production].

Mullaly, W.S.
The Railroad Conductors
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Ortín , Simón
Simón Ortín, chapel master of the cathedral at Tarazona, composed a symponic work in six movements to commemorate the opening of the narrow gauge railway from Tudela (Navarra) to Tarazona (Zaragoza); the score and most of the instrumental parts survive in the cathedral archive. The work evokes a journey on the line, from Tudela, where the train sets off with cries of 'All aboard', bells and whistles, with a stop at an intervening station where a newspaper seller is heard, finally arriving at Tarazona.The piece is described in detail by Pedro Calahorra, in an article 'Un Viaje musico-ferroviario', in La Musica en la Espana del siglo XIX/Revista de musicologia vol.14 no. 1-2 1991 p.273-278. [I am indebted to my colleague Ian Sheridan for a translation of this article].

Anti-Monopoly War Song
Sheet music in the 19th century California music collection. Written for the Anti-Monopoly Party of California. 'Lo! the car of Juggernaut Lo! the ruin it hath wrought/As it moves o'er hill and dale, Riding on the iron rail...'

Eberhard, E.
Franklin-Avenue Railroad Galop for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Knight Templars Grand Entree March
Sheet music in the 19th century California music collection. A lithographed illustration on the back cover depicts a train passing through a tunnel beneath another train at 'The Loop', Tehachapi Pass, on the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Sargent, Clarence J.
Central Vermont Railroad: Grand March for piano
Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection


Railroad Glee
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885 collection

Strauss, Richard
Aus Italien, symphonic fantasy op. 16
No, this is not railway music! It is included because in it Strauss used the tune 'Funiculi funicula' (1880, above) , imagining it to be a folksong until he was sued by its composer, Luigi Denza

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Ziehrer, Carl Michael
Nachtschwalbe op. 417
Marco Polo 8 223470/1 1892
Oh! Mr Porter
A music hall song

The Signalman on the Line
A music hall song

Humoresque no.7 in B Flat, for piano
It has been suggested that the dotted rhythm of this celebrated piece may have had its origins in the 'clackety-clack' of train wheels on rail joints.
Many recordings, including HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Daddy's on the Engine
A music hall song

Davis, Gussie L.
In the Baggage-coach Ahead
Song.Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

1896 [or 1898?]
French, Percy
Are ye right there, Michael...?
A celebrated comic song which originated with an occasion when Percy French was late for a concert at Kilkee, his train from Dublin having been seriously delayed. He subsequently sued the West Clare Railway Company for 'loss of earnings' and was awarded £10. (Thanks to my colleague Aidan Turner-Bishop for this information).

Joplin, Scott
The [Great] Crush Collision March, for piano
An early piece by Scott Joplin, preceding the piano rags for which he became so well known. On September 15th 1896 William George Crush, general passenger agent with the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, staged a spectacular head-on collision between two locomotives at Temple, near Waco, Texas. More than 50,000 spectators, possibly including Scott Joplin, witnessed the event. Tragically, three people were killed.

Drefu, Max
At the sound of the signal bell
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

'The Fast Mail'
A song commissioned by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad company to promote its express train which ran between New York and Chicago.

Sibelius, Jean
'Herää, Suomi!', from Press Celebrations Music.
Written for the 'Press Celebrations' of November, 1899 - a mass protest against Russian control of the Finnish press - the climax of this work is 'Herää, Suomi!' [Finland Awake!], which was to become 'Finlandia'. This version is said to incorporate evocations of the sound of a steam train.
Ondine ODE 913-2

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Desdumes, Mamie
2.19 Blues
Written by Mamie Desdumes in New Orleans, versions of this blues were performed (and recorded?) by Louis Armstrong, and by Jelly Roll Morton in 1938.
'Two nineteen took my baby away,/Two seventeen bring her back someday'.

Toler, J. Hoyt
Up Broadway for piano
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

Grainger, Percy
Train music
Inspired by a noisy and uncomfortable train journey from Genoa to San Remo in Italy. Grainger set out to evoke the sounds and experience of the journey, writing for a vast ensemble of some 150 instruments. The project has been described as 'an experiment in metre which both anticipated and surpassed the rhythmic complexity of Stravinsky's Le Scare du Printemps (1913)'. The task proved too much for him, and although he tinkered with it on and off through the rest of his life, the work was never completed. A simplified piano version of the opening dates from 5th June 1957. Subsequently a fragment, lasting some one and a half minutes, was prepared for standard symphony orchestra by Eldon Rathburn.
Nimbus NI1767 (piano version)
EMI 7243 5 56412 29 (orchestral version)


Schlief, Lucy A.
Does this railroad lead to heaven?
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Sousa, John Philip
Looking Upward Suite
This piece for concert band was written while Sousa was travelling on a train; my informant, Deana Wagoner, tells me that the train can be heard in the 3rd movement, 'Mars and Venus', very clearly. Although neglected until recently, this suite is considered to be Sousa's most serious work.
Naxos 8559058

Thornton, Geo. W.
Please Sir, Don't Ask Me Again: A Scene from the Drama of Life
''Twas at the depot of a city waiting for a train...'
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

Sundgren, F.V.
Fästmarsch vid invigningen af Riksgränsbana 1903.
A march to mark the inauguration of the railway from Kiruna (norther Sweden) to the Norwegian port of Narvik, used principally for carrying iron ore.

It was in 1903 that W.C.Handy, while waiting for a train at Tutwiler (near Clarksdale) in the early hours of the morning, was joined by a poorly dressed man with a battered guitar who sang 'I'm goin where the Southern cross the Dog...'. The singer explained that 'the Dog' was 'the ol Yellow Dog line, better known as the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley. It cross the Southern down here round Moorhead. And I've made me a song about that - an old railroad song'. Alan Lomax, who tells this story in his book The Land Where the Blues Began adds: 'A new era had just begun, and Handy had it in his notebook, the era of the railroad blues'. Lomax's book has a section called 'Lonesome Whistles' which recalls work songs sung by gangs of labourers building railroads. (None of the songs are dated).

Browne, Raymond A. and Theodore F. Morse
The Little girl who went to town
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Alstyne, Egbert van
I'm Going Right Back to Chicago
Song.Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

I've Never Lost My Last Train Yet
A music hall song

Tillman, Charlie D.
The Railroad song
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.


Cotten, Elizabeth 'Libba'
Freight Train
This celebrated song is sometimes dated to 1906, but there is general agreement tat Elizabeth Cotten, born on 5th January 1895 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, , wrote it when she was 12 years old.

Massenet, Jules
La Marche PLM
A short piece for military band and voices, composed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the PLM.

Bristow, Frank L.
'Riding on the Rail', from 6 Little Pieces for the Pianoforte.
Published by Theodore Presser (Philadelphia)

Fall, Leo. Die Geschiedene Frau/The Girl in the Sleeping Saloon - operetta
The plot turns on an incident on a Paris-Nice express.

Walker, W. Raymond
I'm Going Back, Back to Kentucky Where I Was Born
Song.Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.


Berlin, Irving, Geo.Whiting and Ted Snyder
My Wife's Gone to the Country. Hurrah! Hurrah!
A copy can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection.

Newton, Eddie
Casey Jones: the brave engineer
with words by T. Lawrence Seibert
A ballad which was to become famous, and which was subject to many later interpretations. Was this its first appearance or did it have an earlier history? Newton and Seibert acknowledged that it originated as 'an old Negro song, started by a roundhouse worker named Wallace Saunders'. A copy of Newton and Seibert's first published version (and copies of some later versions) can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection. A radically different text - Casey Jones: the Union Scab - was provided in 1911 by Joe Hill; the lyrics can be found at

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Ives, Charles
2nd movement ('Hawthorne') of the Concord Piano Sonata no. 2
Notes left by Ives provide a 'programme' for this piece, which opens with 'magical frost waves' seen 'first on the morning window pane, then on the meadow... then a boy lands on the stoop...and then he gets riding on the railroad - perhaps (but not every day) on the Celestial Railroad.....' See related works by Ives, at 1921-23.
Several recordings.

Lincoln, Harry J.
Sunset Limited: March Two-step for piano
Song.Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

Newell, Joseph Edward
'The Mechanical Railway Train' ; no. 1 of 6 Pleasing Pieces for the Pianoforte,
published by Ascheberg, Hopwood & Crew (London)

D'Orvict, Charles and Lucien Del
La Sonnerie d'Alarme
song recorded by Victor Lejal, c.1910
Spef SPMS 2002.

Stanford, Charles Villier
'The Train', op. 119 no. 4
One of the 'Eight Part Songs' for unaccompanied SATB, including the better known 'The Blue Bird', each of which is a setting of a poem by Mary E. Coleridge.
'A green eye, and a red,/In the dark./Thunder, smoke, and a spark./It is there, it is here, flashed by./Whither will the wild thing fly?/It is rushing, tearing thro' the night,/Rending the gloom in its flight./It shattersher silence with shrieks./What is it the wild thing seeks?/Alas! For it hurries away/Them that are fain to stay./It hurries, hurries, hurries away./Hurrah! For it carries home/Lovers and friends that roam./Where are you, Time and Space?/The world is a little place,/Your reign is over and done,/You are one'.

Tourtal, Victor
Le C.A.E. du P-L-M
The P-L-M was the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée railway.
Song recorded by Mansuelle
Spef SPMS 2002.

Berlin, Irving
When You're in Town in my Home Town
Song. A copy can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection.

Bimbert, Ed
That Railroad Rag
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Boyer, Lucien
Vive l'Express de Normandie
Spef SPMS 2002.


Berlin, Irving
When that Midnight Choo-Choo leaves for Alabam'
Several recordings available, including a 1938 recording by Tommy Dorsey & his Clambake Seven (Living Era CD AJA 5610)

Edwards, Leo
There's Lots of Stations on my Railroad Track
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Hargreaves, W.H.
Watching the Trains Go Out
A music hall song

Il est content le chef de gare
song recorded by Mansuelle to the tune of 'Il était un petit navire'
Spef SPMS 2002.
Emmanuelle Cronier tells me that a version of this song, 'Il est cocu le chef de gare', was sung by French soldiers travelling by train to and from the Front during the First World War.

Jenter, Harry
I'll be Welcome in my Home Town: Good-bye to Bright Lights
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

Kálmán, Emmerich
Der Zigeunerprimas; operetta
Premiered on 10th October 1912 at the Johann Strauss theatre in Vienna, this operetta includes a terzett in which the 'Zigeunerprimas' complains about the 16 hour train journey from Budapest to Paris. [Thanks to Klaus Matzka, who tells me that this journey takes 18 hours today!]
Two CDs available

De Paris à Rouen
Serpieri provided the music for this comic song with words by Bordeaux, recorded by Montel.
Spef SPMS 2002.

Smith, Clay
Ragtime Engineer
Song.Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

Abrahams, Maurice
Pullman Porters' Parade
Song.Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

Berlin, Irving
You Picked a Bad Day Out to Say Good-bye
Song. A copy can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection.

Bath, Hubert
The Men on the Line. A Descriptive Railway Piece for male voices with Accompaniment...words by W.J.Galloway.
Written for the Great Eastern Railway Choral Society, this was published by Weekes & Co. A copy survives in the British Library.

Fall, Leo
Der Nachtschnellzug [The Night Express]; operetta
The plot concerns an affair in a sleeping car.

Schwartz, Jean
The Honeymoon Express, musical; lyrics by Harold Atteridge, music by Jean Schwartz.
Songs include 'Ragtime Express'


Handy, W.C.
The Yellow Dog Rag: He's Gone where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog
Song.Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

Marshall, Henry I.
Oh, Mister Railroad man, won't you take me back to Alabam'?
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

On the 5.15
An early song about commuting by train, included on the CD collection of British railway music 'On the Right Track' (see Discography )

Ives, Charles
'From Hanover Square North' from Orchestral Set no. 2
A musical impression of an incident which occurred when Ives was waiting with other commuters for the homeward train at the Hanover Square station of the New York elevated railway. A hurdy-gurdy was playing ‘In the Sweet By and By’; gradually the song was taken up by railway workers and waiting passengers as an expression of their emotions following the sinking of the Lusitania.
Decca 443776-2

Niemann, Walter
Auf der Eisenbahn, for piano
Prezioso CD 800.062

Cobb, George L.
I'm goin' to hit the trail for Alabam'
Song. 'Oh, Mister Railroad man, Tell me 'bout the trains that go to Alabam''
Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Donaldson, Walter
Come on to Nashville Tennessee
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

Grainger, Percy
‘Arrival Platform Humlet’ from In a Nutshell: Suite
This ‘humlet’ was intended by the composer to evoke the humming of someone 'Awaiting arrival of a belated train bringing one's sweetheart from foreign parts'. The suite In a Nutshell was written between 1914 and 1916. It exists in versions for orchestra, for piano, and for tuned percussion.
EMI 7243 5 56412 29 (orchestra)
Nimbus NI1767 (piano)
Move Records MD3222 (tuned percussion)

Handy, W.C.
Ole Miss (The Fastest Train between Memphis and New Orleans)

Watching the Trains Go Out
A music hall song

Langgaard, Rued
'Train passing by', the 2nd movement of String Quartet no. 2
Langgaard, an innovative and prolific Danish compoer whose work was not appreciated during his lifetime, revised this composition in 1931.
Marco Polo #9302

O'Hare, Christopher
Comic hurry. For lively, rapid comedies; also suitable for railroad trains, races, airplanes, chasing
For orchestra, written to accompany silent films. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Chambers, Wallace C.
Hold dat Train!
Song. Sheet music in the Library of Congress American Memory Project, Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 (from Duke University) collection.

L'Employé de l'Ouest-Etat
song recorded by Dranem
Spef SPMS 2002.

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Bliss, Sir Arthur
'In the Tube at Oxford Circus',
one of Bliss's Conversations for a chamber group of strings and woodwind.
Naxos 8.557108

Langey, Otto
Galop-hurry. For races, fire alarms, pursuits, railroad scenes, etc.
For orchestra, written to accompany silent films. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.
Roberts, Luckey

Railroad Blues
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Townsend, Herbert
The Cabman's Railway Yarn [Musical monologue]
Published in London by Reynolds & Co. as no. 219 in the series 'Musical Monologues'.


Gilbert, L.Wolfe
Down yonder
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Indy, Vincent d'
Poème des rivages - symphonic suite, op. 77
Each of the four movements is inspired by a particular stretch of European coastline. The 3rd movement, 'Horizons verts - Falconara', begins and ends with sounds of a train starting and stopping. Falconara is just north of Ancona, on the Adriatic coastline of Italy along which the railway runs close to the sea for some 200 miles.
CDM7 63954-2
HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Poulenc, Francis
''En Chemin de fer', from Promenades, for piano.
CDM7 63946-2, PRCD9080, Prezioso CD 800.062

Schoenberg, Arnold
This must be one of the more unlikely entries in this list! In 1921, Schoenberg arranged three pieces as exercises for teaching purposes, including Luigi Denza's.
Funiculi, funiculà [see above under the year 1880] which he arranged for voice, clarinet, guitar, mandolin, violin, viola, and cello. The three pieces were published by Belmont in 1988. Thanks to Klaus Matzka for telling me about this piece.
Philips 6570 811 (LP), 1981 (deleted)
Erato 063013541 2 (CD), 1996 (deleted) - includes sample

Wehrli, Werner
'In der Eisenbahn', from Von einer Wanderung, for piano
Prezioso CD 800.062

Ives, Charles
The Celestial Railroad, for piano; Symphony no. 4, 2nd movement
Probably written in 1921-23, Ives' piano piece is a tone poem based on the story of the same title by Nathaniel Hawthorne, dating from 1843. In this story, Hawthorne produced a contemporary, satirical version of The Pilgrim's Progess; Hawthorne's dreamer finds that 'a railway has recently been established between [the City of Destruction} and the Celestial City':

The reader of John Bunyan will be glad to know that Christian's old friend Evangelist, who was accustomed to supply each pilgrim with a mystic roll, now presides at the ticket office.

The engine, 'looking...more like a sort of mechanical demon that would hurry us to the infernal regions than a laudable contrivance for smoothing our way to the Celestial City', is driven by Christian's old enemy Apollyon, who has been persuaded to take on the job of chief engineer. The ensuing journey is vividly described.
In writing The Celestial Railroad, Ives probably re-used material from his earlier, lost Hawthorne Concerto, and he used some of the same material again as the basis of the definitive version of the second movement of his Symphony no. 4, which commences 'with a series of train bells played by the solo piano in an ethereal orchestration', and in which an approaching train can certainly be heard. This movement was thought to have been written in the 1910s; in fact, the second movement of the 4th symphony as it existed at that time probably comprised the 'Hawthorne Concerto'. To add to the confusion, some of the same musical motifs, including evocations of riding on the railroad, feature in the second ('Hawthorne') movement of Ives's Concord Piano Sonata no. 2; this movement was written between 1910 and 1911, although the complete sonata was not published until 1921. (For further clarification and analysis, see 'Ives's Celestial Railroad and his Fourth Symphony', by Thomas M. Brodhead, in American Music vol. 12 part 4 1994 pp. 389-424).


Bortkiewicz, Sergej
'Abfahrt des Zuges, from Der kleine Wanderer, for piano
Prezioso CD 800.062

Honegger, Arthur
Music for the film 'La Roue' (Abel Gance).
Only the overture, lasting less than four minutes, survives from the original score. Gance's silent film is a tragic melodrama story involving a railwayman, his stepdaughter, and his son. In its original version it was an epic some 8-9 hours long; it is thought that Honegger used excerpts from other composers' music as well as the music he composed himself. Evidently his work on this film inspired him to compose Pacific 231 in the following year.. The score contains titles places over all the thematic episodes, relating to the action on the screen: 'Hersan - Locomotive - Sisif - Norma - Locomotive - Le Disque - Signal - Rail - Roues - Les textes'. Honegger's music was later used in the USSR for the 1929 silent film 'The Blue Express', directed by Ilya Trauberg.
Marco Polo 8.223134
[Thanks to Theodore Van Houten for drawing this to my attention].

Walton, William
'Mariner Men', from Facade
Do these few bars count as railway music? Is Edith Sitwell's poem 'about' trains?
'Those trains will run over their tails, if they can,
Snorting and sporting like porpoises...'
Several recordings

Bigeou, Esther
'Panama Limited Blues'
The Panama Limited ran from Chicago to New Orleans (from where it was possible to board ship to Panama).
[A definitive version was recorded by Bukka White in 1930.
JSP-7715 ]

Donaldson, Walter
Seven or Eleven. My Dixie Pair o' Dice
'At the railroad station/Almost ev'ry day...'
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Friend, Cliff
You Said Something When You Said Dixie
'This morning I was feeling great/While waiting at the station gate,/I went to buy my railroad ticket back to my home state'.
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Honegger, Arthur
Pacific 231
The first of the Three Symphonic Movements, this evocation of an express locomotive is so well known that no further description is necessary. ‘231’ is not the number of the locomotive, but is the French convention for denoting the 4-6-2 (‘Pacific’) wheel arrangement of this type of locomotive. Jan Mitry made a film as a visual accompaniment to the music, in 1949.
Decca 448576, Chandos CHAN9176
HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187
Prezioso CD 800.062 (version for piano)

Krenek, Ernst
String quartet no. 3
This work was begn on a railway journey between Frankfurt and Berlin in May, 1923. In Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music, Walter Willson Cobbett remarks that 'It would not be difficult to find in the four introductory bars an echo of that railway journey'; bearing in mind Krenek's fondness for railways, that is a reasonable supposition. Other railway-related works by Krenek are noted at 1926 and elsewhere in this list.

Maugeri, Francesco
Va' La' Che Vai Bene!
At least one copy of the sheet music of this fox-trot for piano, published in Milan, found its way to America, where it can now be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection

Sir, Otakar
'In der Eisenbahn', from Schulferien, for piano
Prezioso CD 800.062

Ellington, Duke
Choo Choo (Gotta Hurry Home)

Gershwin, George
Rhapsody in Blue
Responding to an invitation from Paul Whiteman to write a jazz concerto, Gershwin determined to demonstrate the possibilities of the jazz idiom; in his own words, ‘The Rhapsody began as a purpose, not a plan’. He went on to describe its beginnings thus: ‘I worked out a few themes, but just at this time I had to appear in Boston... It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-bang that is so often stimulating to the composer (I frequently hear music in the very heart of noise), that I suddenly heard - even saw on paper - the complete construction of the Rhapsody from beginning to end’. This doesn’t mean that it is a musical description of a railway journey - ‘I heard it as a sort of music kaleidoscope of America’ - but perhaps it merits a place in this list nonetheless. (For  a musical evocation of Gershwin's train journey and the generation of 'Rhapsody in Blue', see the first movement of the 'NYConcerto' by Richard Rijnvos, listed below under the year 2006).
Many recordings.

Hall, Wendell
It looks like rain
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Kastalsky, Alexander
'Poyezd' ['The Railway Train'], for chorus, piano, trumpet and percussion.

Kern, Jerome
Sitting Pretty [musical]
The overture, 'Journey Southward', represents a New York-Florida train journey, and includes the sound of a train whistle. A duet, 'The Enchanted Train', accompanies a ride on the Long Island Railroad.S5 68589-2
[overture only]

Le Train Bleu, op. 84
A ballet for Diaghilev, with a libretto by Cocteau. Strictly speaking this work does not qualify for inclusion here; in Diaghilev's words, 'The first point about Le Train Bleu is that there is no blue train in it. This being the age of speed, it has already reached its destination and disembarked its passengers. These are to be seen on a beach... in front of a casino...'; the ballet invokes the physical, sporting activities (tennis, golf, swimming) of French holidaymakers. The 'train bleu', a fast, luxury train operating between Paris and Deauville, was launched in the previous summer (1923).

1924 [-25]
Krenek, Ernst.
, Op. 36
Krenek abandoned this work, which contained a railway sequence about a couple travelling from Vienna to Scotland [information from Eldon Rathburn]

1924 [-1937]
Moeran, E.J.
Symphony in G
Although probably not intended by the composer, parts of this symphony made one listener [himself a composer] think of trains. In an interval talk in May 1943, Patrick Hadley wrote:

'Compare, if it is not too far-fetched a fancy, sections of the music you will shortly be hearing through which there is a sense of striving against odds towards ultimate triumph with one of the one-time Norfolk Coast expresses battling its way up Brentwood Bank, headed by one of the lovely old Claud Hamilton engines, with wide open regulator and roaring exhaust'.
[From Paddy - the life and music of Patrick Hadley, by Eric Wetherell].
Several recordings.


Christiné, Henri
An operetta, in the course of which a train on the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée railway is deliberately derailed by the daughter of a rural signalman so that she can mingle with the passengers and meet people from high society.
A song from this work is included on Spef SPMS 2002.

Hindemith, Paul
Overture to the 'Flying Dutchman' as played at sight by a spa band at 7 o'clock in the morning,
for string quartet
Thought to date from 1925, a period when Hindemith played viola in a string quartet. Hubert Kupper and Frank Wankmuller have compared this piece to Honegger's Pacific 231, maintaining that both represent the sounds of Pacific locomotives, but 'Hindemith's engine has three cylinders, and Honegger's has four'. They also state that 'Whereas Honegger's title announces that his work depicts a locomotive, Hindemith's representation of the express locomotive is more amusing for being hidden' [Kupper and Wankmuller, 'Pacific: Musikalische Umsetzung eines Eisenbahnmythos bei Honegger und Hindemith', in Festschrift Christoph-Hellmut Mahling zum 65. Geburtstag Tutzing: Schneider, 1997 pp. 737-748]. I have to say that I am not convinced - is it possible that this essay is a joke?
WER 6197-2, PRD250 113/5

Robison, Carson and Robert E. Massey
The Runaway Train
Destined to become a children's favourite, but worth listening to in its original form.
Living Era CD AJA 5610 (performed by Vernon Dalhart in 1932)

Smith, Trixie
Railroad Blues
Recorded by Trixie Smith & Her Down Home Syncopators (including Louis Armstrong on cornet) at New York in March 1925. [Am I right to attribute this to Trixie Smith, or is it an interpretation of Luckey Roberts' Railroad Blues of 1920?]

Deshevov, Vladimir Mikhaylovich
Relsï [Les Rails], for piano
Danacord DACOCD399, Erasmus 170, Prezioso CD 800.062

Krenek, Ernst
Jonny Spielt Auf, op. 45
In this opera a train and railway station are said to be depicted on stage for the first time. I'm grateful to Garrett Bowles for this information; he tells me that railroads were an important part of Ernst Krenek's life, and that he often composed while riding on trains. Some other pieces by Krenek reflecting this interest are included elsewhere in this list.
Decca 436 631-2DH2

Weinberg, Mortimer, Charley Marks and Harry Warren
Where do you work-a, John?
The answer is ''On the Delaware Lackawan'.
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Bailey, DeFord
Pan American Blues
A solo harmonica piece imitating the sound of an express freight train.
CD: Harp Blowers 1926-1929, Document DOCD5164 [also includes Dixie Flyer Blues and John Henry, both performed by DeFord Bailey.
A recording can also be heard at

DeFord Bailey performed two harmonica pieces imitating trains, the other being Dixie Flyer Blues. Both probably dates from much earlier than 1927; as DeFord Bailey explained,

'I worked on that train for years, getting that train down right. I caught that train down just like I wanted in a matter of time. I got the engine part. Then I had to make the whistle. It was about, I expect, seventeen years to get that whistle. It takes time to get this stuff I'm talking about, original. You don't get any original stuff like this in a day or two. It takes years to get it down piece by piece'.

