Saturday, July 17, 2010

Timetable for Riding on the City of New Orleans

In 1972, singer Arlo Guthrie put Illinois Central's Chicago-to-New Orleans rail streamliner on the national map with a recording of a song written by Steve Goodman. Riding on the City of New Orleans is basically about the demise of traditional rail passenger service.

Recently 42N found an Illinois Central timetable for passenger service. In 1966, the line ran multiple routes primarily throughout the middle portion of the USA. In addition to the City of New Orleans the IC passenger streamliners included names like the Panama Limited, City of Miami, Green Diamond, Land O'Corn, Chickasaw, Southern Express, Louisiane, Northeastern Limited, Southwestern Limited, No. 108, and the Hawkeye.

Lyrics to the song (found here) describe leaving Chicago on Monday morning with 15 sacks of mail, pulling out of Kankakee, and then running down to the Mississippi Delta. This April 1966 timetable lists the City of New Orleans leaving Kankakee at 8:40 A.M. for all you railroad purests.

Today the train runs as a part of Amtrak and delivers passengers from the Windy City to the Big Easy and back. A modern timetable can be found here. Know that.


  1. I'm stunned to see "Steve Goodman" as a label for a blog post that I've stumbled upon - serendipitously.

    I was a HUGE, huge Steve Goodman fan. I saw him live every weekend that he was in Chicago or near enough to get to in the mid 70s. I had nothing against the Arlo Guthrie version of this song but "City of New Orleans" was the signature Steve Goodman piece. My other all-time favorite was "Lincoln Park Pirates".

    Oh - that was so long ago. So, so long ago. Thanks for the journey back in time.

  2. Stopping by from Saturday Sampling.
    This is interesting, thanks for sharing.
    Have a nice weekend!

  3. Saturday sampling your post! I was singing that song in my head as I read. I love old maps and had no clue how interesting the story behind the song was.

  4. I'm curious about what inspired Mr.Goodman to write this song. Regardless, I'm glad he did; it's a little piece of history :)