The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 53, December 29, 2013, Article 8


Last week I asked a non-numismatic quiz question: In what popular song was the name of the town of Kankakee, IL used? I thought more people would be stumped by this one, but we had quite a number of responses, all correct. Thanks for playing! -Editor

First to respond was our webmaster, Bruce Perdue, and he had the correct answer.: The song "City of New Orleans". The line is "the train pulls out of Kankakee." Howard Berlin knew this one, too. Other readers filled in more details.

Tom DeLorey writes:

"City of New Orleans."

"...along the southbound odyssey, the train pulls out of Kankakee...."

My first wife and I lived on the south edge of Chicago, and occasionally would take a Sunday drive down Illinois Highway-1 to Kankakee for lunch. The highway parallels the Illinois Central tracks for quite a while, and occasionally we would see Amtrak's "City of New Orleans" heading towards Chicago.

Pablo Hoffman writes:

"All along the south-bound odyssey The train pulls out at Kankakee... "

N'awleans, here we come.

John Dannreuther writes:

Easy. "City of New Orleans". Goes by my house at either 5:45 or 6:45, depending on the season. Usually, right on time!

City of Chicago comes by at either 10:45 or 11:45. Never seems to be far off, either.

Now, most will think Arlo Guthrie wrote the song. How many know who wrote it?

Next week's question should be how many numismatists were/are musicians. I can think of quite a few.

John gets extra credit for knowing the songwriter. He knew the answer to that question of course, as did Bill Eckberg, who writes:

City of New Orleans.
Written by Steve Goodman in 1971.
Hit for Arlo Guthrie in 1972.

Goodman's tune was an instant classic - pure poetry, even for people who wouldn't be caught dead reading a poem. Other artists have covered it, too. Jerry Schaeper writes:

When I read the quiz the first artist I thought of was Hank Snow's version of THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS. Arlo Guthrie's 1972 version of it is probably what most folks better recall. Also recorded by Johnny Cash and others.

Dave Schenkman writes:

The song was written by Steve Goodman, a songwriter who died at an early age. He wrote a lot of neat songs. “City” was popularized by Arlo Guthrie. One of my favorite versions was recorded by the Seldom Scene, a bluegrass group that has been a fixture in the Washington, DC area for decades. The singer, at the time, was John Starling, a physician that the mandolin player referred to as “an ear, nose and wallet specialist.”


In 1970, Steve wrote a song which would eventually be called by many people "the best train song ever written." Steve pitched the song to Arlo Guthrie, and in 1972, Arlo included the song on his album Hobo's Lullaby. It was then released as a single and became a big-time hit record. Steve always thanked Arlo for recording the song, and for making it possible for Steve to do what he loved -- playing music for a living.

ABC News' morning show, Good Morning America, which started in the mid-70's, took its name and its original theme from the chorus of City of New Orleans.

That site has the original Steve Goodman lyrics: City of New Orleans (

Here's a link to the Arlo Guthrie lyrics: Arlo Guthrie – The City Of New Orleans Lyrics (

John Mutch provided the following YouTube link and commented:

A long-time favorite!

Regarding Steve Goodman, Bill Eckberg adds:

He also wrote "the perfect country and western song," You Never Even Called Me By My Name.

In one verse, he covers mama, trains, trucks, prison and getting drunk:

I was drunk the day my ma got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain.
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck,
She got run over by a damned old train.

If she'd been run over by a reindeer it could've been a Christmas song, too. Thanks for playing, everyone!

Maybe there's a numismatic connection after all. How about... ?
"Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car
Penny a point, ain't no one keepin' score"

I would encourage our younger readers (many of whom weren't even BORN yet in 1972) to get a copy of the Guthrie version from iTunes - I think the studio version is better than the live video.

There are many great lines in this song, and one that resonates with me is:
"And the sons of Pullman Porters, and the sons of Engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel"

The railroads were the result of a generation's labor and ingenuity. They brought the nation together, and spawned the modern corporation, standard time zones, and more. But by 1972 passenger service had dwindled to a shadow of its former self. Even its replacement, the passenger car, was getting long in the tooth, as signified by "the graveyards of the rusted automobile."

The railroads were made efficient through the use of another invention, the telegraph. To me, Morse's telegraph is the magic carpet we're all riding today. Its dots and dashes were the digital system of its day, and the first transatlantic telegraph cables were the world's original Internet. The telephone system was a diversion into the analog world, but today we're back to digital and connected in more ways than could ever have been imagined. Text, voice, sound and sight are all carried effortlessly along today's digital pipes. Fiber optic cables snake thorough the same underground Manhattan vaults that once held telegraph cables; this issue of The E-Sylum may travel to our London readers along the same Nova Scotia to Dublin route of the first telegraph cable.

The E-Sylum is getting a little long in the tooth itself. We have more users than ever thankfully, but dialup modems and desktop computers are already in the dustbin of technology history. Facebook, Twittter and a thousand smartphone apps are replacing email. But old technology rarely goes away completely - it just adapts to its niche and carries on. The City of New Orleans is still making that southbound odyssey, and The E-Sylum is still here. If we've been made obsolete, I guess we "still ain't heard the news."

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: DECEMBER 22, 2013 : Bob Leuver on The E-Sylum, Bitcoins, and Jesse Owens (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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