In fact Bailey's interest in the sounds of trains was kindled in childhood. He had to go under a railway trestle bridge on the way to school, and he would wait for a train to go over; then,
'I would get under it, put my hands over my eyes, listen to the sound, and then play that sound all the way to school'.

So why list Pan American Blues under the year 1927?. The radio station WSM's Saturday night Barn Dance followed NBC's 'Musical Appreciation Hour' with conductor Dr. Walter Damrosch. One Saturday night in December 1927 [?1926 according to some sources] 'Musical Appreciation Hour' concluded with a piece imitating a railway locomotive 'by a young composer from Iowa' [who was the composer? what was the piece?].Barn Dance compère George Hay scoffed at this example of contemporary classical music attempting 'realism', and introduced a musician who 'could make his harmonica really sound like a train', DeFord Bailey, whereupon Bailey performed Pan American Blues live. [As a result of a witticism from Hay, the Barn Dance programme changed its name, but that's another story...] [Many thanks to 'Harmonica Buzz', a.k.a. J.T.Sunden, for passing on to me this fascinating story]

Baltimore & Ohio
Between 24th September and 15th October, the centenary of the Baltimore & Ohio railway was celebrated by an exhibition and a daily pageant, including a number of locomotives, and incorporating The Trail of the Iron Horse: a music-story of the development of inland transport in America, with words by Margaret Talbott Stevens and music arranged by Sigmund Spaeth. For the occasion, Walter Goodwin and Margaret Talbott Stevens wrote a song 'Hail to the Baltimore and Ohio'. The pageant was led by the Baltimore and Ohio Centenary Band playing the tune of this song; they were followed by the first float, 'America', with the Baltimore and Ohio Glee Club singing the song togetherwith 'Star Spangled Banner' and 'I've been Working on the Railroad'.For details of the centenary event: A copy of 'Hail to the Baltimore and Ohio' can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection

The General
A recording of the 'original' soundtrack for Buster Keaton's 'silent' film, comprising traditional songs and instrumental music from Civil War days, is available.
Disconforme SFCD33555

July, F
Le Rapide de 7h02/The Express Train/Scene de voyage.
Written to accompany a silent film, this comprises four movements: Le depart, Le voyage, L'arrivée, Les voyageurs descendent. Published by Editions Chouden, Paris. (Thanks to Theodore Van Houten for drawing this to my attention).

Lewis, Meade Lux
Honky Tonk Train Blues
Composed by Meade Lux Lewis in 1927, and first recorded by him in 1928 (and several times thereafter), this is described by Jim White as 'probably the most evocative piece dedicated to the motion of a train - I have seen a TV clip of it in which the sheet music was superimposed over some freight train shots showing how the different passages illustrate starting up, accelerating, crossing a bridge (with the associated echoes), stopping, etc. This is the ultimate boogie woogie piano solo'.
Columbia 37336

Nix, Rev. A. W.
Black Diamond Express to Hell and The White Flyer to Heaven.
Spoken/sung sermons, with congregational participation, invoking the railroad journey as a metaphor.[Recordings can also be found of Death's Black Train is Coming, declaimed by Rev. J.M. Gates (1924 and 1926), Revs. Hr. and S.J. Worre Tomlin (1926), and the Rev. Ed Claybron (1926/28)]

Stolz, Robert
The Blue Train - musical

This is the Way the Puff Puff Goes
This song, although light-hearted, ominously suggests that already there are fewer trains than there used to be because of competition from buses and cars. Recorded in 1928 (date of composition not known); included on the CD collection of British railway music 'On the Right Track' (see Discography )

Bilbro, D. H. 'Bert'
'C. and N. W. Blues'
An evocation of a train performed on solo harmonica.
CD: Harp Blowers 1926-1929, Document DOCD5164

McAbee, Palmer
McAbee's Railroad Piece
An astonishing virtuoso harmonica solo imitating the sounds of a train, recorded in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A.)
Rounder 1143

Thomson, Virgil
Symphony on a Hymn Tune
Composed 1926-28. The second movement ends with what the composer describes as 'a suggestion of a distant railway train'. In fact the wailing whistle could hardly be mistaken for anything else.
TROY 017-2, Naxos 'American Classics' 8.559022

Williams, George 'Bullet'
'Frisco leaving Birmingham'
A blues with a 'scorching train instrumental' (Haymes).
Document DOCD-5150

Bennett, Robert Russell
'The Los Angeles Union Station', in Sights and Sounds: an orchestral entertainment
Naxos 8.559004

Bresgen, Cesar
Gesang des ausgedienten Eisenbahnwaggons im Feld, for piano
Prezioso CD 800.062

Krenek, Ernst
Reisebuch aus den osterreichischen Alpen ['Travelbook from the Austrian Alps']- song cycle for voice and piano
Krenek wrote both the words and the music for this song cycle. The second song, 'Verkehr', begins thus translated from German):

In the mountains go electric, always higher,
always higher through the woods, over the meadows in their spring colours.
The train glides on the hillside so smoothly and tidily
as if it is part of Nature,
not put to work by men....

The penultimate song, 'Hiemkehr', fleetingly evokes the rail journey back to Vienna. Unfortunately for those of us who are railway enthusiasts, the remainder of the verse concerns itself with the local bus service!
CPO999 203-2

McTell, Blind Willie (originally recorded under the pseudonym 'Blind Sammie')
'Travelin' Blues'
An epic blues, recounting a hobo's journey, and including train sounds in the guitar.

'Unattentat sur la voie ferré/eisenbahn attentat', from Actualités [film score] Op. 104

Reynders, John and Idris Lewis [uncredited]
Music for feature film, The Flying Scotsman, directed by Castleton Knight; produced by British International Pictures.The music is credited as 'arranged and conducted by John Reynders'. In fact, only a few bars evoke the sound of the train, and they can be heard at the beginning. 

Tucker, Bessie
'Katy Blues'
'Katy' is the M. K. & T. (Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroad)
Document DOCD 5070

Wallace, Wesley
No. 29
A boogie/barrelhouse piano/vocal in which Wallace describes taking a ride on a freight train from Memphis and imitates the sounds of the train. Thanks to Bill Egan for telling me about this piece.

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Harling, Richard and W. Franke Harling
Beyond the Blue Horizon
Written for the film Monte Carlo; adopted as his signature tune and recorded by band leader George Olsen
with his band George Olsen & His Music in the same year.
Victor 22530A
CD ASV 5388
Living Era CD AJA 5610

Patton, Charley and Willie Brown
'Moon Goin' Down'
A steam locomotive is vividly evoked in both words and music of this blues.

Trumbauer, Frankie and Matty Malneck
Choo Choo
Performed by several British dance bands, including Jack Payne's (complete with train effects).
Included on the CD 'On the Right Track' (see Discography)

Yvain, Maurice
Kadubec; operetta
Includes a song 'Si j'étais Chef de Gare' which Klaus Matzka tells me is sung 'with signalling whistle'.

Hayes, George Gibbons
Timber Line
'When work each day becomes a grind/I long for far off timber line'
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

McTell, Blind Willie
'Broke Down Engine Blues'

Villa-Lobos, Heitor
'O Trenzhino do Caipira' ['The Little Train of the Caipira'], Bachianas Brasileiras no. 2
This piece for orchestra, the finale (‘Toccata’) of the second Bachianas Brasileiras, was inspired by a ride taken by the composer in 1931 on a train which was transporting berry-pickers and farm labourers between villages in the Brazilian province of Sao Paolo. (‘Caipira’ means ‘yokel’ or ‘rustic’, and is derived from ‘curupira’, a word in the language of the Tupi Indians). Villa-Lobos sketched the composition within an hour of completing the journey; he wrote it for ‘cello and piano, and he and his wife played it through on the same evening. Villa-Lobos arranged Bachianas Brasileiras no. 2 for chamber orchestra in 1938.
EMI CDH7 61015-2
EMI CDC5 55224-2
Naxos 8 550838
HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Armstrong, Louis
'Hobo, you can't ride this train'
Recorded in 1932, but could it be earlier in origin?
Included on 'Hot Trains', Saga 49/066 482-2 [see discography]

Dessau, Paul
'Das Eisenbahnspiel', for childrens' choir, two violins and piano.
A piece which conjhures up a fantastic return trip by rail from Germany to Honolulu!

Donovan, Richard
Smoke and steeel, for orchestra

Ellington, Duke
Described by Eddie Lambert as 'the first of Ellington's celebrated train pieces (disregarding the early 'Choo-Choo'). Here the band goes for an easy Pullman ride. The train effects are well integrated into an Ellington medium-tempo stomp...' Brief excerpts are heard at the beginning and end of the film 'Bundle of Blues' (1933). For a perceptive note of the significance of trains to Duke Ellington, see Duke: a portrait of Duke Ellington [1977] by Derek Jewell, pp. 53-57. During the 1930s, the Ellington band travelled across America in two private Pullman railway coaches and a baggage van: 'The train was his sanctuary'.
Living Era CD AJS 2015

Formby, George
On the Wigan Boat Express
Performed by the inimitable Georghe Formby; written by him, Harry Clifford, and Fred E. Cliffe; recorded by George Formby in 1940.
Living Era CD AJA 5610

'Le Metro', from Suite Symphonique 'Paris'
In this short piece which opens the suite, we hear a clock strike 8 in the morning, and then the bustling sounds of a Metro train. The suite originated as incidental music, written in 1929, for Jules Romains' play Donogoo-Tonka, set in Paris and South America, staged in 1930. Ibert subsequently used the Parisian material to construct the Suite Symphonique 'Paris' .
Several recordings, including HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Künnecke, Eduard
Glückliche Reise; operetta
The title song refers to a railway journey and to the four classes of passenger.
Several recordings of the song (but not the entire work).

Rathke, Otto
On a Local Train Journey
Recorded by George Scott-Wood & the International Novelty Orchestra in September 1932.
Living Era CD AJA 5610

Rosenberg, Hilding
'Järnvägsfuga' ['Railway Fugue'], from Resa till Amerika
The ‘Railway Fugue’ is part of a suite in this opera which is concerned with Swedish emigration to America. [Rosenberg's brother Johan was an engine driver].
Although the complete score of the opera has not been published, the fugue has been published as part of a 'Symphonic Suite' derived from the opera [Edition Suecia Ed nr FST 27st] and separately, as 'Järnvägsfuga' [Edition Suecia Ed nr FST 29st]. Recordings include the following:
Intermezzo & Fugue; Symfoniokestern Norrköping, 1994. Fun House CNR 995.020-2
Intermezzo & Fugue; Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, 1967. RCA Victrola VICS 1319; Caprice CAP 1013 (Expo Norr Riks LP 13)
Fugue; Göteborgs radioorkester, 1950(?), Radiotjänst RC 309
'Swedish Orchestral Works', performed by the Norrköpings Symfoniorkester.Fun House FHCE-2016 [and/or Fun House FHCE-2016?]
None of the above recordings have been available for a number of years.
This piece is included on Railroad Rhythms (HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187) issued in November 2006.

Amfitheatrof, Daniele
Panoirama american [American panorama], for orchestra (with extra percussion)
Composed before the composer set foot on American soil, this work seeks to evoke the sound of America ~ including sounds of steam trains. N.B. Groves cites 1933 as the year of composition, bvut I have seen 1935 cited elsewhere; the work received its first performance, in Italy, in 1937.
X LXCD 8 (not currently available?)

Bogan, Lucille and Walter Roland
'T&NO Blues'
(The T&NO was the Texas & New Orleans railroad).
Previously recorded in 1930 by Hattie Hyde, although this recording has not survived.
Blues Document BDCD-6037

Eisler, Hanns.
'Kohlen für Mike' /'Coal for Mike', the first of Two Choruses, Op. 35, for male voices.
A setting of words by Brecht, based on Sherwood Anderson's story about the widow of a railway worker employed by the Wheeling [& Lake Erie? & New York?] Railroad Company, Ohio.After her husband's work-related death, she received no compensation from the Company, so firemen on trains passing her house threw coal into her backyard so that she would have enough fuel for the winter.
German version published by Breitkopf & Haertel; English version in Brecht Eisler Songbook. See also
Berlin Classics 0092362BC

Ellington, Duke
Daybreak Express
A glorious evocation in sound of the acceleration, rapid progress, and slowing down of a steam train, complete with wailing whistle and clanging bell.
KAZ CD 307, Living Era CD AJS 2015

Steinberg, Maximilian
Symphony no. 4 ('Turksib')
Written to celebrate the opening of the Turmenistan Siberian railway. I'm told the music has 'some Honeggeresque sounds'.

Young, Joe, Chas. Tobias and Fred J.Coots
Two Tickets to Georgia
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Brook, Harry
From a Railway Carriage, unison song
A setting of the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published by OUP (The Oxford Choral Songs no. 1084)

Dessau, Paul
'Kleine Eisenbahn', from Zehn Kinderstücke, for piano
Prezioso CD 800.062

Gardiner, Reginald
Living Era CD AJA 6510

Høffding, Finn.
Das Eisenbahngleichnis,
for SATB choir, three saxophones and piano
'Life is like a railway journey' - a setting by this Danish composer of a text by the German author Erich Kästner.

Macaffer, Jimmy
Holiday Express.
Although the date of composition is not known, this piece was recorded by Teddy Joyce and his Orchestra - for whom it is likely to have been written - on 20th December 1934. (Macaffer played trumpet in the Teddy Joyce Orchestra, a British (although Joyce was Canadian) dance band.
The Golden Age of British Dance Bands 1934-36. OEA-951-1 {LP]
The Golden Age of British Jazz. World Records SH 364

Rock Island Line
This song, though probably a good deal older, was twice recorded from groups of convicts in Arkansas during 1934 by John Lomax. The text 'presents a train both impossibly fast and excruciatingly slow. Either way, it remains a vehicle an imprisoned man cannot board, a deliverance denied by his status' (Stephen Wade). Lomax was almost certainly accompanied and assisted by Hoddie Ledbetter, who as 'Leadbelly' frequently performed and several times recorded this song between 1937 and 1949. Later it was a hit for Lonnie Donegan in 1954.
Rounder 1144, 1500, 2142
Living Era CD AJA 6510 (Lonnie Donegan)

Weill, Kurt
'Le Train du Ciel'
One of seven songs written as incidental music to Marie Galante, by J. Deval.
Several recordings.

Blower, Maurice
In the Train, for SATB
Words by J. Thomson
Published by Stainer & Bell

Frank and Manoloff
She'll be comin' round the mountain
'Had a dream the other night, about a railroad train,
She went rolling up the mountain....'
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Gershwin, George
Porgy and Bess
Includes 'A Red headed woman makes a choo-choo jump its track', and 'Leavin' for the Promis' Lan'. The lyics of the latter includes 'Oh, the train is at the station/An' you better get on board/'Cause it's leavin' today... Keep that drivin' wheel a rollin'.... Oh, I got my ticket ready...', and the song concludes with some evocative steam train effects and a blaring whistle from the orchestra.
Several recordings [but be warned, these two songs are not invariably included among selected highlights]

Lofton, 'Cripple' Clarence and 'Red Nelson' [Nelson Wilburn]
Streamline Train
Lofton 'beat out the rhythm of the wheels on the piano keys' [Haymes]. America's first streamlined train had appeared in 1934.
Blues Document BDCD-6006

Mohr, Gerhard and Erich Plessow
Orient Express
Recorded by Sidney Torch at the Regal Cinema, Edmonton , London, in March 1935; remarkable for the extraordinary railway sounds which Torch obtains from the cinema organ.
Included on the CDs 'On the Right Track' and 'Vintage Trains' (see Discography)

Réti, Rudolf
Ausflug mit der Eisenbahn, for solo, optional chorus, percussion and piano
Words by Christian Morgenstern
Published by [?], Vienna?, c.1935. Copy in British Library.

Flying Scotsman, for organ
A recording of Sidney Torch playing this piece in January, 1938, is included on the CD 'On the Right Track' (see Discography). It is remarkable less for its music than for the railway sounds which Sidney Torch extracts from the cinema organ..

Silver, Abner
Santa Claus Express, by Abner Silver, Al Sherman and Al Lewis.
Possibly written in 1934? Published by Chappell & Co., 1935.
Performed by Dan Donovan and chorus with Henry Hall on the CD 'On the Right Track' (see Discography)

Stothart, Herbert
Music for the film Anna Karenina -
including passages to accompany scenes of a night rail journey to St Petersburg

Williams, [?] and Arthur LeClerq
There's a Body on the Line
Recorded by Jack Payne and his band. Described to me as 'entertaining...with some train effects'.

Britten, Benjamin
Night Mail
Composed to provide the soundtrack, with verses by W.H.Auden, to a classic documentary film of a mail train travelling Britain’s West Coast main line from Euston to Scotland. The film was produced by the GPO Film Unit and directed by John Grierson.
Hyperion CDA 66845
Video NFA/Post Office/HA/VID

Britten, Benjamin
The Way to the Sea
Altogether less known than Night Mail, this was also written as a soundtrack to a film with a text by W.H.Auden. The film, The Way to the Sea, was made by Strand Films for the Southern Railway; it is about the history of Portsmouth, the London-Portsmouth coach road, and the then recently electrified London-Portsmouth railway.
Beulah 1PD14
Beulah video Ports o' War

Alain, Jehan
Litanies, for organ
I have it on good authority that the rhythms on which this work is based were at least partly inspired by the suburban train between Saint Germain-en-Laye, the composer's home, and the Gare St Lazaire, and I'm grateful to Peter Vizard for bringing this to my attention. But of course any such influence would have been subsidiary to the primary religious inspiration, and I find it hard to hear a train in the music.
Several recordings

Gray, Allan
Music for the film Kate Plus Ten

To avoid any confusion, it is perhaps worth noting that Honegger's Scenic Railway, Martinu's Le Train Hanté, and Tcherpnin's Autor des Montagnes Russes' , for piano, are not concerned with real railways but with rides at the Paris Exposition of 1937. 'Montagnes Russes' - 'Russian mountains' - was a French term for the roller-coaster or scenic railway. All three pieces were among several piano pieces commissioned to commemorate the event. All are available on a CD issued by Etcetera: KTC 1061. The Honegger and Martinu pieces are also on Prezioso CD 800.062, a collection of railway music for the piano.

Levy, Louis [and/or Jack Beaver?]
Music for the film Oh Mr Porter!
Levy is credited with the music for this film, but Philip Scowcroft suggests that much of the score may have been written by Jack Beaver].

Le Quintette du Hot Club de France
Mystery Pacific
members of the quintet include Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt.
Included on the album Hot Trains, Saga Jazz 49/066 482-2

Rodgers, Richard (& Lorenz Hart)
All Points West. Musical

Tailleferre, Germaine.
Score for Boris Perskine's documentary film Sur les routes d'acier.
Germaine Tailleferre was the only female member of the group of composers, 'Les Six'. This film has been restored, but seems not to be available as a video or DVD.

Burkhard, Willy
'Auf der Eisenbahn', from Acht leichte Klavierstücke, for piano
Prezioso CD 800.062

Ellis, Vivian
Coronation Scot
A British light music classic which was used as the signature tune of the 'Paul Temple' series on BBC radio. Apparently it was actually inspired by trains on the Great Western Railway in Somerset, but was named after the famous LMS train by the publisher. To add to the confusion, a version for piano was published in 1948 with a cover illustration of the LNER 'Coronation' train.
Hyperion CDA 66868, Marco Polo 8 223522, Naxos 4 553515, EMI CDGB50, Classic FM 75605 57003-2, Living Era CD AJA 5610, HMV 5 735502, 'On the Right Track' (see Discography).
Piano version included on Bound for Glory CD (see Discography).

Kosma, Joseph
Soundtrack for La Bête Humaine, the classic film by Jean Renoir based on Zola's novel

Krenek, Ernst
'Streamliner', from Twelve Short Piano-Pieces written in the twelve-tone technique (Op.83)
Prezioso CD 800.062

Levy, Louis
Music for the film The Lady Vanishes 

Martinů., Bohuslav
Opera based on a play by Georges Neveux. French libretto by Bohuslav Martinů, later translated into Czech.Act I, towards the end of Scene 7, Michel, the male lead, insists he can leave the little town by train, although the inhabitants insist it can only be reached by boat. The fact that the name of the company operating the train, la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest, is a fictional one may be a narrative device to emphasise that we are in the land of dreams and fantasies. Act III, Scene 6, in the Central Bureau of Dreams; the engine driver of the Orient Express calls in to partake of a quick dream while his train is stopped at a signal on the Romanian border. He is summoned from his dream to return to his duties by the sound of a train whistle.

According to the Wikipedia article there are two live recordings from 1962 and 2002, and a studio recording from 1964. The 1964 and 2002 recordings are currently available on CD. (With thanks to Glyn Williams).

Mayerl, Billy
Railroad Rhythm
One of Billy Mayerl’s jazz-inspired ‘syncopated impressions’ for piano solo.
EMI CDM 65596-2

Revueltas, Silvestre
Musica para Charlar for orchestra
Two suites of excerpts from the Mexican composer's soundtrack for the film Ferrocariles de baja California, also dating from 1938. Includes 'Construction of the Railroad', 'Sleepers and Rails', etc.
HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Rouse, Ervin T.
Orange Blossom Special
In 1938 the Seaboard Air Line's 'Orange Blossom Special' became Florida's first streamlined train. Bluegrass fiddlers Ervin T. Rouse and Chubby Wise went to Union Station to see it and made up this tune afterwards; to his subsequent regret Wise relinquished all claim to it. It was first recorded by the Rouse Brothers in 1939, and has since been performed and recorded by other groups, its evocation of the sound and speed of the train posing something of a challenge to virtuoso instrumentalists.

Terry, Sonny
Train whistle blues
A virtuoso harmomica solo imitating the sound of a train.

Antheil, George
Score for the film Union Pacific, directed by Cecile B. DeMille.
The drama takes place against the backdrop of the building of the intercontinental railroad, and climaxes on the day in 1869 when the 'Golden Spike' was due to be driven at Promontory Point. See under 1945 below for Antheil's piece (presumably closely related' The Golden Spike which became the 3rd movement of his Symphony no. 3. [Thanks to Klaus Matzka for informing me of the film score which is not cited in some lists of Antheil's works].
DVD available [NTSC format only]

Britten, Benjamin
'Calypso', from Cabaret Songs
The Cabaret Songs are settings of texts by W.H.Auden. In 'Calypso' the poet imagines himself on a train on the Springfield Line to Grand Central Station, New York, where his lover, Chester Kallman, is waiting for him. The poem begins 'Driver, drive faster and make a good run/Down the Springfield Line under the shining sun', and Britten's setting evokes both the poet's impatient longing and the rhythm of the train in a continuous accelerando punctuated by piercing blasts of the engine's whistle.
CDE 84167
MACD 729
DKPCD 9138

Green, Ray
Three inventories of Casey Jones [or, Three inventories on a Texan tune']
for piano and orchestra

Grofé, Ferde
Wheels: a Musical Panorama of Transportation
The third movement of this work, by a master of 'symphonic jazz', is titled 'Iron Horse'. Was it perhaps composed for the New York World's Fair, like Kurt Weill's piece (below)? It was never recorded commercially, but a recording, from a radio programme in the early 1940s, exists on 16" transcription discs. [Thanks to Jim Farrington for telling me about this].

Stone, Lew [with Bobby McGhee)
Canadian Pacific

Weill, Kurt
Railroads on Parade/Fantasia on Rail Transport
For Edward Hungerford's pageant Railroads on Parade, staged in the railroad pavilion at the New York World's Fair, Weill wrote 'a most original but oddly European-sounding score based on American railroad songs' (Groves), though it also includes songs written by Weill himself. This work, 'For locomotives, actors, dancers, soloists, chorus, and orchestra', and comprising narration, songs, choruses, and choral interludes, lasted 70 minutes in performance [the musical content lasted 45 minutes]. Songs included 'Low Bridge', 'What the engine said', 'Oh Mister, where's the train', 'We man the trains' [Song of the Railroad Workers', and 'Wheels through the Night'. Weill completed a score in 1938, but added to it in 1939, prior to the World's Fair, and in 1940, when the work was revived for the 1940 Fair. The first performance took place on 30th April 1939. The only music from the show to be published was a song, retitled 'Mile after Mile', lyrics by Buddy Bernier and Charles Alan, published by Crawford in 1939; in the same year a version for jazz orchestra by Paul Weirick was also published. A sheet-music copy of 'Mile after Mile', for voice and piano/guitar, can be found in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music collection. It is also included in Kurt Weill Songs: a centennial anthology vol. 1 [ Full details of the entire work, and of surviving sketches, drafts, and scores, can be found in Kurt Weill: a handbook, by David Drew [Faber, 1987], and information is also available at
RCA 09026 635 132 2 ('Mile after Mile' only)

In 1992 David Drew compiled a suite drawn from the 1940 version of the score. Abandoning the narrative of the original, the suite is a medley of spirited arrangements of American folk songs, none of which concern railways directly with the exception of the finale, 'Trains Bound for Glory', which is introduced with bells and whistles and sounds of steam.

