Wednesday, October 17, 2012



    Song of the Locomotive is a song praising the freight and passenger

railroads that eventually linked the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United

States. Trains have been a theme in popular music since the start of the

Railroad Era in the 1830’s. Railroads were  the first large scale business

enterprises replacing canals and rivers. Railroads made possible

 the transition to an industrial nation by opening up remote areas and

stimulating new industries. Railroads linked major manufacturing and

agricultural areas. For example, by 1856, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi

River had railroad crossings.  
               In the Song, the locomotive is portrayed as a powerful force of
nature when it is described as having the speed of a mountain eagle in flight 
The train is also given human traits by stating that it travels  ‘’with a scream
and a scowl of scorn’’. Vast amounts of land were given or sold by the new
American government for railroad development and the American landscape
and its people experienced radical changes. The violence  related to the
building of the railroad is expressed in the song by the use of the words
‘slaughtered’ and ‘mangled’.  The lyrics do not apologize for the locomotive’s 
 iron path’ of destruction.  In fact, the lyrics of the song are of a boasting
nature. The lyrics boast about the wealth that the train carries.  The
locomotive takes pride in passing through beach, desert and busy city streets.
There is also boasting about being able to withstand all weather conditions
such as ‘’burning  heat and cold winter”.  In reality, the railroad was superior
to canals and rivers which froze during the winter.
          As stated in class, the 1860’s was a culture of poems. In the Song of
the Locomotive, the locomotive is personified as a ‘king’  who rules over and
strikes fear in his subjects.  The ‘loud thunder like noise’ and smoke is seen
and heard all day long from sunrise to midnight.  The Song of the Locomotive
is a vivid testament to the impact of the railroad on American life.