The only recorded music from this work which is currently available is a performance of the band arrangement of 'Mile after Mile', on:
Charming Weill [also released under the title Life, Love and Laughter]
RCA Red Seal09026 635132

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White, Edward
Puffin' Billy
This orchestral piece was used as the signature tune for the BBC Radio programme Children's Choice from its inception in December 1952; from 1954 it was retitled Children's Favourites.
Hyperion CDA66868

Copland, Aaron
John Henry, for chamber orchestra
A brief (4 minutes) piece, originally subtitled 'Railroad Ballad for Small Orchestra', the result of a commission from CBS to compose a short work for the 'School of the Air' series of radio broadcasts. Copland wrote: 'I began to work on John Henry by going through the collection of folk tunes put together by Alan Lomax... The one I chose is based on the well-known railroad ballad... A clarinet introduces the theme, and to add to the excitement and help achieve the sound of a train and John Henry's hammer, the scoring calls for triangle, anvil, sandpaper blocks, train whistle, and piano, in addition to chamber orchestra. The material lent itself easily to unorthodox rhythms and harmonies, which I hoped to introduce to young performers and listeners... I revised the work in 1952 so that it could be performed by high school orchestras as a concert piece' [Copland vol. 1 1900-1942. Faber, 1984].
Sony SM3K46559
Sony CD80117
HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Ellington, Duke
Across the Track Blues

Warren, Henry [Miller, Glenn]
Chattanooga Choo Choo
This number, so closely associated with Glenn Miller, was actually written by Harry Warren for the film Sun Valley Serenade (1941) starring Glenn Miller; it was arranged for the Glenn Miller Orchestra by Jerry Gray. [Other railway pieces performed by but not originating with the Glenn Miller Orchestra were Tuxedo Junction, Sleepy Town Train, and Slow Freight, and 9.20 Special].

White, Bukka
'Special Steam Line'

Arlen, Harold
Blues in the Night [lyrics by Johnny Mercer]
Written for the film of the same name, this became a jazz standard:
'Now the rain's a-fallin', hear the trains a-callin' "Whooee!"...
Hear dat lonesome whistle blowin' 'cross the trestle, "Whooee!"...
A-whooee-ah-whooee ol' clickety-clack's a-echoin' back th' blues in the night...'
[Thanks, David Palmquist]

Harris, Roy
Railroad Men's Ballad for chorus and orchestra.
A setting of 'Casey Jones'. A contemporary critic wrote that it ' off to a good start with the chorus intoning the melody over an ostinato in the orchestra, but the ostinato went on much too long and the ending proved strikingly ineffectual'. Which no doubt explains why it seems never to have been recorded.

Levy, Louis
Music for the film The Ghost Train

Robinson, Earl Hawley
The Lonesome Train - cantata for six speakers, eight soloists, chorus and orchestra.
The 'lonesome train' is Abraham Lincoln's funeral train:

A lonesome train on a lonesome track
Seven coaches painted black
A slow train, a quiet train
Carrying Lincoln home again

The text, by Millard Lampell, can be found at This piece was broadcast, and issued on a set of gramophone records and on an LP; it became an inspiration to Charles Parker, of 'Radio Ballads' .
Decca DA-375 [set of six 78rpm records, issued in 1944, narrated by Earl Robinson, with a cast including Burl Ives and a (very young) Pete Seeger.]
Decca DLP 5054 [LP]

Strayhorn, Billy
Take the A Train
Universally associated with Duke Ellington, for whose band it was composed and who adopted it as his theme tune, this celebrates a New York City inner city train which served the Harlem district. Although sung and recorded by Ella Fitzgerald on several occasions with the Ellington band, it is perhaps better known as a purely instrumental piece. [A Fitzgerald/Ellington recording is currently included on the 'Jazz' channel on the new Pendolino trains introduced by Virgin on routes out of London Euston].

Young, Percy Marshall
From a Railway Carriage, unison song
A setting of the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published by E.J. Arnold & Son (Leeds)

Partch, Harry
U.S. Highball - a Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip
An extraordinary work by an extraordinary composer, based on his own experience of travelling with hobos, hopping freight trains from San Francisco to Chicago in 1941. U.S. Highball combines voices of hobos, and railroad station names, with sounds from instruments designed and made by Partch himself, producing effects wonderfully evocative of the sounds of the railroad. Over 25 minutes in length, this is among the most considerable pieces of railway music, and is in my view a neglected masterpiece. Partch revised it in 1955.
Enclosure 2, Innova Recordings 401 [original version for voice and adapted guitar, performed by Partch ]
The Harry Partch Collection 2, Composers Recordings Inc. CR1 752 [1955 version, recorded in 1958; performed by Partch and others]
The Wayward - released by Wergo in 2002 [performed by Dean Drummond's Newband with Stephen Kalm and Robert Osborne]
Harry Partch: U.S. Highball, Nonesuch 7559-79697-2, released in 2003 [version for voice and string quartet arranged by Ben Johnston and performed by David Barron and the Kronos Quartet].

Barber, Samuel
Excursions, for piano
The first of these four pieces is written in a lively boogie-woogie style which suggests the sounds of a train; chords in the right hand may perhaps represent a train whistle? However, I am not aware of any documentary evidence of a railroad connection.
Several recordings.

Bernstein, Leonard
'Dream in the Subway', ballet music from the musical comedy On the Town.
Several recordings, including HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Gay, Noel [pseudonym of Reginald Moxon Armitage]
Meet me at Victoria, musical
The hero of this musical comedy is a railway porter.

Krenek, Ernst
The Ballad of the Railroads, op. 98
A song cycle in which the composer 'interweaves happy memories of childhood train travel with a gruelling depiction of his journey from Nazi-occupied Austria to California' .
Orfeo C383 991A

Lutyens, Elisabeth
En Voyage
A suite evoking a journey from London to Paris by train and boat.

Williams, Charles.
Rhythm on rails, for orchestra
An example of British light music.

Antheil, George
'The Golden Spike'
Premiered as a piece in its own right on 28th November 1945 (but see under 1939 above for its origins in a film score). Added to the Symphony no. 3 ('American') of 1936-39 as the 3rd movement, when the Symphony was revised in 1946.
Symphony no. 3 : CPO 777 040-2 [Thanks, Klaus Matka]

Foster, Teddy
Takin' the Trains Out (Chasin' After You)
Recorded on 25th July by Teddy Foster and his Band, with vocals by Betty Kent. Also recorded by Jack Payne - the Jack Payne version has been described to me as 'most enjoyable...with train effects'.

Horton, Vaughn, Denver Darling and Milton Gabler
Choo-Choo Ch'Boogie
A hit for Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five.
Living Era CD AJA 5610

Krenek, Ernst
The Santa Fe Time Table, op. 102, for mixed chorus (SSAATB)
A list of station names from the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad timetable, set for a cappella choir 'in the style of Josquin Despres's three-part polyphony'.
Orion LP ORS 75204 (no longer available)

Mercer, Johnny, and Harry Warren
'On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe'

'Do yuh hear that whistle down the line?
I figure that it's engine number forty nine,
She's the only one that'll sound that way
On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe'
The Oscar-winning song, featuring railway rhythms and sound effects, from the film The Harvey Girls, about young ladies going West to work as waitresses. Sustained over 8 minutes, this is, in its own terms, a great piece of railway music. The film was released in January, 1946.
DVD available.
CD of the soundtrack (including material not used in the film): Rhino 8122 721512

Williams, Charles.
Model railway
, for orchestra
An example of British light music.

Abady, Temple
Score for documentary film, Railways (Crown Film Unit)

Acuff, Roy
Night Train to Memphis
Roy Acuff, a country singer, recorded an album of Great Train Songs in 1965

Bacon, Ernst
From these States, orchestral suite
The American composer Ernst Bacon was very intereste in trains and wrote a number of railway-related pieces. two more can be found under the year1952; some others are undated, and even Bacon's widow has been unable to pinpoint the year of composition, so they are included in the list of pieces without known dates. In an e-mail to me, Ernst Bacon's widow has described this suite of 11 'songs' (without words) as 'a kind of musical train ride across America, mostly based on folk materials'. The first movement is entitled 'Laying of the Rails (A Sledge-Hammer Song)', and the last is 'Timberline Express (A D. & R.G. Fantasy)'. A footnote on the score of this last piece reads 'This is none of your air-conditioned, ball-bearing, diesel-powered, silent, floatatious, super-de luxe modern streamline trains. It belongs to an era of railway adventure. It charges along with obvious energy... It has a genuine steam whistle, harmoniously tuned - none of your pneumatic calf-like bleatings...'
Score published by G.Schirmer. For more information on Ernst Bacon, visit the Ernst Bacon Society Web site at

Baker, Kenny
Bakerloo Non-Stop
Written for the Ted Heath band, for whom Kenny Baker was working as lead trumpeter, and recorded for Decca in 1946.
On Ted Heath and his Music, ASV/Living Era

Batt, Malcolm John (aka John Malcolm)
A British light music classic, originally written for piano and in its orchestrated version used as the theme for ITN News. Surely the title refers to a train?
GLCD 5131

Ellington, Duke (and Billy Strayhorn)
Happy Go Lucky Local
Thanks to Jim White for reminding me of this one, in which (in his words) 'We hear the rattle and bustle of a suburban (local) service, quite different from the suave, sophisticated 'A' Train' (of 1941). Thanks also to David Palmquist for telling me that this piece was originally part of Ellington's 'Deep South Suite'.
Several recordings.

Jordan, Louis
Choo Choo Ch' Boogie
A no. 1 hit for 18 weeks, this has been described as 'one of R & B's great classics'
Rounder 1144

Moeran, E. J.
Fantasy Quartet - for oboe, violin, viola and cello
Moeran was a railway enthusiast [as was his friend Philip Heseltine - the composer 'Peter Warlock'], and railway rhythms, possibly portraying a rural local train in Norfolk, can be heard in the middle and towards the end of this piece. Note also Moeran's Symphony in G, cited above [1924].
CHAN 839 2
CAM 69

Spurgin, Anthony.
West Country Special
An example of British light music.

Stein, William and Frank Loesser
Wave to me, my lady
'Just took a job in the railroad yard,/ Pay me good, work me hard'
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Torch, Sidney
Wagon Lit
A British light music classic, included on the CD 'On the Right Track' (see Discography)

Williams, Charles
Music for the film Night Train to Munich

Beaver, Jack
Golden Arrow
included on the CD 'On the Right Track' (see Discography).

Lambert, Constant
Music for film Anna Karenina  (1948)
Includes passages written to accompany a night rail journey to St Petersburg., and the scene where Anna throws herself in front of a train.

Richardson, Clive
Running off the Rails
A British light music classic, included on the CD 'On the Right Track' (see Discography)

Bäck, Sven-Eric
The Train
Soundtrack for a film by Gosta Werner evoking impressions of railways in Sweden.
Video Video Rights VRL0030

Frankel, Benjamin
Music for film Sleeping Car to Trieste

Kaufman, Walter.
Madras Express, orchestra

Maxwell, Helen Purcell
Wheels O'Rolling
The official song of the Chicago Railroad Fair
Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Schaeffer, Pierre
Etude aux Chemins de Fer
A short work comprising authentic train sounds recorded and edited on tape, by the originator of 'musique concrète'; revised in 1971.
Both versions are included on Musidisc 292572 [3 CD sets of Schaeffer's complete work]
The piece is also included on 'OHM - Early Gurus of Electronic Music', Ellipsis ELLICD3670

Weill, Kurt
'The Little Black Train', in Down in the Valley
An American folk son g, re-used by Weill in this opera.
Capriccio 60 020 1

Archer, Violet Balestreri
'Train at night', one of three songs comprising the song cycle Under the Sun for unspecified voice and piano by this Canadian composer who died in the year 2000. 'Sometimes at night I hear a train far off/ Shunting in the yards...' The other two songs are 'First snow' and 'Flying geese'; the words are by Arthur S. Bourinot. Although unpublished, the music is available from the Canadian Music Centre,

Winter Bonfire - children's suite, op. 122
In the opening movement, 'Departure', Prokofiev uses the orchestra to evoke the sounds of an approaching train; in the words of one writer on Prokofiev, he employs 'such descriptive effects as measured tapping of the timpani, a thundering roll of a snare drum, mechanically precise figurations in the strings, and shouts from the muted trumpets' to 'create images of the metrical clatter of wheels and the blasts of a whistle of a train flying past snow-covered woods'. These sounds are heard again in the final movement, 'The Return'.
Several recordings.

Weill, Kurt
'Train to Johannesburg', from the musical Lost in the Stars [based on Alan Paton's novel Cry the Beloved Country].
MCAD 110302; Decca Broadway 0881 10302-2 (original cast); Music Masters 01612-67100-2

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Ellington, Duke
Build that Railroad (Sing that Song)

Gilkyson, Terry
Fast Freight
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Martin, Hugh
'Whistle Stop', the 2nd movement of the Grandma Moses Suite.
Originally composed as background music for a 22 minute documentary movie about Grandma Moses, the American 'naive' painter. (Hugh Martin is better known for the musical 'I'll Meet You in St Louis' and the song 'Have Yourself a Merry, Merry Christmas'). (Thanks to Klaus Matzka for telling me about this piece).
DRG 19044 [not currently available]

Auric, Georges
Soundtrack for The Titfield Thunderbolt
It seems curious that a distinguished French composer, a member of the group of composers known as 'Les Six', contributed the soundtrack to several quintessentially British films (also including The Lavender Hill Mob and Passport to Pimlico).
FILMCD177 (excerpts)
Chandos CHAN 9774
Video also available

Bacon, Ernst
'The Last Train', from A Tree on the Plains, for piano [4 hands] and SATB chorus. Words by Paul Horgan.
The opening sequence of chords on the piano is marked 'A real steam cry; none of your diesel brays'.
Score published by the Shawnee Press, Inc. (1954).

Bacon, Ernst
Peterborough: suite for viola and piano
Two versions of this suite survive in manuscript. One includes Includes a section titled 'The 11.38 Daily'. The other includes a different piece called 'The 11.45 Daily'. A note on the score of this second piece explains that this train 'used to carry one passenger car, with singing conductor, Worcester, Mass. to Peterborough, a leisurely swamp-rabbit between towns. Now not even rails are left, nor most of the ties'. Peterborough, New Hampshire, is the location of the MacDowell Colony, founded by the composer Edward MacDowell, where Ernst Bacon spent several summers.

Fernside, Joe
'The Woy Woy Workers' Train'
A popular song expressing dissatisfaction with the state of Australian railways at this time.
Recorded on Trains of Treasure [see Discography]

Forrest, Jimmy
Night Train
A no. 1 hit for Jimmy Forrest, and also for Buddy Morrow and his orchestra; echoes Ellington and Strayhorn's Happy Go Lucky Local of 1946 (Forrest played in the Ellington band of the late 1940s).
Rounder 1144

Hill-Bowen, William
Paris Metro
I'm told that this piece was the theme tune - or featured on the sound track - of the BBC TV series Railway Roundabout, but was not included on the accompanying videos. It was included on a CD, Great British Light Orchestras: George Melachrino, released by HMV in 1992

Parker, Clifton
Music for documentary film 'Elizabethan Express', produced by British Transport films

Rathburn, Eldon
The Romance of Transportation; music for an animated cartoon
Eldon Rathburn was for many years staff composer for the National Film Board of Canada; in this capacity, but also as an independent composer, he wrote several pieces of railway-related music, from the 1950s through the 1990s; many (I hope all) are included in this list. I am also indebted to him for generously sharing with me his knowledge of railway music.

Roland, Gene
'Lonesome Train'
recorded by Stan Kenton on his album Stan Kenton: concepts of artistry in rhythm.
cdp 7 92865 2

Weston, Paul and Paul Mason Howard
The Gandy dancers' ball
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Williams, Edward
Music for the British Transport Films documentary Train Time
[a day with the Operating Department of British Railways].
British Film Institute video BFIV058


The American folksong collector Alan Lomax appeared regularly on the BBC in the 1950s. Documents released by the National Archives in 2007 [KV2/2701] reveal that he was kept under surveillance by the police because of his suspected communist sympathies. A concert he organised in St Pancras town hall in December 1953 was deemed suspicious because of its theme, 'Songs of the Iron Road', and because it was promoted in the Daily Worker.

Britten, Benjamin
‘Midnight on the Great Western’ and ‘At the Railway Station, Upway’, from Winter Words.
Settings for piano and high voice of poems by Thomas Hardy. 'Midnight on the Great Western' pictures a 'journeying boy' travelling third class; the accompanying piano echoes a wailing whistle and evokes the motion of the train. In 'At the Railway Station, Upway', a boy with a violin plays for a handcuffed convict, waiting with a policeman; the comvict is moved to sing of freedom. 'And so they went on....till the train came in...' Both songs, and the cycles to which they belong, are perceptively analysed by Wilfrid Mellers in 'Sad tales for winter' [The Musical Times Winter 2001 pp.27-33] :'..Britten opens with an ingenious pianistic simulation of the railway engine, which hoots in eliding triads of C minor and (in effect) B major by way of a half-pedalling device... The final stanza returns to the train's C minor jogging... [Finally] The train grinds to a halt, whistling "from afar"'.
Decca 425 996-2 DM
Hyperion CDA 66209

Cesano, Otto
Night Train
Light music for orchestra, although perhaps more 'big band' than 'orchestra' in character - more dramatic and dynamic railway sounds than most other railway pieces in this genre.
GLCD 5131

Duncan, Trevor
20th Century Express (originally titled Making Tracks, for orchestra
A descriptive piece by this British composer of light music (whose real name is Leonard Trebilco[ck])
Marco Polo 8 223517

Frackenpohl, Arthur
Suite for strings (based on American folk songs): i. Union Train...
Score and parts published by G. Schirmer (New York).

Frankel, Benjamin
Music for film The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By

MacColl, Ewan
'Cannily, Cannily'
A lullaby for an engine driver's baby.
Written for Isla Cameron; recorded by Steeleye Span [on their 1974 album Rave On] and in 2003, by Jah Wobble on English Roots Music]

Parker, 'Little' Junior, and Sam Philips
Mystery Train
Parker and Philips wrote this blues together in 1953, using words from 'Worried Man Blues' sung by the Carter Family in the 1930s and perhaps by others before that (it is also very similar to Blind Lemon Jefferson's 'Right of Way Blues' of 1927 and Lucille Bogan's 'T.N.O.Blues' of 1930). It was performed by Little Junior's Blue Flames... 'a sax brought out the inevitable train sound with an ominous flair' (Greil Marcus, in his book also called Mystery Train). Elvis Presley reinterpreted it a year later (see below).

Donegan, Lonnie
'Rock Island Line'
Lonnie Donegan's version of Leadbelly's song [see under 1934] is worth noting because of its enormous impact in Britain.

Monk, Thelonious
'...A distant relation of the 'train blues' of the past' (original sleeve note).
Columbia Millen108

Parker, Clifton
Music for the British Transport Films documentary Elizabethan Express.
British Film Institute video BFIV058

Posford, George
Happy Holiday, musical
Based on Arnold Ridley's play The Ghost Train

Presley, Elvis
Mystery Train
Written by Junior Parker and Sam Philips the year before, Mystery Train became one of Presley's earliest recordings in 1954.

Rorem, Ned
'The Subway', one of Four dialogues for two voices and two pianos.
A setting of words written especially by Frank O'Hara, which 'relate the old comedy of boy meets girl'. In the composer's words, 'The meeting is on a subway whose mechanism is evoked by the instruments while the voices flirt noisily'. The scene is New York:

What stop is this? Which one, can you see?
It's Sheridan Square, no, it's Avenue B.
No darling, it's Grand Army Plaza and we're there...

Phoenix PHCD116

Wilder, Alec
'Baggage Room Blues'; lyrics by Arnold Sundgaard.
Alec Wilder was a composer and railway enthusiast. This song was performed and recorded by, among others, Stan Getz and the Woody herman Orchestra.

'Armoured Train 14-69', from the opera Nikita Vershinin
Melodiya D 03876/7

Bresgen, Cesar
Die alte Lokomotive, scenic cantata
First performed in 1960.

Groves, Robert Samuel
From a Railway Carriage, unison song
A setting of the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published by J. Curwen & Sons (London) and G. Schirmer (New York)

Johnson, J. C.
The Jazz Train: a musical dedicated to the Negro People
written and directed by Mervyn Nelson; original music by J. C. Johnson
This extraordinary production celebrated black American popular music by means of a 'train', each carriage of which represented a different stage in the development of that music. The prologue, 'I Got a Train', was sung by the engine driver; the finale was 'No Journey's End To My Train'. Songs in between included 'Spiritual Car', 'Plantation Car'. Holy Roller Car', 'Minstrel Car', and also 'John Henry'. Promoted as 'The Broadway Smash Hit', the show was performed in a New York night club, before opening at the Piccadilly Theatre, London, on 26th April.
SEPIA 1062

Lovell, Katharine
'The Train', one of Three Summer Sketches for cellor or bassoon and piano.
Published by Elkin & Co.

Rathburn, Eldon
Music for Road of Iron
Road of Iron was a film, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, which documented the making of the railway, through the wilderness of northern Quebec, between the iron ore workings of the Ungava region and the port of Sept-Iles.

Savino, Dominico
Holiday Express
Light music form orchestra
GLCD 5131

Whitney, Maurice C.
Toy Train, for orchestra
Published by M. Witmark & Sons (New York).
See also under 1958

Beaver, Jack
Main Line
Light music for orchestra.
GLCD 5131

Bowen, William Hill
Paris Metro
Light music for orchestra
GLCD 5131

Buckley, 'Lord' [Richard Myrle Buckley]
The Train
Described in Wikepdia as 'an eccentric, joyous American monologist', in this performance Lord Buckley produces with his voice alone all the sounds of a passenger train's departure, including the station announcement, and of its journey to, I'm afraid,  an abrupt end. Is this music? A monologue, it's certainly not a monotone. Decide for yourself. It's just too good to leave out.
Included on the album A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat, originally released in 1956 and currently available as a CD.

Newman, Herb and Stan Lebowsky
The Wayward Wind
'In a lonely shack by a railroad track...'
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

Smith, Paul J.
The Great Locomotive Chase
Music for this Walt Disney film about the same Civil War incident that inspired silent film Buster Keaton's The General (1927).

Bernstein, Elmer
Toccata for Toy Trains
Elmer Bernstein wrote the music for the film, Toccata for Toy Trains, made by the designers Charles and Ray Eames in 1957. The film, which is nearly 14 minutes long, has been described as 'a gem of purest cinema' - 'vintage trains journey through a world of toy people, props, and scenery'.
Video available.

Duncan, Johnny
Last Train to San Fernando
This version of an old calypso song from Trinidad, performed by Johnny Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys, entered the British Top Twenty in July 1957.

Giuffre, Jimmy
The Train and the River
Written by the jazz saxophonist and clarinetist and performed by his trio, notably in the film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, Jazz on a Summer's Day. I'm not sure whether I can hear train sounds in the music - is that an echo of 'Happy-Go-Lucky Local'? -  but I love it anyway.
Recordings available.

Kurka, Robert
The Good Soldier Schweik, opera
Act 2, Scene 4: In the Budejovice Express/On the Station Platform
Robert Kurka was an American composer who died in 1957 in his mid-30s. The opera, completed by H. Kay and given its first performance in 1958, was preceded by an orchestral suite in which this scene is not represented. [Thanks to Klaus Matzka for telling me about this work].
Cedille CDR 90000 062 2 [2 CDs]

Kurka, Robert
John Henry, op. 27, orchestra.
The opus number suggests that this piece may also date from 1958

Mayo, Charlie and Ewan MacColl
'The Colour bar strike'
Charlie Mayo, a fireman at King's Cross depot, wrote the words of this song immediately after the colour bar strike of the King's Cross railwaymen. Ewan MacColl provided the music, and recorded the song on his album Second Shift.

Torch, Sidney
London Transport Suite - for orchestra
The 3rd movement is 'The 5.52 from Victorloo'
Marco Polo 8 223443

Whiskey, Nancy
Freight Train
Nancy Whiskey (born Nancy Wilson in Glasgow) sang her version of this song with the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group on the 1957 movie 'The Tommy Steele Story'; it entered the British Top Twenty in March, and was subsequently a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic. The song had been brought to Britain by Peggy Seeger who learned it from American folk singer Elizabeth Cotten; recordings of her singing it (and 'Casey Jones') survive, including a CD of her first LP, Freight Train and other North Carolina folk songs and tunes (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW40009).

Willson, Meredith
The Music Man.
The overture of this musical leads directly into the first number, 'Rock Island'. The scene is the interior of a passenger train, travelling through Iowa on 4th July, 1912; the train is full of salesmen, complaining about how hard business has become. Through their voices alone, without any instrumental support whatsoever, Willson evokes the rhythms of the train. [Thanks to Kalus Matzka for telling me about this remarkable piece].
ZDM 7 64663 2 3

Winkler, Gerhard
Scandinavian Express
A short orchestral piece by a German master of light music.
Meridian CDE84361

McColl, Ewan
The Ballad of John Axon
The first of the 'Radio Ballads' devised by Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker, with musical direction by Peggy Seeger. The Radio Ballads integrated folk songs (some traditional but most especially written by MacColl) with recorded voices and sounds. The Ballad of John Axon tells the story of an engine driver based at Stockport Edgeley loco shed (south of Manchester, England) who was driving a train from Buxton back to Stockport in 1957 when the steam brake pipe developed a fracture, filling the cab with scalding steam. Axon told his fireman to jump clear, while he himself hung on to the outside of the cab in order to alert the signalman. He was killed when the train crashed into an empty freight train at Chapel-en-le-Frith. This radio ballad was commissioned by the BBC soon after the event, and was first broadcast in 1958.
Topic Records TSCD 801

Beaver, Jack
Gold Express
[?] Score for the film of the same name [about a train robbery], and not to be confused with his earlier piece 'Golden Arrow'. However, I am told that a piece by Jack Beaver called 'Gold Express' was recorded for the Francis Day & Hunter Recorded Music Library prior to 1957.

Carse, Adam
Puffing Billy, for brass band

Coles, Jack
Seaside Special
A British light music classic, included on the CD 'On the Right Track' (see Discography)

Coltrane, John
Blue Train
This celebrated album, recorded in 1958, includes Locomotion as well as Blue Train

Dragon, Carmen
Santa Fe Suite, orchestra plus taped sound effects and chorus.
Thanks to Carmen Dragon's daughter, Kathy Dragon Henn, for providing me with the date of this work. She tells me that it was commisisioned by the Santa Fe Railroad, and that Carmen Dragon recorded the sounds of trains himself.

Ellington, Duke
Track 360, also known as Trains, Trains that Pass in the Night, and Dining Car
Described by Daryl Runswick as a 'fantastic steamtrain soundscape'.
Columbia CK 65566

Ellis, Vivian
'Early Morning Train', the finale to the Happy Weekend suite.
An orchestral [?] piece by a master of British light music.

Jackson, Francis Alan
From a Railway Carriage, unison song
A setting of the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published by Novello (School Songs, 2015)
Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]

Jacob, Gordon
Adlestrop, for soprano and piano
A setting of the well known poem by Edward Thomas.

Roger, Roger
Paris Pullman
An example of British light music.

Whitney, Maurice C.
Toy Train, for two part treble voices (S. and A.)
Published by M.Witmark & Sons (New York)
See also under 1955

Astley, Edwin
Music for documentary film 'Diesel train ride', produced by British Transport Films

Elliott, Vernon
Incidental music for the television cartoon series Ivor the Engine by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. The music for the first series of films was performed by the composer on bassoon. For the second series, made in 1961, Elliott used additional instruments, and at the request of Oliver Postgate composed 'three speeds of travelling music - main, cruising, and fast' [as recorded in Oliver Postgate's autobiography Seeing Things].
The Ivor films were remade in colour in the mid-1970s; videotapes are available.

Kingston Trio.
MTA - a song protesting against fare increases on the Boston subway.
Included on the album Kingston trio at Large.

Mingus, Charles
GG Train
'GG Train' was the earlier name given to New York's 'G' train from Queeens to Brooklyn.This recorded version, featuring alto sax solo by John Handy, ends rather than begins with a statement of the tune, which, however, contains no explicit reference to railway sounds.
Columbia CK 65512

Moreton Bay Bushwackers
Billy Sheen and his C16
An Australian 'country' [?] song - the C16 was a 'light lines' passenger locomotive on the Queensland Railways.

Olatunji, Babatunde
Akiwowo [Chant of the Trainman]
The Nigerian drummer evokes the rhythms of a freight train. [Thanks to Susan Larson for telling me about this].
'Drums of Passion' B0000024QT [a later performance can be found on B000009N7]

Oliver, John
3 Trains, for cello and piano
The three movements of this piece are titled 'Midnight Train', 'Train of Thought' and 'Dawn Train' ; its Canadian composer writes that it 'evokes the experience of listening to trains from a distance, from across the valley, across the lake, over the fields...' For more information, including the complete and very evocative text from which these words are quoted, go to the Canadian Music Centre's library record for this work at
Sadly, the work is not currently available on a commercial recording.

Ridout, Godfrey
'From the Caboose', the second movement of Music for a Young Prince.
This work, in four movements, was commissioned by the CBC for the visit of the Royal Family to Canada for the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway. The 'young prince' was the 10-year-old Prince Charles. The second movement, a vivid depiction of a train ride, reflects the composer's passion for steam locomotives. [I am indebted to Victor Roy for this information].
CMC-CD 3890

Schaeffer, Pierre
Nocturne aux chemins de fer
Incidental music for tape, to accompany a mime by J. Lecocque, by the originator of 'musique concrète'.

Surrey, Jean
Teen Angel
'That fateful night the car was stalled upon the railroad track'
Song. Sheet music in the collection of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

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 1960s and 1970s During the 1960s and 1970s, Torres Strait Islanders were recruited to lay track for the Queensland and Western Australia Inland railway. Their work songs have been recorded and are available on CD and DVD, Eastern Torries Strait Islander Railway Songs, from


Cash, Johnny
Ride this Train
An album devoted to train ballads in the 'Country and Western' genre.

Elms, Bert
Music for documentary film Carriage Cleaning, produced by British Transport Films

Fahey, John
Night Train of Valhalla
Written in 1960, and included on John Fahey's album Days Have Gone By, issued in 1967. 'An analogue to Roy Acuff's "Night Train to Memphis"' (original sleeve note). For more railway music by John Fahey see under 1967, 1983 and 2000.

Hope, Peter.
Rodeo Express
An example of British light music.

Parker, Clifton
Music for documentary film Blue Pullman, produced by British Transport Films

Presley, Elvis
Frankfurt Special
from the film 'G. I. Blues'
Hugh Morton comments that the musical portrayal of a locomotive whistle sounds more American than German!

Bacharach, Burt F.
30 Miles of Railroad Track
c.1961, copy in British Library (awaiting full cataloguing)

Constant, Marius
Turner (Rain, Steam and Speed), for orchestra
Evidently this work was inspired by J.M.W. Turner's celebrated painting of a steam train crossing the Thames.

Grainer, Ron
Score for a film produced by British Transport Films portraying a day in the life of Waterloo station

Lair, Jack
Freight Train Blues
Written by Jack Lair, this song was recorded by Bob Dylan in 1961 for release on his self-ecorded debut album in 1962.  It  has subsequentky been performed by many singers.
The text can be found at a Bob Dylan Web site

Astley, Edwin
Music for documentary The Signal Engineers produced by British Transport Films

Goffin, Gerry and Carole King
The Locomotion
Written by husband and wife Goffin and King, this song (and dance) was the making of their babysitter, teenbeat vocalist Little Eva; she re-issued it in 1972, and it was successfully revived by Kylie Minogue in 1988. Today it is sometimes vigorously performed by a band of the same name, several of the members of which are also associated (as am I) with the West Lancashire Light Railway.

Joye Boys
Southern Aurora
An Australian 'country' [?] song, written soon after the introduction of a luxury overnight train, the 'Southern Aurora', between Sydney and Melbourne.

Dylan, Bob
Walkin' Down the Line
The text can be found at a Bob Dylan Web site

Graham, Davy
Davy's Train Blues
American train whistles from the strings of a guitar, played by this innovative British folk/blues/acoustic guitarist on his album 3/4 A.D.
Fledg'ling FLED 3050

Grainer, Ron
Music for documentary film Giants of Steam, produced by BBC Television
The five sections of music are entitled 'The Rocket's First Run', 'Sunday Excursion', 'Working on the Line', 'The Victorians', 'Giants of Steam'.
Decca EP DFE8536 [no longer available]

Holmboe, Vagn
Requiem für Nietzsche [1963-4], for tenor, baritone, chorus and orchestra
includes an evocation of the passage of a train through the Gotthart tunnel.
Da Capo 8.224207

Martin, Ivor.
Steam Train, song

Rowley, Alec
From a Railway Carriage
A setting for solo or unison voices and piano accompaniment of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem; published by Roberton Publications.

Blezard, William
'Miniature Railway', from Battersea Park Suite.
The composer told me in a letter that this piece 'was apparently conceived in August, 1964', although the pieces in this suite vary in date.He recalled travelling on the miniature railway with his two children... 'it was a straightforward track of wood with a really bare aspect about it - making one stop in the middle before ending its short journey. Utterly without colour or glamour!'

Ellington, Duke
Soul Train
Recorded on 26th August for the soundtrack of the promotion picture 'Astrofreight for American Airlines'.
Soundtrack issued on LP 'Extreme Rarities' 1008.

Flanders, Michael, and Donald Swann
Slow Train
This wonderful sad and comic song, an elegy for the British country branch lines threatened with closure by Dr Beeching (one or two of the stations named in the song were reprieved), was performed by Flanders and Swann in their show 'At the Drop of Another Hat'. The text can be found at a Flanders and Swann Web site.

Steel Rails
An example of British light music.

Hawksworth, Johnny
Music for Snow
An 8 minute film about British railways triumphing over winter weather, directed by Geoffrey Jones. The score employs electronic manipulation of instrumental 'rhythm and blues'.
Video NTV 0038. Also included on a DVD issued by the British Film Institute, Geoffrey Jones: the Rhythm of Film.

Jones, Kenneth V
Music for documentary films 'A Hundred years Underground', and 'Underground Centenary', produced by British Transport Films

Rathburn, Eldon
Music for The Railrodder
Music for a wordless film in which Buster Keaton plays a 'railrodder' [sic] who crosses Canada from east to west on a hand-pumped railway trolley (or 'gandy dancer').


Dylan, Bob
'I'll keep it with mine'
'The train leaves/at half past ten./But it'll be back tomorrow/Same time again'.
The text can be found at a Bob Dylan Web site

Dylan, Bob
'It takes a lot to laugh it takes a train to cry',
from the album Highway 61 Revisited
The text can be found at a Bob Dylan Web site

Jarre, Maurice
Soundtrack for the film The Train

Lightfoot, Gordon
'Steel Rail Blues'
This song was inspired by an 18 hour train journey to Moosenee in Northern Ontario.
Several recordings.

Lutyens, Elisabeth
Music for documentary film Europe by Train, produced by British Transport Films

Morton, Arthur
Soundtrack for the film Von Ryan's Express.

Simon, Paul
Homeward Bound
Paul Simon began writing this song while waiting for a train at Widnes station, after performing at a local folk club.
'I'm sitting on a railway station/Got a ticket for my destination...'

Hammond, Albert, and Mike Hazlewood
I'm a Train
'Look at me, I'm a train on a track...' Albert Hammond recalled writing this song in 1965-6 , although it is sometimes dated to 1968 when it was copyrighted and performed by Colors of Love. Hammond seems not to have recorded it himself until 1974. It has been covered by The King's Singers, The New Seekers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and no doubt many others.
Several recordings.


Arnold, Malcolm
Music for the film The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery

Ellington, Duke
The Old Circus Train Turn-around Blues
Written by Duke Ellington on the morning of the day it was recorded (July 28th) for the 8 CD set featuring Ella Fitzgerald with the Duke Ellington band at La Cote d'Azur.The rehearsal is included on the CD, including dialogue between Ellington and members of the band; Ellington is heard saying 'Intimacy, this is a very intimate train. The train is way in the distance, you know, and it's got all those circus wagons on it. If you know any circus music, put it in there...'
The 8 CD set is available; the piece can also be found on a single CD 'Live at the Greek', Status DSTS1013[1994]

The Knotty
A musical documentary drama telling the tale of the North Staffordshire Railway, produced by Peter Cheeseman at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke on Trent. The Knotty made use of folk songs - it is probable that original songs were also included (?)
Transacord 2TR 125

Lightfoot, Gordon
'Canadian Railway Trilogy'
This song was commissioned by CBC to mark the centennial of the building of Canada's railway. It was given its debut broadcast on CBC on New Year's Eve.
Several recordings.

Mathias, William
Music for British Transport Films documentary Forward to First Principles
[on the use of railways to move freight, from the very earliest railways to the 1960s]
British Film Institute: The British Transport Films Collection

The Monkees
'Last Train to Clarksville', written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

Sauguet, Henri-Pierre
Symphonie des Marches
Commissioned for the 19th Session de l'Association Internationale du Congrés des Chemins de fer, held at Paris. berlioz's 'Le Chant des Chemins de Fer' was also performed, and both works were issued on an LP. Unfortunately no recording of Sauguet's piece is currently available.

Fahey, John
A Raga called Pat - Parts One & Two
On this piece John Fahey uses the recorded sound of a steam train travelling between Jackson, Mississipi and Houston, Texas. Included on his album Days Have Gone By, issued in 1967. For railway music by John Fahey see also under 1960, 1983 and 2000.

Josephs, Wilfrid
Rail, op. 57 - symphonic picture for orchestra
Although one source of information indicates that this piece was commissioned by the Hallé Orchestra, it was also employed as the sound track for the 15 minute film, also called Rail, directed by Geoffrey Jones for British Transport Films, and music and film are so closely integrated that it is hard to believe that the music was not written for the film. But there is no doubt that the music can stand alone; it is a fine example of the genre.
Video NTV 0038. Also included on a DVD issued by the British Film Institute, Geoffrey Jones: the Rhythm of Film.

Ruskin, Barbara
'Euston Station'
A pop song, released by Parlophone, and currently available on a 'best of' compilation, A Little of This. (Thanks, Nicholas Whittaker)
President, PRCD153

The Seekers
Morningtown Ride
An interpretation of an Australian folk song in which a train ride is a metaphor for sleeping.

Butterworth, Arthur
Three Impressions for Brass op. 36
A work for brass band inspired by engravings of 19th century scenes in industrial Northumberland. Two of these were concerned with railways: 'Wylam Colliery - Puffing Billy', and 'The Royal Border Bridge, Berwick-on-Tweed'.

Davies, Ray
'Last of the Steam Powered Trains', from The Kinks' album Village Green Preservation Society
A lament for the passing of steam.

Dylan, Bob
Train A' Traveling
The train as metaphor: 'There's an iron train a'traveling that's been a rollin' through the years,/With a firebox of hatred and a furnace full of tears'.
The text can be found at a Bob Dylan Web site 
In fact, this song was originally recorded in 1963 when the sheet music appeared on the cover of Broadside Magazine. Dylan performed it under the name 'Blind Boy Grunt' to avoid violating his contract with Columbia.

Mandel, Harvey
'The Lark', on the album Christo Redentor.
Yiannis Zartaloodes describes this as 'A brilliant intrumental song by a great Bluesman which imitates the sound of a speeding steam-hauled express'.
Raven RVCD163

Van Morrison
'Madame George'
This track, on the album Astral Weeks, 'contains a graphic description of the Irish rail line between Dublin aand Sandyrow'. [Thanks, David Jones].

Williamson, Malcolm
'From a Railway Carriage', for high voice and piano
One of twelve songs, From a Child's Garden, comprising settings of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. The piano accompaniment provides a strong 7/8 train rhythm.

Zwar, Charles
The Station Master's Daughter, musical


The 1910 Fruitgum Company
''Train, hurry up/Bring my baby back/Alleluiah, look it's coming on down the track'
An [American?] chart hit with evocations of a railway train in the background, according to my informant, Marco Melanson.

Baker, Dave
I don't have a date for any of Dave Baker's songs, written over a period of 30 years and collected on a CD called 'Songs and Sounds of Canadian Steam', but he is evidently one of a number of singer-songwriters, including John Fahey [listed under 1983], and the British musicians Don Bilston and Dave Goulder [both listed under 1969] who have written and performed songs recollecting the last years of steam.
CMD 520. []

Bilston, Don
Farewell to Steam
Recorded on Transatlantic Records (Xtra 1084), 1969-70.

Clark, Gene
Kansas City Southern,
from the album Through the Morning, Through the Night recorded by Dillard and Clark

White Room
The lyrics evoke a busy station in the period following the end of steam. (Thanks, Glyn Williams).

Fromholz, Steve
Texas Trilogy, part 2: Trainride,
from the album Here to There recorded by Frummox

Griff, Ray
'Canadian Pacific'
A country song which I have seen described as 'one of the best musical stories of a train journey'. Recorded by George Hamilton IV (and others)

Lennon, John
'One after 909'
Included by the Beatles on their album Let It Be (1969), this song is thought to have been written much earlier, in 1958, when John was 16. 'He liked nines: born on 9/9, lived at 9 New Castle Road'

Martino, Geoffrey
Bakerloo to Paradise, musical 

Murray, Gordon and Freddie Phillips
'The Little Steam Engine'
'The Little Steam Engine' ('Time flies by when I'm the driver of a train') from the TV series Chigley. A video that uses the original soundtrack as a background: 
Reference material here: and here:

 (Thanks to Glyn Williams).

Nash, Graham
'Marrakesh Express'
Graham Nash began writing this for The Hollies, but it was released, as a single, by Crosby, Stills & Nash

'Train Song', from their album Basket of Light
A 'lament for the passing of the steam train', this song was written collectively by the members of the folk rock band.

Rathburn, Eldon
Aspects of railroads, for instrumental ensemble (including steam calliope)

Seger, Bob
'Train Man'
A love song about the train man who 'just grumbled like [an] engine as it rumbles'.
Included on the album Ramblin' Gamblin' Man.
[Beware of an album actually called Train Man purporting to be by Bob Seger - it's not authentic].

Williams, Edward
Music for documentary film 'London's Victoria line', produced by British Transport Films

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Ayers, Kevin
'Stop this train (again doing it)' , on the album Joy of a Toy.
Matthew Frith tells me that this song 'starts and speeds up like a train'; the lyrics evoke a surreal (or as Matthew says, psychedelic) train journey.

Butterworth, Arthur
Trains in the Distance, op. 41 for orator, tape, chorus, and orchestra.
The first inspiration for this work came from a late night walk, during which the composer, a railway enthusiast, revisited Greenfield station (on the Manchester-Huddersfield line) which he remembered from his boyhood, but which in 1967 was 'all forlorn and deserted, many of the sidings pulled up and the whole place looked rather derelict'. This led him to contemplate writing 'a nostalgic piece about railways'. His discovery in a public library of Kenneth Hopkins' anthology The Poetry of Railways provided 'as much material as one could hope for'. The title is borrowed from a poem by Louis MacNeice. A Prologue uses Gilbert Thomas's poem 'Nostalgia' and expresses regret for the passing of the pre-1923 companies. The rest of the work is in symphonic form. The first movement evokes the steam locomotive and incorporates the poems 'The Steam Engine' by Charles Armstrong Fox and 'The Locomotive' by Thomas Wolfe'. A scherzo follows comprising two further poems, 'Morning Express' by Siegfried Sassoon and 'From a Railway Carriage' by Robert Louis Stevenson, which evoke speed and travel. A more reflective slow movement makes use of 'The Train' by Vivian de Sola Pinto and 'On a Railway Platform' by Alfred Noyes. The finale, 'Night Express' by Lawrence Durrell, leads to an Epilogue, 'To a Great Western Broad-gauge Engine and its Stoker' by Horatio Brown, which despite the early date of the poem is a farewell to steam. The work incorporates recorded sounds of steam trains. It was first performed in 1970, and was performed twice in 1976 - at Settle as part of the centenary celebrations of the Settle & Carlise Railway, and at the National Railway Museum, York. Parts of the work, with some other pieces of railway music, recorded at the latter event, were included on a cassette published by the NRM, but sadly, this is no longer available.

Downs, Lamont
RS-2: Concert March
RS-2 is the unofficial designation of a type of diesel locomotive built by the American Locomotive Company (Alco). This is a short piece for wind ensemble. See also under 1972 and 1994 for other railway-inspired pieces by the same composer. For more information visit
CPP Media Records: EL9752CD

Drews, Steve
Composed for  Mother Mallard's Portable Materpiece Company - the world'sf first synthesiser ensemble - and included on their first album.

Glasgow, Alex
Listen for the Trains, Love - musical

[The] Grateful Dead
'Casey Jones'
The Grateful Dead performed their own version of this ballad (words by Robert Hunter, music by Jerry Garcia) a couple of times in 1970, and recorded it on their album Workingman's Dead in the same year. The lyrics, and information on the history of this song, can be found at
An essay by Ken Rattenne, 'The Railroad as metaphor', on references to railways in songs by the Grateful Dead, can be found at

Langford, Gordon
An elegiac piece of British light music, by a railway enthusiast. The 'green ways' are former railway lines which have become footpaths. Included on the CD 'Gordon Langford's Orchestral Classics'.
CHAN 10115

Parmegiani, Bernard
L'Oeil écoute.
An electro-acoustic piece, described by Hans-Joachim Braun (see Bibliography) thus:
'It begins seemingly "realistically" with a train at full speed, but then that train...comes to a sudden halt. After a whistle, it is suddenly at full speed again. As the piece continues it comes closer and closer to the idea of conventional music and even finishes with a tonal chord; musique concrète gradually becomes more abstract. Parmegiani's objective is to make the listener think about the ambivalence of everyday noise, sound and music as organized sound'.
Arion PV725002 [not currently available]

Seger, Bob
'Railroad Days'
included on the album Brand New Morning:

Yesterday, I heard they shut the trains down
The ones that ran by the field where I would play
Said the folks want new and faster transportation...
Shocking Blue
'Never Marry a Railroad Man'.
This song became the band's second no.1 in the Dutch Top 40.
Included on albums The Best of Shocking Blue, and Shocking Blue - 20 Greatest Hits.

Stewart, Frank Graham
The Phantom Train at Marshall Pass, for narrator, 9 woodwind and 2 percussionists

Wilson, Pickett
Engine Number 9
A song from this American R&B and Soul musician.

Anderson, Ian/Jethro Tull
Locomotive Breath
This song first appeared on the Jethro Tull album Aqualung, together with another railway-related song 'Cheap Day Return'. In 'Locomotive Breath' a train that cannot be stopped ('old Charlie stole the handle and/the train won't stop going') is a metaphor for someone's life running out of control; metaphorical it may be, but some train sounds are heard nevertheless. The reflective words of 'Cheap Day Return' suggest that the return ticket has been used for a visit to an aged parent or relative... 'On Preston platform....sadly wonder/does the nurse treat your old man/the way she should...'

Atkin, Pete
The Orignal, Original Honky Tonk Night Train Blues
A witty take-off of the genre, improbably incorporating an explanation of how steam locomotives work! Recorded by Julie Covington, Pete Atkin, Russell Davies and instrumentalists on Julie Covington's album 'The Beautiful'

Bergmann, Walter
Casey Jones, for voices, piano and Orff school orchestra [i.e. recorders and percussion]
Published by Hargail Music Press (New York); firct performed in Stockport, U.K.

Einem, Gottfried
Der Besuch der alten Dame
Two scenes in this opera, which is based on Dürrenmatt's play of the same name, are set at the railway station of the fictional town of Güllen.
CD no longer available.

Goodman, Steve
City of New Orleans
A classic of American country music, this song is based on views from the windows of the Illinois Central's 'City of New Orleans' which ran between Chicago and southern Illinois. It was written partly in response to a threat to take the train out of service because of falling passenger figures. In addition to Goodman's own performances, the song was recorded by Arlo Guthrie and others.
Rounder CD 1129

Goulder, Dave
Requiem for Steam
Dave Goulder, a Briish singer/songwriter and  former fireman, has written, performed, and recorded songs concerned with railways. His 'Requiem for Steam' was included on his album of the same name, released in 1971. Others include The Man Who Put the Engine in the Chipshop (1989) - incorporating sounds of steam locomotives - and Stone, Steam and Starlings (1991). A selection of his railway songs has been recorded by Brett Stevens..

Jerábek, Pavel
'The Little Train in the Valley', from Little Picture from the Prokop Valley, for piano
Prezioso CD 800.062

Mulligan, Gerry
K-4 Pacific
A jazz piece inspired by a Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive that used to run by the Mulligan household in Ohio. 'I was fascinated by trains as a kid. The sound of that locomotive made a large impression on me. So I wrote this jazz chart with that sound and feeling in mind'.
Included on the album Gerry Mulligan: The Age of Steam. A&M Records 396 996-2

Stevens, Cat
Peace Train
Included on his album 'Teaser & the Firecat'. [Thanks, Guenter Dinhobl].
IMCD 104; 842 350-2

Captain Beefheart [Don Van Vliet]
Click Clack, from the album The Spotlight Kid
'"Click Clack" shows how the old blues cliché of playing the sound of a train can be re-invented and renewed. While Don sings of his girl going down to "N'Orleans-uh 'n get herself lost and found" and waving goodbye from the train window there is some fine playing from the drums (wheels on the railway track), cymbals (steam hissing), and guitar (train whistle)'. (Steve Froy).
Lyrics at www.beefheart/com/walker/lyrics/sk/clickclack.htm

Downs, Lamont
DDA40X: Concert March
The DDA40X was a type of diesel locomotive constructed for the Union Pacific Railroad by General Motors; the first one went into service in 1969. This is a short piece for wind ensemble.
For more information visit
Complete score and parts available as a free download at

Ellington, Duke
Loco Madi, from the UWIS suite
Memories of Ellington's first train trip to Wisconsin from Chicago in 1937 on the line that advertised '90 miles in 90 minutes'.' His piano and [Rufus] Jones's drums recall the ride...' [from Patricia Willard's Love and Learn: the Ellingtonians at UW].
Several recordings, including an unedited version which runs for more than 9 minutes on Pablo PACD-2310-762-2

Finnissy, Michael
Freightrain Bruise
A short, avant-garde piano piece; substantially revised in 1980..

Mathias, William
Music for documentary film Britannia [is] a Bridge, produced by British Transport Films

Shchedrin, Rodion Konstantinovick
Anna Karenina - ballet
Railway sounds are heard from the orchestra at the beginning - 'Act 1: 1 Prologue. Train station of the Nikolaevsk Railroad' - and at the end of the ballet.
Russian Disc RDCD10030
Melodiya 74321 25172 2(2)
Melodiya 74321 25181-2

Benson, Gary
The Closing Down of the Old Portland Railway Co.
c.1973, copy in British Library (awaiting full cataloguing)

[The] Doobie Brothers
'Long Train Runnin'', on their album The Captain and Me;
remixed version issued in 1993. This hit in the U.S. was written by Don Johnston, a member of the band.
It was also covered by Bananarama in 1993.

Gladys Knight and the Pips
'Midnight Train to Georgia'
This R. & B. band's soul ballad topped the US charts.

[The] Rolling Stones
Silver Train, on their album Goat's Head Soup

Bennett, Richard Rodney
Murder on the Orient Express
Richard Rodney Bennett's music for the film directed by Sidney Lumet includes the well known waltz, with which, as he has remarked, he makes the train dance.
Cloud Nine CN S5007
BBC RD9115

Cooder, Ry
'Tamp 'em up solid'
This version of the traditional American song on Ry Cooder's album Paradise and Lunch has particularly effective train sound effects.

Dreyfus, George
Soundtrack for documentary film A Steam Train Passes [Australian]
Included on CD, MOVE MD 3098The Film Music of George Dreyfus

Glasser, Stanley
'Uhambo ngesitimela' [train journey], from Lalela Zulu.
Recorded by The King's Singers;
several recordings including EMI 724358519525.

Lanchbery, John
Score for the restored video version of The Iron Horse, an American silent film of 1924

Perara, Ronald
'Gleisdreieck' [an elevated station on Berlin U-Bahn] , the first of 3 Poems of Gunter Grass
CRI 796 []

Seixas, Raul
'O Trem das Sete' ['The morning train']
A song by Brazilian rock musician Raul Seixas.

    There comes the train
    From beyond the blue hills comes the train
    Huff and puff over the rails...

This song, on the album Crime of the Century, includes the sound of a station announcer at Paddington announcing a train departure, and of a Class 50 locomotive pulling its train out of the station. 'Rudy's on a train to nowhere,/Halfway down the line...' [Thanks, Pete Colton]

The Who

Brooks, Lonnie
'The Train and the Horse'
B rooks, a Chicago-based Bluesman, starts telling a story which becomes a song, with sounds of train and horse conjured up on his guitar. Two performances can be heard on his album Sweet Home Chicago. [Thanks, David Jones]
BB 444.2

Civil, Alan
Grand Finale for the Albert Hall concert celebrating the 150th anniversary of British Rail,  'concocted' (to quote Humphrey Searle) from 'Oh! Mr Porter!' and 'The Runaway Train'. (For more on this concert, see the entry for Humphrey Searle, below)

Dengate, John
'Train trip to Guilford'
A song expressing dissatisfaction at the state of Australian railways:
'the service is worse than a fraud/And the fare's more than I can afford'.
Recorded on Trains of Treasure [see Discography]

Fraser, Donald
Music for Locomotion
A 15 minute film, directed by Geoffrey Jones for British Transport Films, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the world's first steam hauled passenger railway. Fraser's music is based on accelerating rhythms, manipulated electronically, with scarcely a hint of a tune.
Video NTV 0038. Also included on a DVD issued by the British Film Institute, Geoffrey Jones: the Rhythm of Film.

Glass, Philip
Einstein on the Beach
Act 1, Scene 1:2 'Train'
Act 2, Scene 2:6 'Night train'
This opera features 'the trains of the theory of relativity'.
Several recordings

Henry, Pierre.
Machines + Vitesse', from Futuristie
A work of musique concrète, produced as a homage to the Futurist artist and musician Luigi Russolo.
Philips 6510 020 [1980]

Ovchinnikov, Vyacheslav
Song-Ballad of the BAM railway builders,
cantata for bass, chorus and orchestra, after L. Vassileva
The 'BAM railway' is the Baikal-Amur line.
[ Thanks to my colleague Terry Hopton for this and much besides].
Melodiya C10 08313-14

Searle, Humphry
Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, cantata for baritone, choir and orchestra.
Wriiten for a concert at the Albert Hall to celebrate the 150th anniversary of British Rail. Searle recalls in his memoirs (  that the concert was poorly organised by British Rail,  and little publicised, and aoccordinly drew a disappointingly small audience. (Thanks to Donald Maxwell for drawing this piece to my attention).

Winter, Marc
'De Overwegwachter' ['The railway crossing guard']
A song which featured in the Dutch 'Top 40'

Bowie, David
'Station to station'
'The title track contains quite a lengthy impression of windswept, strangely American-sounding trains generated by synths and guitar feedback before mutating into a heavy trainalike groove in different tempos' [e-mail from Simon Edney]

De Burgh, Chris
'Spanish Train', on his pop album of the same name

Goldsmith, Jerry
Soundtrack for the film The Cassandra Crossing

[The] Grateful Dead
'Might as Well'
This song, first performed on June 3rd, 1976, at the Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon, recalls a journey across Canada on a chartered train, variously referred to as the 'Trans-Continental Pop Festival', the 'Festival Express', and the 'Canadian Festival Express', in May, 1970.. In addition to the Dead, the train carried Janis Joplin, The Band, NRPS, Delaney & Bonney, etc. Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia.

Haggard, Merle
My love affair with trains.
An album devoted to train songs performed by this American Country musician; reissued as half of a double album in 2002.

James, Pip
'The Ballad of Janet Oakden'
Janet Oakden was the first woman to become a train driver in Australia.
Recorded on Trains of Treasure [see Discography]

Leeder, John
'The Hudson Bay Line'
A country-style song, derived from 'old-timers' stories' about the early days of the Hudson Bay Railway.
On John Leeder's album Fresh Forest Breeze. 

Mancini, Henry
Soundtrack for the film Silver Streak.
CD of the entire soundtrack released in 2002 by Intrada Special Collection

Medek, Tilo
Abfahrt einer Dampflokomotive für 6 Flöteninstrumente ['Departure of a Steam Locomotive', for 6 flutes]
A piece written for young, or older, instrumentalists.
Score: 'Banjo - Schulbuch, Musik der 5. und 6. Klasse [Klett-Verlag, Stuttgart, 1986]; 'Programmusik' [Der Moeck-verlag Celle, no. 5252]
CD: Koch-Schwann 3-1826-2 H1 ['Cölner Stadtpfeiffern'], 1995 [but presently unavailable so far as I can ascertain]. 

'A Passage to Bangkok'
A song by this Canadian rock band, on their album 2112. 'We're on the train to Bangkok,/Aboard the Thailand Express./We'll hit the stops along the way,/We only stop for the best...' A live performance is also included on the album Exit...Stage Left.[Thanks, Chad Tolar]

Schafer, R. Murray
A piece composed specifically for youth orchestra. Schafer composed it during a six-day trip from central Canada to Vancouver and back on the Canadian Pacific Railway during June, 1976, and he says that it is ‘quite literally a description of that ride, or at least of the eastbound portion of it’. The duration of the piece is determined by the length of the journey, with each 1000 km taking 1 minute; the stations passed are marked by sounds from the percussion. The score is very graphic, using signs resembling representations of signals, etc, to indicate the composer’s intentions.
There is no commercially available recording of this work; archive recordings of several different performances are held in the Canadina Music Center ( The score is published by Berandol Music Ltd, Toronto.

Costello, Elvis
'Lipstick Vogue', on the album This Year's Model
Elvis Costello has said that the drum pattern is influenced by the rail rhythm and points on the Metropolitan Line [London Underground]

'Trans-Europe Express'
A track on this German band's very highly regarded album of the same name, evoking a railway journey by means of rhythm and interpolated place name announcements.
Capitol CDP7 464732

McKean, Joy
Indian Pacific
A highly successful Australian 'country' song, performed by Slim Dusty, about a train which started running between Sydney and Perth in 1970. It was subsequently performed by The Bushwackers in 2000 to commemorate the train's 30th anniversary.

Murvin, Junior
Roots Train
A reggae number included on Junior Murvin's album Police & Thieves produced by Lee 'Scratch' Perry, and subsequently (performed by Murvin and Dillinger) on a 3-CD set devoted to Perry's work as a producer, Arkology. This was the first track played by Andy Kershaw on his new world music programme on BBC Radio 3 on 20th April 2001. I'm told that among the extraordinary output of music in Jamaica, which has featured many virtually home-made recordings, a good deal of other railway-related material is to be found. For the moment this track will have to represent them all.
B000003QH4 [Police & Thieves]

106 Beats That on Pink Flag
By Colin Newman, lead singer of this punk band. The chord sequence is based on the initial letters of stations between Watford Junction and London Euston [thanks to Simon Edney for telling me about this - he says it was 'inspired by a very slow train']

Anderson, Ian/Jethro Tull
Journeyman, performed by Jethro Tull
On the Jethro Tull album Heavy Horses; a vivid evocation of commuting  in and out of  London by train.

Black Parrot Seaside
Railway Magazine
In 1978 Black Parrot Seaside released an EP, described by the press as 'folk punk', including this song which Geoff Veasey, a member of the band, tells me 'was a bit saucy, but paid homage to that fine publication'. A new version of the song was included on  the band's CD Ain't It Grand, released on the Spindrift label in 2008.  Included on the same album was a cover version of Dave Goulder's song 'Requiem for Steam' (see above, 1971) For further information on the band or the album visit

Late for the Train
Lee Bolton tells me that this song, included by the British 'indie-pop' band on their album Love Bites, was later used in a Lego television commercial when Lego launched their first electric train set.
EMI 5344042

Cage, John.
Il Treno de John Cage - Alla ricerca del silezzio perduto [John Cage's Train - Looking for the Lost Silence]
John Cage staged three musical rides on a 'prepared' train in central Italy, during two days in 1978.

Coleman, Cy
On the Twentieth Century
A musical based on a 1930s play, in which the drama mostly takes place on the 'Twentieth Century' train which ran between New York and Chicago. Lyrics and libretto by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Opened at the St James Theatre, New York, on 19th February 1978 and received 460 performances before it closed in March 1979.
Sony Sk35330 [no longer available]

Glasser, Stanley and Lewis Nkosi
'Uhambo Ngesitimela' ['Train Journey'], from Lalela Zulu [part-songs commissioned by The Kings' Singers and the Hallé Concerts Society]
The Kings' Singers 10th Anniversary Concert. EMI 7243 5 85195 2 5 [deleted]
The Street Songs [The Kings' Singers with Evelyn Glennie]. RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63175-2

Goldsmith, Jerry
Music for the film The First Great Train Robbery.
Thanks to Eric Benjamin for drawing this to my attention - 'Wonderful musical use of train sounds throughout'.

Gow, David
Overture One-Two-Five
This 7 minute piece integrates music and film. Opening with close-up shots of the manuscript score and closing with the sound of polite applause from a concert audience, it was  produced by British Transport Films to mark the introduction of British Rail's InterCity 125 High Speed Train service between London and Bristol.
Video recording available from the British Film Institute: The British Transport Films Collection.
Sound track on WhiteLine CDWHL2137 ('British Light Overtures')

[The] Jam
'Down in the Tube station at Midnight'
A powerful song from this British punk rock group, evoking a racist attack, on a London Underground station, from the victim's point of view.
Several recordings; lyrics at

Langford, Gordon
The Slow Train, for brass band
An arrangement of the Michael Flanders and Donald Swann song ~ noted under 1964 (above) ~ but presumably without the wonderful words?

Rathburn, Eldon
Turbo, for brass quintet
Inspired by the CNR's experimental turbo, which 'frequently broke down and caught fire'
Crystal Records CD520

Rose, Patrick
A Bistro Car on the CNR, musical comedy

Dylan, Bob
Slow Train
This song was included by Bob Dylan on his album of the same name, which followed his conversion as a 'born again' Christian.The text can be found at a Bob Dylan Web site

Electric Light Orchestra
Last Train to London
This song entered the British Top Twenty in January.

Gunning, Christopher
Music for documentary film A New age for railways, produced by British Transport Films

Hartley, Richard
Music for the film The Lady Vanishes

Morricone, Ennio
Orient Express, music for a television series

Westerkamp, Hildegard
Fantasie for Horns
This piece of 'electroacoustic music' is for a solo French horn and pre-recorded tape, the latter comprising edited recordings of horns of various kinds, including those of Canadian trains.
IMED 9631

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Ashcroft, Johnny
Jolly Green Giant
An Australian song about the famous C38 class express passenger locomotives which hauled the 'Newcastle Flyer'.

Blood, John
From a Railway Carriage, for piano

Foxx, John
Although I understand that it does not contain any explicit references to railways, some of the music on this album was apparently inspired by walks along disused railway tracks [for more information see]
Foxx was a founder member of the band Ultravox; other albums recorded under his own name and by the band include tracks which reflect his preoccupation with railways and railway stations. [Thanks, Colin Jackson]

Jones, Kenneth V
Music for documentary film On Track for the Eighties, produced by British Transport Films

Kleiton & Kledir
'Maria Fumaça'
A Brazilian popular song lamenting the deterioration in the level of service provided by the railways:

    This puffing billy is so slow it's almost stopped
    Hey Mr Fireman put more fire in the firebox...

Mitchell-Davidson, Paul
Steam; flute, oboe, piano, guitar/mandolin, and speaker
Commissioned from this Manchester-based jazz musician by the Greater Manchester Council for the 150th anniversary of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

Morawetz, Oskar.
The Railway station
, for orchestra
Canadian Music Center
CMC 8702 [not currently available]

Nascimento, Milton
Ultimo Trem ['Last Train']
Music for a ballet, danced by Grupo Corpo, with text and lyrics by journalist Fernando Brant, lamenting the closing of a railway line in the state of Minas Gerais, north east Brazil. Train rhythms can be heard in some of the pieces, and the album (released in 2004) also includes recorded train sounds. The title track may be the most poignant song ever written about a railway:

Weep, oh my people, weep, oh my engine driver
Those who take away the railway take away some of your life
At the end of the railway is a leap into the void
Turn off the embers, come home my fireman,
Forget the charcoal, the boiler and the smoke
Because the railway is now dead, nothing more runs on it......
The last train is like a wool winder
spinning a ball of wool
It rolls up the railway, adding to our despair
The last train
Makes the people weep
It takes away our railway
It changes our lives
It takes away our joy

Far Out Recordings: Faro 083CD

Rathburn, Eldon
The Iron Horses of Delson for piano
A piece which imagines preserved the steam locomotives at the Canadian Railroad Historical Association Museum at Delson, Quebec, escaping from captivity.
Crystal Records CD520

Rathburn, Eldon
Junction, for Jew's harp
An evocation of Clapham Junction in 1959
Crystal Records CD520

Reade, Paul
Title music for BBC television series Great Railway Journey of the World

Sexton, Brian
The Newfie Bullet: a Newfoundland Journey.
Musical comedy

Godley and Creme
'Under your thumb'.
Described to me as 'the nearest thing in the popular music of our time to those Victorian ghost stories linked with the railway. The backing track really shunts away there'. [Thanks, David Jones]
EMI [no longer available]

Harris, Howard
Frimbo, a musical comedy devised by John L.Haber, lyrics by Jim Wann, and music by Howard Harris.
E.M.Frimbo (real name Rogers E.M.Whitaker) wrote about trains in the New Yorker and was known as 'the world's greatest railroad buff'. This musical in his honour played in the Grand Central Terminal, New York. The songs included 'Names of Trains'.

Jarre, Jean-Michel
Magnetic Fields
Incorporates recordings of trains fast and slow, of passengers walking along platforms and the slamming of carriage doors.
Dreyfus 488138 2

Leeder, John
'Painting on the N.A.R.'
Song for solo and a cappella voices, concerning the Northern Alberta Railways' absorption by Canadian Railways.
On John Leeder's album Fresh Forest Breeze.

Lyon, David
God's Wonderful Railway, march for brass band.
I presume that this was written as the signature tune for the children's television series of the same name, but I have not been able to confirm this.
Sheet music published by Redmarley d'Abitot [and?] Fulcrum; issued by Roberton. {the British Library catalogue entry mysteriously cites the dates c.1984 and [1987].

Lloyd Webber, Andrew
'Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat', from Cats - musical based on T.S.Eliot's Practical Cats.
Several recordings
Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]

Orchestre Baobab
This song celebrates the railway from Dakar, the capital of Senegal, to Bamako, the capital of Mali. An 'autorail' is a diesel rail car or railbus. Although it was recorded in 1981, Autorail can be found on this Sengalese band's album 'Bamba' (1996)

'Princess of the Night'
A heavy metal rock band's elegiac tribute to the 'Princess' class of LMS Pacifics, on their album Denim & Leather. The lyrics can be found at 'If I ever had my way I'd bring the princess back one day'.

Schmidt, Irmin and Bruno Spoerri
'Rapido de Noir' ['Last train to eternity'
A piece oif electro-acoustic music. The synthesiser sounds are triggered by the clunking noises of train wheels on the gaps between rails.
On the album Toy Planet.

Young, Neil
'Southern Pacific'
This track, on the album Reactor, is described by my informant, Steve Magee, as 'a very evocative piece esp[ecially] with the blast of the steam whistle at the start and the counterpoint of the dynamic breaks on modern diesels heading downgrade to California'. Neil Young is known to be a railway + model railway enthusiast.

Hitchcock, Robyn
'Fifty two stations (on the Northern Line)'
Included on this singer/songwriter''s album Groovy Decay

Lane, Philip
Bluebell Line - for brass band
Inspired and/or commissioned by the famous preserved railway? Date subject to confirmation.

Rathburn, Eldon
The Rise and Fall of the Steam Railroad for chamber ensemble
Crystal Records CD520

Anderson, Ian
This song by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull was included on his solo album Walk into Light.

Curran, Alvin
Hope Street Tunnel Blues for solo piano.
A minimalist piece, said to include railway sounds. This piece is sometimes dated to 1986 and 2007 - rewiritings?
Included on an album issued in 2007.For more by this composer, see 2010

Fahey, John
Railroad, an album of traditional songs and original compositions, all inspired by trains and railroads and interpreted on solo guitar by John Fahey, a country/blues musician who died in 2001.
Shanachie 99003; details can be viewed at
For more railway music by John Fahey, see under 1960, 1967, and 2000 .

Hoddinott, Alun
The Railway Children
Music for a ballet based on the well-known story by E. Nesbit.

Rathburn, Eldon
Montreal Locomotive Works, for percussion orchestra

Simon, Paul
' Trains in the Distance',
on his album Hearts and Bones.
'Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance...'
Thanks to Stephen M. Fry in California for drawing my attention to his 'favourite train song'.

Simpson, Martin
'Reuben's Train'
A brilliant interpretation of this traditional American banjo tune which 'depicts the romance and brutality of hoboing by train'. Simpson overdubbed his banjo and vocals with steel and electric guitars - listen out for wailing whistles. Only 2 and a half minutes long, this is a gem.
Included on his album Grinning in Your Face, Topic Records.

Hitchcock, Robyn
'I often dream of trains'
['...all bound for Paradise, or Basingstoke, or Reading']
Included on his album also called I Often Dream of Trains

Kevans, Denis
'Trains of Treasure'
A song of praise, in country music style, for Australian freight trains: 'Trains of corn and coal and ore...'
Recorded on Trains of Treasure [see Discography]

Masekela, Hugh
Coal Train (Stimela)
This piece begins with a chanted introduction in which South African jazz musician Hugh Masakela explains that the song recalls the coal trains which also carried conscripted labourers from various parts of southern Africa (Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, etc) to the mines around Johannesburg. Hugh Masekela has recorded this piece more than once; the earliest recording known to me dates from 1984 (but is this the correct date for the origin of the piece?)
1984 recording reissued on Liberation: the best of Hugh Masekela. Jive Records 0523592; 1985 recording of live performance on Hugh Masekela: African Breeze, Emporio EMPRCD 656.

'Orpheus in the Underground', for SATB.
John Hudson contributes the words to this arrangement by Cantabile (John Hudson and others) in which Offenbach's music is used to evoke a trip on the London Underground, concluding with 'All Change!' and 'Woo'.
Words and music can be found in Encores for Choirs: 2, published by O.U.P.

Stevenson, Ronal
'From a Railway Carriage', from A Child's Garden of Verses
One of a cycle of songs comprising settings of poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, for tenor and/or soprano and piano.
Musaeus MZCD100

Tomita, Isao
'Whistle Train', from the album Dawn Chorus
A synthesiser interpretation of Villa-Lobos's 'O trenzhino do Caipira' ('The Little Train of the Prairie'), Bachiana Brasileiras no. 2 (1931). Can be heard on the composer's web site,

Webber, Andrew Lloyd
Starlight Express
A musical with lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, in which actors on roller skates play the part of trains.

XTC/Partridge, Andy
'Train running low on soul coal'
On this song by one of their number, Andy Partridge, XTC, a Swindon-based rock band, simulate the sound of a steam locomotive. It is included on their album The Big Express; the cover art features a locomotive wheel [front] and British Railways symbols [back], and the illustrations in the accompanying booklet also follow the railway theme and include several photos of the band posing as the crew of a GWR locomotive.
CDV 2325/077778668923

Distel, Herbert
Die Reise
This work, by Swiss audio artist Herbert Distel, makes use of sounds recorded during a rail journey from Zurich to Bern, but 'leads from the realistic soundscape of Swiss train travel to an imaginary inner sonic universe...' See also his 'experimental opera' La Stazione, 1987[-90] below
Included on his CD Railnotes, hatOLOGY 2-594 [2003]
[Thanks to Paul Martin for informing me of this work]

Aaberg, Philip
'Westbound', for piano.
Written by composer/pianist Philip Aaberg in 1985; orchestral version [combined with another railway piece, 'Don't stop now'] performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1996 and recorded in 2002. Revised and recorded on Aaberg's piano solo album Live from Montana in 2000. Philip Aaberg tells me that this performance 'includes [the] serendipitous sound of [a] freight train passing through during recording'.
Sheet music published by Hal Leonard.

Ball, Malcolm
'Night Train', from Eight Transports for trumpet and piano

Blezard, William
'The Coffee Pot', the second piece in a suite for viola and piano called Four Scottish Scenes.
The composer tells me that this piece celebrates the 'squat little engine' which worked the Wick - Lybster branch line (opened 1901, closed 1944) while he was in the R.A.F. at Wick during the Second World War.

Blyth Power
'Junction Signal'
One of several railway-related songs from this British folk/punk band who named themselves after a British Railways Class 56 diesel electric locomotive. Issued on a single in 1985, the song reappeared on their albums Pont Au-Dessus de la Brue [1989, featuring a photograph of a steam locomotive on the cover] and The Bricklayer's Arms [2000]. The lyrics can be found on the band's Web site at See also under 1986 and 1995.

Jones, Trevor
Soundtrack for the film Runaway Train

Mattison, Nick
The Curve on the Falcon
A rock song inspired by boyhood trainspotting and, specifically, by glimpses of the A4 Pacifics of which 'Falcon' was one. Words by Steve Plowes. Demo disc available from Nick Mattison at

Morawetz, Oscar
'The Railway Carriage', from Souvenirs from Childhood
A setting of the poem 'From a Railway Carriage', from A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Rowley, Alec
From a Railway Window
Another setting of the poem 'From a Railway Carriage', from A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Blyth Power
'Some of Shelley's Hang Ups', on the album Wicked Women, Wicked men & Wicket Keepers [the cover of which features the British Railways diesel loco which this folk/punk band named themselves after].

Oliver, Stephen
Commuting - comic operetta
The story of a meeting between a thief and a fence on a crowded corridor train. 

[The] Pastels
'Breaking Lines', from C86
Described as a 'great song which is all about train tracks' by Catherine Owen, to whom thanks for drawing it and two further tracks by this Glasgow group (see 1987) to my attention.
NME tape

Rathburn, Eldon
The Train to Mariposa for orchestra

Sparke, Philip
Orient Express, for brass band; transcribed for concert band in 1992
British light music
Kosei Publishing Co. KOCD-3902

Wills, Arthur
The Spiritual Railway, for SATB and keyboard.
A setting of verses on a memorial stone in the south porch of Ely Cathedral, which commemorates two young men who were killed in a railway accident on Christmas Eve, 1845. Arthur Wills was organist at Ely Cathedral, and this setting was first performed by the Cathedral Choir on Liverpool Street Station prior to the departure of a special train to Ely for the launch of the Ely Cathedral Appeal. The verses employ the railway as a metaphor - 'The Line to heaven by Christ was made...' The lines God's Love, the Fire, his Truth the Power Which drives the Engine and the Train...' are set to a suitably dynamic rhythm.
Published by OECUMUSE, 52/52a Broad Street, Ely CB7 4AH

1986 [-88]
Waggoner, Andrew
The Train
for orchestra
VMM 3007 (no longer available)

Anderson, Ian/Jethro Tull
'Raising Steam', on the Jethro Tull album Crest of a Knave.

Borden, David
Trains, for synthesisers, soprano, clarinet and electric guitar.
Included on the album Cayuga Night Music, Linden Music LM2013

Davis, Carl
Score for the classic silent film 'The General', starring Buster Keaton,
incorporating a harmonica solo written specifically for Tommy Reilly.
By all accounts Davis's score, written for Channel 4 television, is something of a masterpiece and easily the best of the several on offer, yet no recording is currently available.
HBO Video [1989]

Instant Sunshine
'Smooth Train Blues' and 'Platform Three'
Two comic songs on the theme of commuting by train. ['Worried by the number of people using trains, the government has set up a body to discourage cvommuting. It is called British Rail']. Both are included on Instant Sunshine's album Comes of Age.

Jobim, Tom
'Trem de Ferro'
A song by Brazilian rock musician Tom Jobim,  setting a poem written by Manuel Bandeira in 1936. The words by themselves evoke the rhythm of a train:

        That'a more like it
        Fly, smoke
        Run by, railing
        Hey there, Mr Stoker
        stoke up the fire
        in the furnace
        cause I need
        lots of force
        lots of force
        lots of force

King, Ray and Ron Russell
An hymn in rock idiom to an Australian 'C38' class steam locomotive.
Recorded on Trains of Treasure [see Discography]

[The] Pastels
'Truck Train Tractor', from the album Crawl Babies on Glass Records.
Glass Pastel 001

[The] Pastels
'Get 'Round Town', from this Glasgow group's debut LP Sittin Pretty.
Includes references to the practicalities of train travel.
Glass Records

Rathburn, Eldon
Dorion Crossing. for clarinet, cello and piano
Recalls a fatal collision on a railroad crossing at Dorion, Quebec, in the mid-1960s.
Crystal Records CD520

Rathburn, Eldon
6 Railroad Preludes for piano
The six preludes are titled 'A Great Little Train of Wales', 'Tiddles of Paddington' (a station cat), 'Spiral Tunnel Boogie' (a trip through a spiral tunnel in the Canadian Rockies), 'In Memoriam - Jumbo' (a circus elephant killed by a train), 'Thoreau's Train', and 'Amtrak'.
Crystal Records CD520
An orchestral version (dated 1990) can be found on VYSO2-1995, obtainable from the Canadian Music Centre.]

Distel, Herbert
La Stazione
An 'experimental opera', by Swiss audio artist Herbert Distel, making use of the recorded sounds of a large railway station, including announcements... 'sounds charged with the excitement of a journey not yet begun']
Included on his CD Railnotes, hatOLOGY 2-594 [2003]. See also Distel's Die Reise, 1984[-85], above.
[Thanks to Paul Martin for informing me of this work]

Forestier, Richard
Le Pain sec: petite suite ferroviaire
Six short pieces for two flutes, oboe, bassoon, and harpsichord, or [string?] quartet with accompaniment.[I am very grateful to Jean-Marie Moine for very kindly sending me a copy of the music of this charming work]. Place names used in the titles of some of the pieces link it to the metre gauge railway between Port-Boulet and Chateau-Renault, part of the CFD Indre et Loire network. This line was closed in 1949.

Glass, Philip
'Train to Sao Paulo'; part of Powaqqatsi. [Thanks, Klaus Matzka]
Nonesuch 79192-2

Mey, Reinhard
Die Eisenbahnballade
Included on this German singer-songwriter's album 'Balladen'. [Thanks, Guenter Dinhobl]
INT 860.222

[The?] Pasadenas
Riding on a Train
Entered the British Top Twenty in September.

Reich, Steve
Different Trains
An extraordinary work for string quartet and pre-recorded tape, contrasting the excitement of travelling on American passenger trains during 1939-1942 with the trains used by the Nazis to transport people to the death camps. The tape includes fragments of speech from the composer’s childhood governess, recalling their train trips between New York and Los Angeles, from reminiscences of a retired Pullman porter who worked on the same route, and from Holocaust survivors, as well as American and European train sounds of the 1930s and 1940s.
Nonesuch 7559-79394-2

Shocked, Michelle
'If Love was a Train' and 'The L & N don't stop here anymore', from her album Short Sharp Shocked.
The second in particular is notable for its elegiac tone and evocative lyrics.
(L & N = Louisville & Nashville'

Wilson, Stanley
To a lady seen from the train - part-song, op. 42/2
A setting of Frances Cornford's poem, with ostinato based on a steam train rhythm. Recorded by the King's Singers in 1988; I am unsure of the date of composition.
CDC7 49765-2

Dhomont, Francis
Espace/Escape (from Cycle de l'errance)
An 'acousmatic' piece, meditating on the idea of the journey, which uses samples of train sounds.

Lewis, Henry
Joan of Kent: the British railway musical
This show was written as a contribution to protests against British Rail's original plan, announced in 1988, to build a hig speed railway through Kent, linking London with the Channel Tunnel. (An alternative route was adopted in 1993). Songs include 'I'm a Railwayman'.
Dress Circle Records CDC003

Payne, Anthony
Adlestrop, for soprano and piano/string quartet
A setting of Edward Thomas's poem, composed by Anthony Payne as a birthday present for his wife, the soprano Jane Manning. The accompaniment, most of which precedes soprano entry, evokers the sound of s team train slowing to a halt. Originally written for soprano and piano; the piano is joined by a string quartet in the recorded perfrormance, sung by Jane Manning.

Paynter, John.
And All Stations To... A round for several station announcers.
A round for spoken voices, comprising chanted names of British railway stations. Date of composition not known, but it is included in Music File Series 2 Issue 1 Unit 1 Underground Music, published by Mary Glasgow Publications Ltd in 1989.

Sundqvist, Maria
A piece by this contemporary Swedish composer, described to me as a centenary 'railway walk' - presumably a commemoration, 100 years after its opening, of a now closed railway?

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Cave, Nick
The Train Song
An Australian railway song, written and performed by Nick Cave.

Hawkins, Malcolm
Train Talk
Song for unison voices and piano, with optional percussion.
Published by Stainer & Bell.

Morley, Glen
Coquihalla legends: a railroad rhapsody
An evocation of the Kettle Valley line in the South Okangan valley in Canada, known to the composer through his schoolboy years. A runaway train crashes down the mountainside, and a 'ghost train' emerges from the wreckage. Commissioned by the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra.
VYSO2-1995 Obtainable from the Canadian Music Centre.]

Rathburn, Eldon
Two Railoramas: Dvorak at 155th Street - which imagines Dvorak watching trains going in and out of Grand Central Station, as he was known to do - and Hindemith Rides the Merchants Limited - which imagines Hindemith travelling by train from Yale to New York; both are written for an ensemble of wind instruments.
Crystal Records CD520

Runswick, Daryl
Waving to Trains
A setting of one section of a long poem by Philip Pacey (In the Elements Free), for narrator (mezzo-soprano), three singers, and pre-recorded tape. The tape combines natural, synthesised and sampled sounds; at one point a steam-hauled passenger train is heard. The first three sub-sections of the text refer to building model railways, to train spotting, and to travelling by train; the remainder of the work invokes other aspects of travel.
No recording.

Aaberg, Philip
Don't stop now', for piano.
This piece was inspired by the story of John Philip Sousa's train burning the town of Mondak to the ground.Written and recorded in 1991, it was re-recorded in 2000 on Aaberg's solo piano album Field Notes. An orchestral version, combined with 'Westbound' [1985, above] was performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1996 and recorded in 2002.

Custer, Beth
Train Song
Despite the title, this is not a 'song' in the usual sense but a short instrumental piece composed by this original, unclassifiable musician and performed by her and others. It originated as part of a score for a short film which included a train scene. It is included on Beth Custer's CD 'The Shirt I Slept In.

Davis, Carl
The General
Music for the sound track of a high-quality 35mm nitrate print of Buster Keaton's silent film masterpiece (1927)

Genesis [Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford]
'Driving the last spike', from the album We Can't Dance
A rock band's lament for the navvies who built Britain's railway lines.... 'They'll never see the likes of us again'. The lyrics can be found on a Genesis site.

Hess, Nigel
Stephenson's Rocket
A lively overture for wind band, in the British light music tradition.
CHAN 9764

Ilott, Roger
'Beside a railway line'
A folk/country song, evoking a small boys' delight in living beside a railway line in Australia.
Recorded on Trains of Treasure [see Discography]

Nutman, Carey
An electro-acoustic piece evoking 'an imaginary journey, perhaps in a high speed train', and synthesising fragments of sound to suggest 'the rhythm of wheels on track'.
On Carey Nutman's album Contrasts, MPSCDOO1, available from

Todd, Will
Isambard Kingdom Brunel - opera; an orchestral suite derived from the opera dates from 1994

Winteregg, Steven
The third of a set of 'Postcards from France', this orchestral miniature of just 3 minutes duration was apparently inspired by a journey on a TGV - but isn't it steam that we hear at the very beginning, with station announcements in the background?
MMC 2065

Aniada a Noar
Wou is daham
Written in the 'Red Lightning', a regional train between western Styria and Graz; included on this Austrian folk group's album 'Geduld, Geduld Live'. [Thanks, Guenter Dinhobl].
GARAGE Klang EX 109; available from: A-8350 Pertlstein 28; tel. ++43 3155 3783

Baker, Michael J.
'Train', from Big Pictures
Big Pictures
is a piece of music theatre by Michael J. Baker with painter Dan Solomon and choreographer Bill James. 'Train' was inspired by a 19th century newspaper account of a train wreck in western Canada.
Artifact Music ART 018

Bates, Django
'Abandoned Railway Station'; one of Three English Scenes.
The station is New Beckenham station, near the birthplace of this innovative composer/performer.
On Bates' album Good is the news, Argo 452 099-22H

Drew, David
See the entry for Kurt Weill's Railroads on Parade, 1939 [above]

Dudley, Anne
Anne Dudley's music for the Granada TV series, 'Jeeves & Wooster', includes a very effective passage of train music during the third programme in Series 3, 'Introduction on Broadway', first broadcast on 12th April 1992. At this point in the story, a new musical is touring the States; the cast includes Cyril Bassington-Bassington, whom Bertie is supposed to be keeping away from all forms of theatrical activity.
Available on video.

Loevendie, Théo
On the Train, for piano

Rathburn, Eldon
The Iron Horses of Delson

Les Tambours du Bronx
A piece for percussion, evoking the sound of a train gathering speed. Paul Martin, who kindly informed me about this, describes it as 'Truly awesome!'
On this French band's album 'Grand Mix', unfortunately not currently available.

Hegley, John
Comic song, introduced by a recording of a steam locomotive picking up speed. On his CD Saint and Blurry.
(Thanks, Carey)

Maxwell Davies, Peter
Chat Moss, for school orchestra
In this short tone poem, Peter Maxwell Davies recalls boyhood visits to Astley station, on Chat Moss, where passing goods trains caused the ground to sink appreciably, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway having been laid on a 'raft' on the boggy ground. The music conveys the 'excitement as steam trains thunder by'. 
Collins Classics 1460-2 [no longer available]. The work could be downloaded or ordered on tailor-made CD from Max's web site, but sadly this is currently unavailable.

Norman, Katharine
London - three pieces for tape
The second piece, 'London E17', includes sounds of underground trains. [Thanks to Tom McCanna for telling me about this work].
NMC D034

Nyman, Michael
MGV (Musique à Grand Vitesse)
Described by one critic as 'a sort of Pacific 231 for the 1990s', this was commissioned by the Festival de Lille to mark the inauguration of the North European TGV line from Paris to Lille; and was first performed at Lille on 26th September 1993. According to the composer it was conceived 'as an abstract, imaginary journey; or rather, five interconnected journeys... Tempo change, unpredictable slowings down, bear no logical relation to the high speed of the Paris-Lille journey... [The music] lays down the tracks on which the MGV runs'.
Argo 443 382-2

Patterson, Paul
Eurostar Fanfare; The Royal Eurostar; Brussels Fanfare; Paris Fanfare.
Pieces commissioned to mark the opening of the Channel Tunnel and the launch of train services through the Tunnel. The Royal Eurostar was commissioned by European Passenger Services for the State Opening of Waterloo International and the inauguration of the Channel Tunnel on 6th May, 1994. Conceived to exploit the interior space of the Waterloo International, it was written for 19 brass and percussion players; it builds on a sustained D which corresponds to the hum of Eurostar engines, and incorporates both 'Rule Britannia' and the 'Marseillaise'. The intention was for its climax to coincide with the train leaving the station, and, with some good fortune, this was achieved. Eurostar Fanfare was conceived the opening to The Royal Eurostar, which in the original plans would have been played on the arrival of a train bringing the Queen from France; it became a separate piece after it was decided that the Queen would travel to, not from, France. Paris Fanfare heralded the arrival of the Queen at Waterloo, and was used again (with minor changes) for the inauguration of the London-Paris service on 16th November 1994. Brussels Fanfare was used for the launch of the London-Brussels Eurostar service, also on 16th November 1994.
Hyperion CDA 66870

Rathburn, Eldon
Ghost Train, for piano
Crystal Records CD520

Rathburn, Eldon
Subway Thoughts, for string quartet

1993 [-1995]
Whitacre, Eric
Ghost Train.
A 'wonderful piece...popular on the college wind ensemble circuit';
Scores and parts are available from

Adkins, Mathew
This electronic piece, nearly 12 minutes long, is described by its composer as 'a poetic depiction of a train journey'. It initially grew out of his experience of commuting into Birmingham; it also draws on Turner's painting 'Rain, Steam and Speed', and in its use of recordings of trains and of station sounds it pays tribute to Pierre Schaeffer's Etude aux Chemins de Fer.
is included on Adkins' album Fragmented Visions, MPSCD015, available from MPSMusic,

Downs, Lamont
E7A: Concert March
The E7A, built by General Motors between 1945 and 1949, has been described as 'the most beautiful passenger locomotive ever built'. This 7 minute piece for wind ensenble or concert band, intended not as a tone-picture of the locomotive but as a tribute to its grace and power, was composed for the Massachusetts Instrumental Conductor's Association. The score is published by Warner Bros., with the composer's RS-2: Concert March (1970), under the publisher's title Two Railroad Marches. For more information visit

Hatzis, Christos
String Quartet no. 1 ('The Awakening'), for string quartet and prepared tape.
The prepared tape uses recordings of Inuit throat singers and of sounds from a steam locomotive. Of the latter, Hatsis says 'The sound of locomotive engines has been haunting me...since early childhood. My father was a railway engineer in Volos, my home town in Greece... Occasionally he used to take me aboard the locomotive engine of a miniature train for trips up Mt. Pelion, the seat of the mythological Centaurs... The 'dragon train', as I used to call it, which was actually transformed into a dragon during carnival, left a strong impression on me. Its hungry, fiery mouth with my father constantly feeding it coal and the loud sounds it produced, especially the limpid triple beat the wheels made against the rails, were among the most awesome visual and acoustical images of my childhood. Eventually all these sounds - the locomotives, the locomotive-like throat singing, and the constant up-bow, down-bow articulaytions of the strings - became a metaphor for primal breathing...'
EMI Canada 724355803825 [available direct from]

Parker, Jim
Concerto for clarinet and strings - the last movement is called 'A Ticket to the Next Station'.
Meridian 84396

Blyth Power
'Signalman White', on the album Paradise Razed.

Captain Sensible
'Last Train'
This song, on the album Meathead, includes the lines 'Dr Beeching said lets' chop up the branches/If you're not motorised don't fancy your chances/Wanna take a trip, don't head for the railways/'Cos they're selling it, you might get there someday'.
Cherry Red CMRED160; Humbug BAH14

Cashian, Philip
So Lonely
A setting for mezzo-soprano and string quartet of Louis MacNeice's poem 'Corner seat'.
NMC D061

Cooder, Ry
'Train to Florida', from the soundtrack to the film Geronimo.
I'm puzzled by this piece - I can hear no recognisable railway sounds. The relevant scene seemed to have been cut from a version of the film I watched on video.
WEA 9362459872
Columbia 4756452

Dean, Elton
Trains for Tooting
a jazz piece played by the Elton Dean Quintet: alto and tenor saxophones, double bass, piano and drums
Cuneiform CUNE RUNE 83

Williams, Huw
'Travelling by Steam', recorded by the folk/rock band Fairport Convention on their album Jewel in the Crown
This song, commissioned by the BBC for a programme about railway workers, undoubtedly predates this recording, on which it is concluded by the addition of a Morris tune 'Swaggering Bony' which is apparently also known as 'Travel by Steam'.
Woodman Records WRCD023

Ahlkvist, Fredrik [et al]
På Spåret: 13 sånger ur musikteatern
Thirteen original songs, allk except one with music by Fredrik Ahlkvist, to commeorate the 25th anniversary of Foreningen Gotlandtåget, the group responsible for a preserved sectioin of 891mm gauge railway at Dalhem, Gotland, Sweden.The album also includes 12 brief tracks of sounds recorded on the railway.
Foreningen Gotlandtåget FGT CD001

Alloy Orchestra
Music for Dziga Vertov's silent film Man with a Movie Camera (1929).
Includes a sequence of effective train music. Alloy Orchestra have also provided music for The General, see 2003 below.
For more information on Alloy Orchestra, see their Web site at

Bennett, Malcolm
Train for trumpet and piano
[Work recorded in 1996; date of composition not known]

Broom, Colin
Soundtrack for a 5 minute scene from Buster Keaton's classic silent film The General [the scene in which one train chases another at high speed], for orchestra.
The composer can be contacted at

Holmes, Sherman
There's a Train
'There's a Train Going Nowhere in my Life' ... Recorded by the Holmes Brothers, a New York City-based blues/roots band.
Rounder 1144

An electro-acoustic piece which incorporates sounds associated with the river Dreel (in Scotland), an inn once called 'The Railway Tavern' and a railway which closed some 30 years previously.
Included on the CDs Legacies, Sargasso SCD28046, and Sonic Art from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Huddersfield & Newcastle. MPSCD013, available from

Maxwell Davies, Peter
Throstle's Nest Junction, for orchestra
A tone poem, lasting 15 minutes, evoking memories from the composer's Lancashire childhood, particularly of an area which took its name from Throstle Nest Mill and where the Trafford Road (where the family lived), the Bridgewater Canal, the Manchester Ship Canal, and railway lines all came together. In the first section sounds of goods trains shunting in the docks are heard in the early morning; the second section concerns a tram ride; and in the fourth section the composer recalls his childhood fear of 'the railway junction itself...a huge hole, from which smoke and steam billowed'. 
Score and parts published by Chester Music. No recording.

Meeuwis, Guus
'Per Spoor (Kedeng Kedeng'
('Kedeng Kedeng Kedeng Kedeng ' represents the sound of a train.
This single eached no. 1 in the Dutch Top 40.

Whistlecroft, Lisa
Work for the Railways
Combines excerpts from a recording of a speech by Lenin with sounds of English trains from the 1950s. Is it music? Its creator says 'I like to think of it as a kind of hi-tech magic lantern through which the listener can "see" my personal view into a world that doesn't exist any more'.

Chanticleer/Chen Yi
Diu Diu Deng, arranged by Chen Yi
A Taiwanese song recorded by the American vocal group, Chanticleer, in 1987. The accompanying notes explain that, although Taiwanese, the song 'is also very popular in the Yilan region of mainland China, where transportation and communication were difficult'. When the railway reached the region, the people sang this lively song in celebration while riding the trains through the area's beautiful mountains and valleys'. 'Going up to the tunnel in the mountain, the water in the cave is dripping down./Going up to the tea mountain, enjoy looking at the tea-picking girls'. Chen Yi's arrangement incorporates steam train sounds, making this into a miniature masterpiece of railway music. [Thanks, Pat Smith].
Teldec 16676-2

Chatman, Stephen
'Train' from Due West
Lasting less than two minutes, 'Train' provides the opening to this work for unaccompanied SATB voices, using texts by Tara Wohlberg, which was commissioned by the Vancouver Chamber Choir. For anyone interested in railway music, it is an exquisite miniature in its own right.
CBC Records MVCD 1132

Eriksen, Tim
'In the Cars on the Long Island Railroad' - guitar solo, on the Cordlelia's Dad album, Spine.
Appleseed APR1023

Gå Ikke over Sporet
A beautifully packaged CD produced to commemorate the 150th anniversary of DSB, the Danish state railway. Unfortunately the music doesn't match the presentation. It comprises one track each from five Danish rock bands, each piece evidently having some connection with railways (although I'm not sure what the connection is in the case of the fifth track). Souvenirs perform 'Gare du Nord' (written by Gasolin and included on their album Stakkels Jim in 1977); Kashmir perform 'Little & the Vast' (with references to trains in the lyrics); Poul Krebs sings 'På en kaj i Kalundborg' (with recorded sounds of electric[?] trains passing in the background); Dicte & Dub Tractor perform their song 'Machinery'; and Loveshop performs '#1'.
Columbia 9715-03

Hamner, Paul
'Trains to Tuang'
The title track of an album by this South African jazz musician.
CD available from One World

Holdstock, Jan
Running on Rails
Songs, linked by narration, telling the story of the building of the Settle-Carlisle railway. Written for schools/children, the score is available from [I am not certain of the date, which is given as c.1997 in the British Library Catalogue]

Proy, Gabriele
Wien West Bahnhof
An electronic sound composition, utilising recordings made in this Vienna railway station

Vocal Sampling
El Tren
Vocal Sampling are a remarkable Cuban group who complement their singing with instrumental sounds made not with instruments but with their voices and hands. Their version of Rafael Cueto's El Tren was arranged by René Banos. This is brilliant railway music - not to be missed. Recorded performances can be found on their CDs 'Des Vacaciones' (1997) and 'Live in Berlin' (1999).
'Live in Berlin' Ashe EFA920082

Bushnell, Michael
On the Night Train
An electroacoustic work by this American composer resident in Vancouver, which evolved out of memories of nights spent on trains.
Canadian Music Centre CMC-BC

Dumars, Jason
'Fright Train', on the album Singularity.
At the end of this track by this avant-garde jazz saxophonist, drummer Chris Cutter plays against a tape made by Dumars of a freight train leaving a yard.

Feeney, Philip
'Charing Cross Station'
Scene 1 from Feeney's score for the ballet Dracula, created by Michael Pink and premiered by the Atlanta Ballet. Mina and Dr. Van Helsing accompany Harker to the station as he sets off on his journey to Transylvania to see Count Dracula, where he is to conclude the Count's purchase of properties in England. A mental patient, Renfield, being escorted through the station, causes a disturbing incident.

Johnson, Robin
'Last Train to Padstow'

They've killed the line at Meldon
No more N's or T9's bowl
Through the unspoiled countryside
Of Devon and Cornwall...
The Atlantic Coast Express will run
No more down to the sea

So take your chance while you still can
On the last train to Padstow
Before the happy holidays
And old journeys all go.

Now only served by overgrown
Embankments hanging on
Decaying bridges, floodee cuttings
And ghosts of summers gone
The tourists will all come by road
By car and coach party
They smile as they destroy the very
Things they come to see....

The wisp of steam just feathering
In the blue summer skies
The cheerful chattering of the train
Grows mournful as it dies
Clacketing through the countryside
A spectral whistle blows
As fading into silence runs
The last train to Padstow.

Although no commercial recording is available, it may be possible to arrange to hear this song by contacting Robin at

Lewis, Henry
Brief encounters on the Penistone line
A revue, comprising twelve songs, which was performed at Huddersfield station, on the 20.15 Huddersfield-Sheffield train, and in the Clothier's Arms, Stocksmoor, in June 1998. The songs, which include 'The Penistone Line', 'The Railwayman', and 'Seat reservation', can be thought of as contemporary equivalents of music hall songs which characterise and caricature the railways of the day; in this case it is a post-privatisation rural line which is the subject. The revue was performed by Theatre of the Wheel, a theatre company specialising in transport-related projects.
Splinter Records CDC 004

MacDonald, Alistair
'Final Times'
A piece of electro-acoustic music incoirporating sounds of Glasgow, including trains and the Underground...'the rhythmic cliucking of an escalator in Central Station' ~ 'the escalator begins to sounds like the train crossing points, voices are stretched into the and squeal of the Underground train...'
Included on the CDs drift-one, A.D.O.R. 991, and Sonic Art from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Huddersfield & Newcastle. MPSCD013

Marchetti, Lionel
Train de nuit (Noord 3-683)
Lionel Marchetti is a French composer of 'musique concrète'.
Recorded on a 3" CD, Metamkine MKCD029 [released 2002], available from
[Information from Paul Martin]

Marsalis, Wynton
Big Train
Commissioned by Jazz at the Lincoln Center, and premiered on March 19th 1998, this is a suite of twelve linked pieces, each with a railway theme, and including cries of ‘All Aboard’.
Columbia CK 69860

Two Dollar Guitar
Train Songs
Instrumental improvisations on classic American train songs, by 'three men smokin' out of town on a steel rail' - Tim Foljahn, Dave Motamed, and Steve Shelley.

Carlsson, Håkon
A celebration of Sweden's new electric multiple unit express train.

Smith, Robert W.
The Great Locomotive Chase
A piece for school band or orchestra, inspired by the theft of 'The General' during the American Civil War, commissioned by and dedicated to the 1999-2000 Tapp Middle School (GA) 8th Grade Symphonic Band. Score published by Warner Bros. According to a sheet music distributor, Pepper [] 'the orchestra is so expertly used that the listeners can easily imagine the events as they hear the train whistles, the clang of bells and the frenzied chugging of overworked engines down to the deseperate last gasps!' [For other music related to this famous incident in the Civil War,, see under 1927, 1956 (Smith, Paul J.), and 1991 (Davis, Carl)]

Dusty, Slim
Abalinga Mail
An Australian 'country' song, performed [and written?] by Dusty Slim.

Jones, Samuel
'Locomotive', from Roundings: Musings and Meditations on Texas New Deal Murals (symphonic suite).
The fourth movement of a work commissioned for the 75th anniversary of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra. Each of the seven movements was inspired by one of the public murals created during the Depression era under the auspices of the New Deal. Unfortunately the murals are not reproduced in the booklet accompanying the Naxos recording; nor are they identified in the composer's album notes. He does state, however, that this movement 'commemorates the importance of the coming of the railroad to the establishment of a community in inland portions of the United States. The music describes the sound one hears as a passenger train approaches, comes to a halt, empties its passengers and cargo, then departs, slipping into the distance'.

Pacey, Philip
Railway Rhythms: variations on 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child', for piano
Enquiries welcome:

Smith, Robert W.
The Great Locomotive Chase, for concert band
Composed for the Tapp Middle School Concert Band; published by Warner Bros. Publications.

Trine, Artemus
The Celestial Railroad
'New Age' music, which invites the listener to 'imagine yourself on the station platform anticipating the arrival of the space-faring steeam locomotive. Looking up into the cold starry night you glimpse the train sliding down and into the platform shed, steaming noisily to a halt before you...'
Orchard B0000457HP; can be sampled at

For train songs written and performed especially for children by American singer-songwriter James Coffey, visit the Web site of his company, Blue Vision Music

Back to top

Aaberg, Philip
'Ringing Night', for piano
'At 3 a.m. in a small Montana town, a freight train passes through and unleashes a flood of associations for the sleeper...' Commissioned by the Music Teachers' National Association; published by Sweetgrass Music, and available at

Fahey, John [with Tim Knight and Rob Scrivener]
'A History of Tokyo Rail Traction'
On this track, on an otherwise solo electric guitar album [his last], John Fahey is joined by Tim Knight and Rob Scrivener who also contributed to the composition of this evocation of railway sounds.
LivHouse Records 70334 90001 2

"In 1996 John played me a cassette of a work-in-progress. Behind the spattered notes of his guitar there was a low, muffled curtain of sound, whether sampled or from a tape loop I couldn't tell. An evocative noice, and one to delight anyone fond of drone-based music. I told John that I liked it. His eyes grew wide.
'You know what that is?' he asked.
'A sine wave?' I guessed.
His answer came in a breathless rush. 'When I was little I used to listen to the trains going by near where we lived. In the winter, after a big snowfall, late at night I'd sometimes hear the sound of the railroad plough clearing the snow off the tracks - a metallic, grinding noise. I've been looking for that sound my whole life' ".
Glenn Jones, 'Railroad Plough to Valhalla - thoughts after the death of John Fahey on February 22 2001'

For more railway music by John Fahey, see under 1960, 1967, and 1983

A Full Head of Steam
A CD of railway folk songs, performed by various musicians from the north east of England, produced to coincide with the 'Millenium Cavalcade of Steam' scheduled to take place at Darlington on August 26th-28th to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

Goodhand, Francis
The King's Train, childrens' musical
Written for the 50th birthday of White House Junior School, Ipswich, where the composer was a pupil, and first performed at the school on 13th July, The King's Train is set in the 1950s; local children look forward to seeing the King, whose Royal Train is scheduled to stop at their village station, and they prepare to bring him gifts. But in the event, the train is delayed and it is decided that it will not stop but will pass slowly through the station..... Francis Goodhand tells me that 'I used the sound of trains and the railway as my starting point for the music - repeated rhythm patterns in both vocal and accompaniment parts - and the music grew from there'. For more information visit the composer's Web site at

Lewis, Henry
Brief Encounters on the Falmouth line: a railway revue of songs and sketches
The plot of this revue, the second in the 'Brief Encounter' series (see above under 1998), concerns a representative from a PR agency who is dispatched to Cornwall to take charge of the relaunch and rebranding of a country branch line. Produced to support the T.R.A.I.N. 'Branching Out' conference, it Includes two new railways songs: 'Runaway to Cornwall', concerning the Great Western Railway's Night Riviera sleeper, and 'I've just bought a railway'. To be performed at the Grace Theatre, London on September 8th and 9th (tel. 0207 794 0022), and at the Falmouth Hotel, Falmouth, on September 13th and 14th, by Theatre of the Wheel, a theatre company specialising in transport-related projects.

Manning, Peter
'In Memoriam CPR'
A piece of electro-acoustic music.
No available recording so far as I know.

Øien, Jøn, Børge Pettersen-Øverleir and Svein Schultz
Steam(loco2trip) -
a jazz work performed by these three musicians (on piano, guitar, and bass respectively, additional performers, and apparently an actual steam locomotive. The work was given its first performance at the annual winter festival at Narvik, Norway, on March 16th; further performances were to be given in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and northern Sweden. The locomotive used in the Narvik performance was 'Svarta Björn'.

Pacey, Philip
Adlestrop, for soprano and chamber choir (SATB)
A setting of Edward Thomas's poem, first performed at St Wilfrid's Church, Ribchester, on 15th May. Enquiries welcome:

'Back on the Train', from their album Farmhouse

Rüsenberg, Michael
Kölner Brücken Sinfonie
A 'symphony' compiled from ambient sounds recorded at various bridges in Cologne, including at least one railway bridge [which features on the CD's cover art]
nw 5102 2

Sheppard, Philip
Rain, Steam & Speed, for five-string electric cello
Composed and performed by Sheppard, and included on a recording issued in 2000 (date of composition not known), this piece is described as 'a musical depiction of Turner's atmospheric masterpiece. A steam locomotive's journey is followed from terminus to ferocious storm'. [The same CD includes 'Mechanical Waltz', written to be played in counterpoint with the Victorian water-pumping steam engines preserved in the Kew Bridge Steam Museum]
Blue Snow BSNCD2

Simmons, Alan
Steam, for children's choir;
Evening Star
, for male voice , female voice, and mixed voice choirs.
Steam was commissioned by Swindon Music Service and was performed at the opening of the new 'Steam' museum at Swindon. It comprises four songs linked by narration; the songs are 'The Rainhill Trials', 'Great Western', 'Mallard', and 'Evening Star'. The composer subsequently arranged the latter for male, female, and mixed voice choirs.Alan Simmons can be contacted at

Artese 'N Toad
They Don't Write Songs About Trains Anymore
An album of new train songs by Pennsylvania singer-songwriters Perry Artese and Tom Dimeo.The album has been popular with train fans in America, where MTH Electric Trains have given away copies with their model train sets. A follow-up album has recently appeared [see below, 2005].
Astonia B0000920LR

Beck, Gordon
The Jazz/Railways Connection
An award-winning project commissioned by Jazz East [in the U.K.] from Gordon Beck, a jazz pianist who also uses multi-instrumental digital playback. A series of 'sound pictures' inspired by some of the world's great train routes.

Carlsson, Håkon
J 1393
Written for the centenary of the Ystad-Brösarp railway in Scania, Sweden. J 1393 is a veteran steam engine whose whistle in E flat is part of the music.

Chilcott, Bob
'Ev'ry time I feel the Spirit', arranged for SATB and piano
This terrific arrangement of a traditional spiritual is included here for the sake of the train effects in the passage 'Ain't but one train on this track' - and because it is in the repertoire of a choir I sing with.
Published by O.U.P.

Chan Ka Nin
Iron Road  - opera
This opera, premiered in Toronto on April 20th, tells a tale of love and adventure set against the backdrop of the final stages of construction of the Canadian national railroad. More details can be found at  [Thanks to Victor Roy for information about this work]

Emmanuel, Tommy
Train to Dusseldorf
A solo piece by this Australian acoustic guitarist, included on his album Southbound.

Kander, John
The Visit
Some scenes in this musical, which is based on Dürrenmatt's play Der Besuch der alten Dame, are set at the railway station of the fictional town of Brachen.
See also Gottfried von Einem's opera, under 1971 above.

Kimpton, Geoffrey. The Railroad, setting of poem by William Barnes.
Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]

Mountain Heart
'Gospel Train'
A marvellous unaccompanied version of this traditional song, four voices alone invoking the sounds of the train.
On  Mountain Heart's album The Journey; also included in te compilation Bluegrass Express
Rounder 82161-1159-2

Paterson, Robert
Sonata for bassoon and piano
All three movements of this work invoke the inventor Thomas Alva Edison. The first movement is inspired by an incident suffered by Edison as a young boy, when he tried to jump onto a moving train and was hauled up by the conductor who grabbed  the boy by his ears. Edison felt something 'snap' inside his head, and began to lose his hearing. The movement begins with the first of three 'locomotive sections' (based on musical quotes, including one from Honegger's Pacific 231). The movement reaches a peak with a loud staccato 'snapping'' chord.

Perrone, Marc
'Locaccmaccam', and other pieces from Voyages,
by French accordionist Marc Perrone
The 'key' to ' Locaccmaccam' is as follows:
loc = locomotive
acc = accordion
mac = machine à coudre [sewing machine]
cam = camera
'Ces quatre inventions se renvoient les unes aux autres. Il y a dans leur fonctionnement quelque chose d'inexorable, presque d'implacable. Quand on les écoute, elles apparaissent comme autant de symboles de destins qui ne peuvent que s'accomplir, elles nous racontent'. Trains also feature on several other tracks. [I am grateful to Guy Chapalain for drawing this album to my attention].
Le Chant du Monde B000057BL

Zuidam, Robert
A five movement work for coloratura soprano, piano duo and ensemble, including settings of William McGonagall's Address to the New Tay Bridge, and The Tay Bridge Disaster.
Challenge Classics.



Better More Trains was a 'station' on which comprised an ongoing compilation of 'soundpieces' incorporating sounds of trains and railway stations, in some cases interwoven with music. Compiled by a musician/blogger using the pseudonym Morrei, also known as HarS, real name Harold Schellinx, it was in part a tribute to Pierre Schaeffer (1948, above). It included Jason Dumars' 'Fright Train' (1998, above). Sadly it became a victim of's 'belt tightening'.


Blackford, Richard
Music for Crossings, a contemporary version of the 1936 documentary film Night Mail [see under 1936, above], with verses by Tony Harrison. Crossings was commissioned by the South Bank Show and was first broadcast on ITV on the 10th March.

Cutler, Joe
'The Railway Station', one of five Szymborska Settings
This setting, one of five of poems by Wislawa Szymborska, currently (March, 2005) being performed by the Psappha ensemble, was described by Paul Driver in the Sunday Times as 'a blustering, uncliched simulation of a moving train'.
Demo CD available from BMIC Contemporary Voices.

Dearden, Ian, and David Sheppard and Fraser Trainer
Line Up
A 'spatial work', commissioned to be performed by the London Sinfonietta in the new Southwark station on the Jubilee Line of the London Underground, this piece was premiered in April, 2002. 'No two performances will ever be the same. The musicians take a musical journey along the route of the Jubilee line. Each performer starts from a different station chosen at random, and each station has its own fanfare. Arrival at Southwark is celebrated with gongs'.

Ellington, Duke, arranged by Wynton Marsalis
Happy Go Lucky Local
Duke Ellington's classic [noted under 1946, above], extended and enhanced by Wynton Marsalis's arrangement for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and performed in Manchester, U.K. I would not dare to claim that this is/was an improvement on the original, but it maybe has more to offer the railway enthusiast in the way of train sounds.

Lewis, Henry
Brief Encounters at Camberwell Junction
Another in this series of musicals [see also under 1998 and 2000 above), at the Blue Elephant Theatre, Camberwell, 2nd - 6th April]

Loveless, Patty
'Santa Train', on her album Bluegrass and White Snow.
A song inspired by the CSX Railroad's Santa Train, which in 2002 celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Epic EK 85967

MacDonald, Alistair
'Bound for Glory'
An electro-acoustic piece which incorporates sounds of railways and churches recorded in Poland.

Muldowney, Dominic
'Leaves on the Line'
One of several song settings commissioned for The Oriana Collection in honour of the Queen's Golden Jubilee and performed by The King's Singers in a BBC Prom on 25th July. According to one reviewer, it 'expressed the desperation of stalled commuters'; it is a setting of a strange poem by Simon Armitage which can be found in his booklet Travelling Songs [Faber, 2002]

Nyborg, Dan and Andrew Watson
198.3 Ashcroft Subdivision.
An electroacoustic work. The Ashcroft Subdivision is a stretch of track in the Fraser River valley of British Columbia. 'Trains usually over a mile in length carry their cargo downhill over a vast network of bridges in the valley towards port in Vancouver. On a calm night, the pounding of the diesel engines coupled with the numerous freight cars and singing rail can be heard for miles echoing down the valley, constantly building and morphing with the natural surroundings until all one hears is the massive train passing'. The piece 'is composed entirely of feedback generated through various outboard units'.
Included on the album Cache 2002, published by the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC) and productions électro Productions (PeP) and available from

Spring String Quartet
Train Songs
Train music and songs by Strauss, Tom Waits, Billy Strayhorn, Ian Andersen, etc, arranged for string quartet by Michael Radanovics, Gernut Wolfgang, Thomas Mandel and Darol Angerand for performance by this Austrian ensemble.
CCn'C 02022

Wauters, Pierre
'Full steam'
The first track on the album Nouveau piano - travelling within, from this New Zealand exponent of 'Acid Classic' music.
BBX Music

Alloy Orchestra
Music for Buster Keaton's silent film The General.
DVD available from

De Berry, Misty
'Boy Steals Train'
A rap, written by one of the cast for the play Boy Steals Train, by Paperhat Productions, which was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival. The play tells the true story of Darius McCallum, a victim of Asperger's syndrome, and his fascination with the New York subway.

Griffith, Daryl
Orient Express
A short (3 minutes) piece written to precede a programme of songs, each representing a place along the original route of the Orient Express, performed by the London Salon Ensemble and recorded on their album of the same name.
Meridian CDE84466

Nutman, Carey
Harder Kulm
An electro-acoustic work which makes use of field recordings of electric trains at Interlaken, and of the Harder Kulm funicular.
Included on Carey's album Resurrection?, issued in 2008 and available from as a CD or download.

Pedersen, Kike
Newcastle to Peterborough
Kike Pedersen, a young Paraguyan harpist, was commissioned by GNER in the UK to perform to passengers at Kings Cross station and on the train to Newcastle. This piece was inspired by the journey, and is said to have captured 'the rhythm and romance of a high speed rail journey'. It is included on his album Lo Mejor de Kike Pedersen.

Silvestri, Alan
The Polar Express
Score for the film of the same name; in the title song the rhythm section beats out the sound of a train effectively enough but without any great degree of originality.
DVD and CD available.

Tsutsumi, Kyohei
Ambitious Japan
This pop song, with lyrics by Rei Nakamura, was commissioned by the Central Japan Railway Company to celebrate the opening of the new Shinagawa station. A recording, performed by the band Tokio, reached no.1 in the Japanese charts. [Thanks to Kellie Jackson of the Central Japan Railway Company for this information].
Universal J UPCH-9118

[The] Decemberists
'The Engine Driver', on the album The Decemberists present 'Picareque'

Dipper, John
'Train Tune', on the English Acoustic Collective's album, Ghosts.
Tune inspired by a journey from Salisbury to Waterloo.

Ditchburn [Robin Baillie and Colin Gateley]
Leaving Kings Cross and Lower London.
Two pieces from an album, Lower London, in which evocative words are recited against a background of rhythm and electronic sounds including (I think) the recorded sound of a distant train.
'It's natural to enjoy the orderliness of railways...'
Ditchburn are at

Hanselmann, Jürg
Drei Eisenbahnstücke, for piano
The three parts of this piece evoke, respectively, the Swiss 'Tigerli' E 3/3 shunting engine, the Orient Express, and American oil-fired Mikado 141 R steam locomotives.
Prezioso CD 800.062

Hisaishi, Joe
Score for Buster Keaton's film The General.
The DVD includes documentary footage on the recording of this new score.
Cinema Club CCD 30174

Lewis, Henry
Branch Lines of Desire
The prolific Henry Lewis has created another musical comedy inspired by Britain's railways. Branch Lines of Desire was scheduled for performances in trains and at venues in the South West during June. Information from

Silvestri, Alan
The Polar Express, sound track
Music for the film of the book.
CDs: Wea 9362480972; Warner Bros. (de luxe edition)

Tabira, Yusuke
This Japanese sound artist's works are based on the mingling of short, looped field recordings...
This one is (or was) on the 'Better More Trains' station.

Woodland, Jim, and Mikron Theatre Company
On the Line: 200 years of British Railways
Friargate Theatre, York, 2nd and 3rd June.

Four people are stranded on a train in a cutting. There’s no mobile phone signal; no contact with the outside world. As they wait for news, 200 years of railway history catches up with them – from the early pioneers of rail travel and the glory days of steam to the era of the Big Four. They cross the points into nationalisation and electricification, get delayed by Dr Beeching and, finally, sidetracked by privatisation. But will they end up speeding into a high-tech future…?

Mikron tells the story of the British railways with original songs and music performed by the Company’s four talented actor-musicians. Peter Toon, Marianne, McNamara, Elizabeth Eves, and Robert Took. Jim Woodland supplies the music and lyrics. For further details tel: 0845 961 3000.

Artese 'N Toad
They Don't Write Songs About Trains Anymore vol. 2
A sequel to their earlier album of original train songs [above, 2001]

[The] Fiery Furnaces
'The Garfield El'
The opening track on their album Rehearsing my Choir
Rough Trade RTRADCD234

Hanselmann, Jürg
Railway sonatina, for piano
The three movements evoke, respectively, the 'Krokodil' locomotive, a 'Toy Train'. and the 'Sputnik' caboose (as used in Switzerland).
Prezioso CD 800.062

Wheeler, Janet
Train in the Rain, for adult and children's choirs and keyboard; libretto by Nick Warburton
For more information contact Janet Wheeler


Burgon, Geoffrey
Industrial Dreams - ochestral suite
Commissioned by the Brunel Sinfonia as a contribution to the Brunel Bicentenary celebrations. Each movement is inspired by a particular aspect of Brunel's work; one is devoted to railways. (I am indebted to Roger Levett for telling me about this piece).

Keszko, Martin
A Radius of Curves -
cantata with film,  for choir and orchestra
A work celebrating Brunel's construction of the GWR, premiered at Clifton Cathedral, Bristol, on 31st March 2006 as part of the Brunel bicentenary celebrations.

Rijnvos, Richard
for piano and chamber orchestra.
The first movement, 'Grand Central Dance', is a brilliant evocation of George Gershwin's train journey from Boston to New York, during which the sounds of the train stimulated the emergence in his head of the themes and form of 'Rhapsody in Blue'. (For more on Gershwin and 'Rhapsody in Blue', see under the year 1924 above).


[The] Book of Knots
This Brooklyn-based rock band has set out to record just three albums. The first one was concerned with the Massachusetts fishing industry; this, the second one, mourns the decline of heavy industry in the 'Rust Belt' of the USA. 'Traineater' is a song about a locomotive on its way to be scrapped. The album also includes a version of 'The Ballad of John Henry'.
ANTI 86853

Brown, Jocelyn
From Hull to Kings Cross
Originally recorded for use in an advertisement for Hull Trains on Viking FM. Recording released jointly by Hull Trains and Viking FM to raise money for charities in Hull.

Lagerwaard, Jan Willem
Piano piece inspired by the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, in The Lake District - A Musical Stroll [10 piano pieces]
Album and CD, ISBN 9789080821828 click on videos


Ferguson, Mike
Electric (Train) Counterpoint

An installation at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester,  bringing together music by Steve Reich and a model railway. Part of the 'Art of Sound: Sound of Art' event organised by the Royal Northern College of Music; repeated at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, on 19th June 2009.

Nutman, Carey
'Seven CH Easy Ramps'
An electro-acoustic piece using field recordings made in 2007 of trains in Switzerland. Included on an album called Sang et Lumière: electronic music composed and performed by Carey Nutman, issued by MPS Music and Video, 44 Hetton Road, Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne & Wear DH5 8JN


Big Big Train
The Underfall Yard
The title track of this album by English 'progressive rock' band Big Big Train concerns Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Another track, 'Last Train', is a song about the last station master at Hurn.

Living Archive Band
A five piece vocal group, dedicated to devising and performing songs drawing on the history of their patch of England, Wolverton and Milton Keynes. Several railway songs are included on their 2-CD album All that's changed, issued in 2009.

Phase, Ben
Tunnel Sounds
Electro-acoustic music utilising recordings of engineering work on the London Underground. Can be heard (and seen, with accompanying video) on Youtube and MySpace.

Previn, Andre
Brief Encounter
In this operatic version of the story of the film, Laura sings 'That's my train' immediately after a brief sequence of  train-like chords in the orchestra.

Wiegold, Peter
The End of the Line (A Brief Encounter): an aria for eight voiceslibretto by Dominic Power.
A 'musical installation' at Manchester Piccadilly station, 4th July, 9.00 pm, involving over 200 musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music. I was there. Although I couldn't hear the music as well as I would have liked, and couldn't hear the words at all, I found it an overwhelming musical experience. The eight singers comprised four couples, dressed in clothes from the era of the film Brief Encounter, meeting for a moment in an imaginary railway terminus, beneath a station clock that has stopped'. Each couple stood on a separate podium. There were apparently six conductors (I could only see four), all wearing railway guards' peaked caps. The composer (I presume) was the chief conductor, standing under the actual  (disappointingly digital) station clock between the two parts of a double string orchestra, each with its own conductor. Another conductor stood in front of a bank of seven harps, although they seemed to manage with little or no direction from her.  One or more percussionists were located somewhere behind me. Masked piccolo players were dotted around, one shrilling in my left ear. Other musicians - brass, clarinets -  were sited on the gallery; others were stationed among or moved in and out of the audience, which merged imperceptibly with Saturday night travellers and clubbers moving to and fro and contributing a hubbub of background sound. I think the score demanded a certain amount of improvisation, and at times sounds were piled up layer on layer  in a glorious cacophony - Charles Ives would have loved it. At the conclusion of the work, the horn of a real train joined and outlasted the sound of the musicians, and the singers disappeared one by one down a long, empty platform. If I never add any thing else to these pages, this unique event will make a fitting finale, bringing together human aspects of rail travel with the sounds of trains:

                    English trains
                    Made different sounds
                    Not for them
                    The lonesome whistle
                    Not for them
                    The endless prairie
                    They were built
                    For shorter journeys

The libretto can be downloaded from


Curran, Alvin
Ear Training
Scheduled to take place on 19th November, as part of the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, and again on 8th January, this performance with Edges Ensemble will take place at Huddersfield railway station. . It is described as 'an urban-blitz of incomparable sonic decorum [which] will momentarily transform Huddersfield Railway Station into a choreographed concert of commuters going nowhere but into the heart of the casual sounds they will make (just like the other real travellers)...'

Curran, Alvin
Take the Cage Train
An event at the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, inspired by, paying homage to, or recreating Il Treno di John Cage. In 1978 John Cage staged three improvised musical rides on a 'pepared' train in central Italy. In the 2010 event the audience purchased tickets to ride on 'a real commuter train for a short but rollicking semi-conducted, semi-automated, semi-spontaneous but fully composed train-concert with Alvin Curran and musicians from Apartment House and Edges Ensemble, interacting with the idea of literally moving sound in space'. Take the Cage Train departed from Huddersfield Railway Station at 7.30 pm on 24th November and took 90 minuts to get to Stalybridge.The Guardian's reviewer commented that 'The performance...ramps up the ambient noise of the 19.30 departure by blasting out recordings of train sounds from around the world, while the musicians occupy seats in among the passengers', improvising randomly. At Stalybridge the performers 'assemble, still playing. in the station buffet'.

Goodman, Barry
'The Engine Boy'.
The lives of the men who operated the sand trains on the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway are featured in a new song, which was commissioned as part of a local history project called 'Sands of Time'. 'The Engine Boy' by Barry Goodman, one half of the folk song duo 'Life & Times', is based on the reminiscences of Ray Gurney, who started work on the line in the 1950s. It was performed at a reception to mark the successful conclusion of the project and can be downloaded from the 'Latest News' page of the Railway’s website,

Whitlock, Luke
Clari's Day Out, for clarinet ensemble.
Began life as a song, 'The Train from Waterloo',  written by the composer in 2003.
Published by Emerson Edition.


Brand, Neil
Orchestral score for this restored silent film by Anthony Asquith (1928). Includes some 'railway music' in the opening and closing sequences, which by showing people getting off and on an underground train evoke the variety of London life. Also included with the BFI CD is an alternative score by sound recordist Chris Watson [see below], comprising recorded sounds instead of music.

Cross, Sandra
The MMs Bar Recordings
Recordings of announcements made to passengers on Midland Mainline trains between London and Leicester  in 2006 and 2007 regarding the availability of the buffet in coach F. The announcements, more or less the same in content,  are delivered by a variety of voices; the recordings vary in quality and are 'shunted together like old railway stock'. Usually he sound of the train can be heard in the background. Is it music? is it art? I don't really  think it's music. Art, maybe? But it is fascinating and I think merits inclusion in this list.
Trunk Records JBHO4OCD

Eno, Brian
'Fierce Isles of Light', from the album Drums Between the Bells (words by Rick Holland) 
This poem is read aloud with recorded ambient train sounds in the background.

Mann, Jonathan
Poco a Poco, Loco a Loco
for six steam locomotive whistles
This delightful exercise in minimalism was given its world première on the Talyllyn Railway on 27th August 2011. Only five steam locomotives were available, so a diesel loco was used in place of the sixth. The performance can be seen and heard at

Raison, Jacky
Tout en vapeur tout en charbon: la chanson du petit train de la Baie de Somme.
A song inspired by the metre gauge Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme.
CD on sale at retail outlets of the Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme [July 2011].

Shackleton, Sam and Vengeance Tenfold
Sonic Journeys - one of a collection of aural soundscapes, Sonic Journeys ( was commisioned by ( . This piece is inspired by two stretches of railway line in south west England - the main line between Exeter and Newton Abbott, and the branch line from Exeter to Barnstaple.

Watson, Chris
El Tren Fantasma
Touch Music

Deanne Sole has reviewed this album as follows: ' Chris Watson, an ace sound recordist.... [made] a coast to coast trip across Mexico. He had a sleeping car at the back and the driver let him into the cabin, he recorded, he listened, he paid attention to the boom-boom of the rails, the intellect of the engine, and now he has assembled this one-hour musique concrète compression of the trip. The human presence is minimal, the rhythm is the rhythm of the journey itself, constant movement, constant change, a pulsing dynamo of change. Daytime peeps from birds come early on, then nighttime insects near the end, first waking up the album then putting it to sleep, and finally there is the kraw-kraw of a graveyard crow, presaging this rail-line’s shutdown, which came soon afterwards. A thunderstorm arrives. Watson’s train is not an abstract object, it feels its way through a landscape of animals and elements. Brilliantly textured, brilliantly sensitive, unrepeatable by its very nature—this is a great example of a sound recordist’s art....'

I agree - I don't think it is music (there is no melody, no harmony)  but there can be no question that it is art, and it is far too good not to include here.


Atack, Timothy
'Fugue', The Bullet and the Bass Trombone
Inspired by a band which accompanies tourists on the first section of the cog railway up to the statue of Cristo Redentor at Rio de Janeiro. The composer explains that 'For this piece I've taken a recording of the band and stretched it into a barely recognisable waveform that makes a 2-minute song 10 minutes long'. The piece is performed by Sleepdogs (including the composer)  on the album Sleepdogs - TheBullet and the Bass Trombone.

Big Big Train
English Electric vol. 2.
Two songs on this album by English 'progressive rock' band Big Big Train have railway themes. 'East Coast Racer' tells the story of the record breaking run by Mallard. Another song is called 'Permanent Way'. [Thanks to Bevan Price for telling me about this band].

Constantinou, Stace
An electroacoustic response to a nightmare journey - a daily commute on the London Underground from North Lambeth to Morden.

Doherty, Douglas
On the Edge of Chaos

MP3 download. Electronic music incorporating railway sounds. Track 3 is titled 'Pacific 462'

Dylan, Bob (co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter)
'Duquesne Whistle'.
The opening song on a new Dylan albun, Tempest 

Fitkin, Graham
Track to Track: The Athlon, with words by Glyn Maxwell.
A 12 minute piece inspired by a journey on a Hitachi Class 395 passenger train, and by Britten and Auden's Night Mail.. Commissioned by the London Chamber Orchestra and performed by them on St Pancras station on 27th June, a month before the London Olympics, to celebrate the start of the 'Javelin' shuttle service between St Pancras and the Olympic site at Stratford.
Download available from


Cowton, Andy
Music for television series The Railway: keeping Britain on track (BBC2)

Rihm, Wolfgang
A Tribute,
for orchestra
A 'homage to English music', including  an echo of Vivian Ellis's Coronation Scot

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Pieces of music which I have as yet been unable to include in the chronological list above for lack of a date. If you can provide dates or other information, please contact me, Philip Pacey, at Thanks to Troy Peters for providing dates for some 25 items which were previously on this list but are now on the chronological list.

Lund-Bjerred, for the inauguration of a railway in Scania, Sweden; by an anonymous female composer

Zwischen Salzburg und Bad Ischl, apparently a well-known song relating to the Salzkammergut Lokalbahn (1893 - 1957). Several recordings exist, including this one:  Unfortunately I have not been able to ascertain the original composer or date of the song. [Information from Glyn Williams]


Bacon, Ernst.
The American composer Ernst Bacon wrote several railway-related pieces, but unfortunately he seldom dated his compositions. Some are included in the chronological list, but dates for the following are not known:
'The Little Black Train', one of 4 Octets for brass
The Train, song for two voices and piano; a setting of a poem by Emily Dickinson.
Salute to Casey Jones, for four cellos ('minimum') A footnote on the score says that 'a discreet percussionist could sit in, ...[indecipherable] the off beats, hinting clink of the rails'.. A very late work, from the late 1980s)
Casey Jones, for piano
Locomotive, for piano
Locomotive, for piano [a second piece with this title]
For more information about Ernst Bacon, visit the Ernst Bacon Society Website at
Barratt, Carol. From a railway carriage, setting of poem by R.L.Stevenson for tenor and piano. The singer is also required to whistle like a train! Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]
Bergsman... Die Alte Lokomotif; children's cantata
Dennis, Robert. 'Pennsylvania Station'. On a rare record, Three Views from the Open Window, performed by three rock musicians (including Dennis) with the Louisville Orchestra. Vanguard LP-69
East, Leslie. The Metropolitan Railway, setting of poem by John Betjeman for tenor and piano. Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]
Erwin, Lee. Organ accompaniment to the Buster Keaton silent film The General [on a 1950s print edited by Raymond Rohauer]
Gabaille[?]. SNCF Suite, orchestra
Gardner, John. Pullman Express , for orchestra
Garscia, Janina. 'In the Train', from Miniatures, for piano [written 'soon after' 1950]
Goehr, Walter. Orient Express, piano and percussion
Guastavino, Carlos. Campanilla ¿adónde vas?, words by Leon Benaros; for mezzo-soprano, baritone, and piano. Erato 3984-23138-2, Harmonia Mundi HMC 90182 [Argentinian]
Gurney, Ivor. Setting of Adlestrop by Edward Thomas for voice and piano. Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]
Guthrie, Woody. Woody Guthrie performed a number of railway songs and instrumental pieces, some traditional, some written by himself. As yet I haven't been able to pin a date to any of them.
Henry, Pierre. Le Petit Train - a fragment of musique concrète [?] , possibly never recorded
Horder, Mervyn. British Rail, for tenor and piano; words by the composer. Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]
Ivanovici. Kaiserreise
Jäger, Otto. Alpenexpress
Jeffreys, John. Ambulance Train, setting of the poem by W.W.Gibson for baritone/tenor and piano.
SOMMCD218 (an album of Jeffreys songs sung by Jonathan Veira); also included on Bound for Glory [see Discography, below].
Kahn, Eric. 7 Popular songs from Britanny (sponsored by SNCF)
Ketchakhmadze, Yosif. Archaica II (Lasharis Gzaze/On the Way to Lashari), for women's choir
This 3 minute piece for unaccompanied women's voices vividly represents the sound of a steam train passing through a valley in Georgia, as heard from the mountain slopes above.
Sony SK 66924 [but sadly deleted]
Koshkin, Nikita. Three Railway Stations on One Road, for guitar [Supraphon 11 1418-2]
Langford, Gordon. 'Worth Valley Railway', one of Three Haworth Impressions, for brass
Ley, Henry. From a railway carraiage, setting of poem by R.L.Stevenson for tenor and piano. Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]
Lutyens, Elisabeth. Music for radio programme London Underground
MacIntyre, Paul. 'At the Railway Station'; no. 2 of Five Sonnets of Archibald Lampman
MacLain, John. Adlestrop, setting of poem by Edward Thomas for tenor and piano.
Maclain, John. The Demise of Harpenden JunctionBox, setting of a poem by Sue Woodward for tenor and piano.
MacLain, John. I came to Oxford, setting of a poem by Gerald Gould for tenor and piano.
MacLain, The Old Railway Line, setting of a poem by Anne Allinson for tenor and piano.
- All of the above included on the Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]
Mathieu. The Big Train, piano
Maw, Nicholas. This Train, setting of traditional spiritual ('This train is bound for glory') for tenor and piano. Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]
Noble, Harold. 'Train Ride' ( words by R.L.Stephenson), for unison childrens' voices and piano (c.1985)
Oromszege, Otto. Locomotive
Pachernegg, Alois. Unter dampf! Ein Zug fährt vorüber, orchestra. HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187
I'm told that Penderecki asks for a piece of rail to be used as an instrument in his De Natura Sonoris - but does this occur in part I (1966) or part II (1971)?
Prost, Felix. Die alte Dampfeisenbahn

Raff, Joseph Joachim. 'Eisenbahnfahrt', from Reisebilder, for two pianos. Prezioso CD 800.062

Stravinsky, Soulima. 'Iron Horse/Locomotive', from Piano Music for Children. Prezioso CD 800.062
Szelényi, Istvan. 'Es rattert der zug', from Musikalisches Bilderbuch, for piano. Prezioso CD 800.062
'Taumarunui (on the main trunk line)' - James Dignan tells me that this is one of New Zealand's most famous folk songs; it was first recorded by Peter Cape in the 1950s
Tehrani, Hossein. Locomotive & Diesel. A recording, apparently originally captured on a 78, of this classical Persian percussionist imitating the sound of a train on a drum known as a Tombak or Zarb, with some additional whistling. Possibly recorded in the 1940s, and included on a CD 'Masters of Persian Traditional Music: Master Hossain Tehrani. Tonbak Solo, distributed by Caltex Records.
Theodorakis, Mikis. 'The Train leaves at Eight', for mezzo-soprano and orchestra. ['The train for Katerini leaves at eight; November will stay in your memory for ever'...] [Deutsche Grammophon 419 236-2]
Thomas-Mifune, Werner. Kleine Lokomotive, for two pianos. Prezioso CD 800.062
Thomas-Mifune, Werner. Die kleine Eisenbahn, for cello and piano
Thomas-Mifune, Werner. Grosse Eisenbahn, for 4 violins and 2 cellos
Thomas-Mifune, Werner. Kleine Eisenbahn, for flute, violin, viola and cello

Wilder, Alec. 'The Children met the Train' - one of Wilder's Octets, composed between 1939 and 1941 and first recorded in 1949. Recording available on Such a Tender Night: the music of Alec Wilder. 85630
Wright, Geoffrey. Diss, setting of poem by John Betjeman for tenor and piano. Included on Bound for Glory CD {see Discography, below]
Xarhakos, Stavros. 'The Trains which left', song for mezzo-soprano and orchestra. 'One of the trains which left in the night carried my love away with it...' Deutsche Grammophon 419 236-2
Young, Douglas. Rain, Steam and Speed, for symphony orchestra - presumably inspired by Turner's painting of the same name). MERL PER 84061, sadly no longer available

Works by British composers of light music for which dates are lacking:
Barry, Darrol. Inter-City, for brass band [c.1981]
Carey, James Duncan. Trains Suite, for recorders
Coles, Jack. Sunshine Express [c.1959]
Ellis, Vivian. Motorail
Engleman, Joseph. Riviera Express
Farnon, Dennis. Monorail
Gray, Allan. Florida Express
Hartley, Fred. Dublin Express, for orchestra [c.1948]
Hanley, Charles and Charles Field. Honeymoon Express, for brass band
Hess, Nigel. Stephenson's Rocket, for brass band
Jones, Edward Huws. East Coast Express
Langford, Alan. Inter-City
Langford, Alan. On the Move
Milner, Cecil. Piston Rod
Noble, Harold. Blue Train, piano
Parfrey, Raymond. 'Steam Preservation Holiday', from Holiday Brochures Suite, for four clarinets
Williams, Charles. Model Railway (orchestral version by Cecil Milner published by Boosey & Hawkes, c.1951). Included on a CD devoted to Williams.
Worland, Bill. Brighton Belle

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Discography - collections of railway music

This discography is restricted to collections of railway music by various composers; recordings of specific works are identified (where known) in the foregoing list.

Railroad Rhythms: classical music about trains.
SWR Rundfunkorchester, conducted by Jiri Starek.
Released in November 2006, this is an outstanding compilation of railway music in the classical genre. It includes the well-known pieces by Lumbye, Honegger, and Villa-Lobos, and several less familiar pieces including Rosenberg's Railway Fugue which, prior to the release of this recording, had been unavailable for a long time.
HNS-Hanssler Classic 93.187

Bound for Glory: songs and piano music on a railway theme.
Gordon Pullin (tenor) and John Gough (piano).
Released in May 2004, this is a wonderful compilation of mostly British 'art' songs, some well known, others rescued from obscurity; it also includes Glinka's 'Traveller's Song', a piano version of Vivian Ellis's 'Coronation Scot', and Billy Mayerl's 'Railroad Rhythm' for piano. For further details go to The CD is available @£10.00 (including post & packing) direct from Gordon Pullin, Treakles, Kettlebaston, Suffolk IP7 7QA, e-mail:

Rhapsody on Rails, an enterprising programme of railway music performed by the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra, comprises a piece by Strauss, Villa-Lobos's railway classic, Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue', and less well-known pieces by Canadian composers Victor Davies, Glen Morley, and Eldon Rathburn.[VYSO2-1995, available from the excellent Canadian Music Centre]

Vintage Trains: songs of the steam age
A collection of American railroad songs and British railway-related songs and light music, plus one French number, from the period 1930-1954. Released in 2005, this album is dedicated to Peter Handford, who issued recordings of actual trains from the last years of the steam era on his Transacord label.
Living Era CD AJA 5610

Musique et Technique
A CD of this title apparently accompanied the Revue du Musée des Arts et Métiers no. 27, June 1999. I'm told that it includes some railway music, but I have not been able to get hold of a copy.

Early European railway music
Recordings of many examples of Viennese-style dance music inspired by railways are collected on a double CD, Locomotiv-Musik, performed by the Kosice State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mika Eichenholz. The reviewer in The Gramophone identified six or seven pieces as worth mentioning for their railway sound effects, but indicated that 'the rest of this repertoire is not strong on evocation'; I have taken the liberty of choosing to note some but not all on my listing of railway music above. These CDs are accompanied by excellent documentation.
Marco Polo 8 223470/1

American railroad songs
Rounder Records have issued and are continuing to produce a number of recordings of classic American railroad songs. Railroad songs and ballads (Rounder CD 1508) comprises recordings from the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture. Also from Rounder is: Train 45: railroad songs of the early 1900s (2142). Rounder are also responsible for an ongoing series: Steel rails: classic railroad songs vol. 1; Mystery train: classic railroad songs vol. 2 (1129), Night train: classic railroad songs vol. 3 (1144), and Freight Train Blues: classic railroad songs vol. 4. Yet another compilation from Rounder is Bluegrass Express (82161-1159-2). All of these Rounder CDs are accompanied by excellent documentation. Details can be found at RailServe - Train Songs and Sound. and

Other collections of American railroad songs in the blues and country genres, by various performers, include Between the rails: America's train songs (GNP/Crescendo GNPD 2249);Tracks and trains (Columbia 4965672000); 20 Classic Train Songs; Blues Train (Easydisc ED CD 7062); Treasury of American railroad songs, ballads and folklore: volume 1 (Shiloh Records, B00005M6B3); Treasury of American railroad songs, ballads and folklore: volume 2 (Shiloh Records, released in August 2001); Raised by the Railroad Line: classic American train songs (REB-CD-7504); I've Got a Thing About Trains (Pulse PLSCD455); Classic Railroad Songs from Smithsonian Folkways (Smithsonian Folkways); The Iron Horse; vintage railroad songs 1926-52 (Buzzola); 25 Classic Train Songs: songs of rural America (Rural Rhythm); Great American Train Songs (CMH).

Western Railroad Songs with historical narration, by Keith McNeil and Rusty McNeil is a set of two audio-cassettes published by WEM Records in 1994.

American band music
A collection of railway-related band music from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century: Locomotion Express: On the track galops, marches, screamers & more, performed by Matthew H. Phillips & His Circus Band.
Centaur Records CRC 2478

Hot Trains
I'm grateful to Philippe Baudoin for telling me about this wonderful compilation of American and European railway-influenced jazz [mainly swing], put together by Daniel Nevers and issued in 2003:
Saga Jazz 49/066 482-2

Swedish railway navvies' songs
Sjömansvisor & Rallarviso
r [Songs of Sailors & Navvies].
No. 15 in a series of CDs, Musica Sveciae: Folk Music in Sweden.
Caprice CAP 21540

French railway songs
Chansons Ferroviaires

A 2-CD set of recordings of French songs inspired by railways, mainly from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s accompanied by excellent documentation.

Light music
On the Right Track
A collection of British light music inspired by railways, dating from 1914 through to the end of the 1950s. Most are dance band/orchestra pieces, but the collection includes two organ solos, and it concludes with a brilliant comic monologue, incorporating train sounds, by Reginald Gardiner. Issued in 2000, the collection is available as either a CD or a cassette from: This England, P.O. Box 52, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1YQ, England (tel. 01242 515156)

Light Music on the Move
Several pieces inspired by railways are included on this CD issued by Guild Light Music in its series 'The Goldne Age of Light Music'. Most but not all are the work of British composers. GLCD 5131

British railway songs
A Full Head of Steam
A CD of railway folk songs, performed by various musicians from the north east of England, produced to coincide with the 'Millenium Cavalcade of Steam' scheduled to take place at Darlington on August 26th-28th to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway. (Sadly the event was cancelled).

Also worth mentioning here are Ewan MacColl's two 10inch LPs of industrial folk ballads, recorded in the 1950s: The Shuttle and Cage, and Second Shift. Both included several railway songs.

See also Bound for Glory [above]

Australian railway songs

Australian Railway Songs, a superb web site at
Provides links to many other resources, including New Zealand and Canadian railway songs, and much more.

Trains of Treasure
A CD issued by Rail Tram and Bus Union, 83-89 Renwick Street, NSW 2016 [Tel. (02) 9310 3966, Fax: (02) 9319 2096, E-mail:, Web], this collection of songs and verses, arranged in chronological order, is accompanied by an informative booklet containing lyrics and background information. Also available is a second CD, Railway Voices, which is an oral history of Australian railways from workers' point of view. It includes some snatches of songs, but nothing that isn't included in full in Trains of Treasure. Both albums were originally produced to accompany an exhibition, Trains of Treasure. Details of the songs, including the lyrics, can be found on

Piano music
Die Eisenbahn in der Klavier
is a superb collection of railway music for piano, by many European composers, dating from the early 20th century to 2005, which railway enthusiast and classical pianist Jürg Hanselmann has recorded for the German label, Prezioso. Hanselmman includes two major pieces of his own; other highlights include a piano version of Honegger's Pacific 231. This album has just been released (August, 2005). In case of difficulty it can be purchased direct from Jürg Hanselmann via his excellent Web site,
Prezioso CD 800.062

Music for string quartet
This is something of a curiosity. It is also noted under the year 2002 in the main listing, above.
Spring String Quartet
Train Songs
Train music and songs by Strauss, Tom Waits, Billy Strayhorn, Ian Andersen, etc, arranged for this Austrian string quartet by Michael Radanovics, Gernut Wolfgang, Thomas Mandel and Darol Angerand.
CCn'C 02022

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Web-based resources

Wikipedia's List of Train Songs,,  is a relatively new, fabulous, and growing resource, already listing over 900 train songs from around the world.

Digital Tradition Folk Music Database - - an amazing compilation of 9,000 + songs, which can be searched by title or keyword (searching by 'railroad' currently summons up a list of some 144 songs). For accompanying tunes try, a different index to the same databases which adds tunes as GIFs or PostScript scores.

American railway songs - a list of railway songs, unfortunately without dates or details, can be found on Chris Coleman's Web site at Another list can be found on Wes Modes' Web site at

Canadian railway songs -

Australian railway songs -


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Braun, Hans-Joachim. '"Movin' on": trains and planes as a theme in music'. In: 'I Sing the Body Electric'. 23rd Symposium of the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC). Budapest: Wolke, 2000 pp.106-120

Carter, Ian. 'Train music'. The Music Review vol. 54 no. 3-4 Aug-Nov 1993 pp. 279-290

Geraci, Toni. 'Ferrovia e musica nell'Ottocento italiano'. In Scritti in onore di Lucio Campiani (1822-1914), Mantova (1998), pp. 119-142. This essay focuses on three works, by Rossini [noted in my chronological list at 1857-68] and Campiani [noted at 1874], and Manzotti's spectacular production, Excelsior [noted at 1881]

Geraci, Toni. 'Note sui treni: Incontri tra musica e ferrovia in Russia e Francia nel secolo della rivoluzione industriale'. Il saggiatore musicale: Rivista semetrale di musicologia, vol. 6 no. 1-2 1999 p.145-181.
Analyses five works by Glinka, Alkan, Berlioz, Rossini, and Offenbach [all noted above] which are concerned with railways.

Hamlett, Graham. Underground Music. [Music File Series 2 Issue 1 Unit 1]. Mary Gasgow Publications Ltd, 1989. [Audio cassette and teacher's notes].
Produced for use in schools, this has no academic pretensions but is noteworthy for its awareness of railway music. Excerpts from railway music classics by Honegger and Villa-Lobos are included on the tape, as is a performance of John Paynter's 'And All Stations To...' These function as inspirational material introducing a group composition project, 'Underground Music', in which students are encouraged to produce a work related to the London Underground.

Mahling, Christoph-Hellmut
'Musik und Eisenbahn: Beziehungen zwischen Kunst und Technik im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert', in:
Studien zur Musikgeschichte: Eine Festschrift fur Ludwig Finscher.
Kassel: Barenreiter, 1995 pp. 539-559

Rallar-Klang mellan gruvan vid Luossajärvi och Viktoriahavn. Kiruna: Fabricii Tryckeri AB [for Ofotenmusum], 1998. ISBN 82-91340-01-3
A nicely produced little book gathering songs, with music, sung by navvies who built the Kiruna-Narvik line in the far north of Norway and Sweden.

Rubio, Juan Carlos. La Musica del tren: dos siglos de creación musical al compas del ferrocarril. Madrid: Uveuve/Arteara, 1998. ISBN 84-89043-11-6. 332p., large format, many black and white and colour illustrations.
A magnificent book, international in scope (and as comprehensive as it is reasonable to expect) while devoting a chapter to Spain. The hundreds of illustrations include reproductions of familiar and unfamiliar works of art, sheet music covers, and record sleeves. The book is indexed, but does not include either a bibliography or a discography. Even for non-Spanish readers it offers good value @ 9,800 pesetas. It is fervently hoped that an English language edition will be published sooner or later. The author can be contacted via the Arteara Galería at

Scowcroft, Philip. Railways in music
This article can be found on the 'Classical music on the Web' Website, in two parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 1 appeared in FRMS [Federation of Recorded Music Societies] Bulletin no. 134 Spring 2001, p.12-14; part 2 was to have followed in a later issue.

On Australian railway songs:

Dunnett, Brian. 'Railways: a popular theme in Australian country music'. Conference paper presented to the Inaugural Conference of the Australian Institute of Country Music [2002]; to be published in the Australian Folklore Magazine.

On British railway music: 

Scowcroft, Philip L.
'Railways and British music'.
Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society vol. XXX part 7, no.150, March 1992 p. 378-379;
also published as:
'The Railway in British Music'.
Newsletter of the British Music Society no. 57 March 1993 p.199-200

Items of British sheet music, including piano music and songs, are noted in the 2nd supplement [and perhaps the first?] of [Ottley's] [A] Bibliography of British Railway History [1966, 2nd ed. 1983, supplement 1988, 2nd supplement 1998], in Section P 'Humour'.

On British railway songs:

Kilgarriff, Michael
Sing us one of the old songs: a guide to popular song 1860-1920
O.U.P., 1998
A major source of information on British music hall songs.

Raven, Jon
Victoria's inferno: songs of the old mills, mines, manufactories, canals and railways.
Wolverhampton: Broadside, 1978

On American railroad songs:

Cohen, Norm.
Long steel rail: the railroad in American folksong.
Urbana: University of Illinois, 1981; reprinted 2000
A historical introduction precedes a scholarly edition of songs, including words and music, textual variants, and the genesis and history of each song.

Haymes, Max.
Railroadin' Some: Railroads in the early Blues.
York: Music Mentor Books, 2006

Hedin, Robert ed
The Great machines: poems and songs of the American railroad
Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1996

Holtzberg-Call, Maggie
'The gandy dancer speaks: voices from Southern black railroad gangs', in
Alabama Folklife: collected essays
Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama, 1989 pp.64-71

Lomax, Alan.
The Land where the blues began
Chapter 4: 'Lonesome whistles'

Manning, Ambrose
'Railroad worksongs'
Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin vol. 32 1966 pp. 41-47

Minton, John
''The Waterman Train Wreck': tracking a folksong in Deep East Texas'; in
Songs about work: essays in occupational culture, edited by Archie Green.
Folklore Institute, Indiana University, 1993 p.37-76
An investigation of folksong recollections of an accident on a narrow gauge loigging spur serving the sawmill community of Waterman.

Rogers, Tim
'Two more railroad songs from Alberta'
Canadian Folk Music Bulletin vol. 22 no. 2-4 1988 pp. 8-9

Tabscott, Robert
'John Henry: the story of a steel-driving man'.
Goldenseal vol. 22 no. 2, summer 1996 pp. 9-16
On the ballad sung by Jim Costa of Talcott, West Virginia.

A Treasury of Railroad Folklore, [edited by] Botkin and Harlow.
New York: Crown, 1953.
Includes a chapter on songs.

On Brazilian railway music:

Cooper, Martin. Brazilian railway culture. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011.

On film music:

Van Houten, Theodore
Silent cinema music. Buren: Frits Knuf Musicology Publishers, 1992.
Includes references to many pieces written to accompany railway scenes in silent films.

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