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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Songs for Our Times

Casey Jones

1. Listen

Listen: with Vocals
Byron Coffin, Sr. and Mrs. Byron Coffin, Sr., performers.
Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Alameda, California on April 6, 1939.

Listen: Instrumental
Ben Pitts, harmonica and guitar.
Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Pine Grove, California on October 3, 1939.

2. Read Lyrics

Come all you rounders, if you wan'to hear
A story about a brave engineer,
Casey Jones was a rounder's name
On a 68 wheel, boys, he won his fame.
Caller called Casy about'a half past four.
Kissed his wife by the station door,
Mounted in the cabin with his orders in his hand,
And he took his last trip unto the Promised Land.

Casey Jones mounted in the cabin,
Casey Jones orders in his hands,
Casey Jones mounted in the cabin
And he took his last trip unto that promised land.

Put in your water, shovel in your coal,
Put cha head out the window and watch the driver's role
I'll run her 'til she leaves the rail
For I'm eight hours late with the western mail.
Mrs. Jones now sat on her bed a-crying
She just received a message, poor Casey was a-dying,
Said, go to bed children, stop your crying
Sh-h-h-h, hush your crying, Ive got another papa on the Alameda line.

Casey Jones mounted in the cabin,
Casey Jones orders in his hands,
Casey Jones mounted in the cabin
And he took his last trip unto that promised land.

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3. Learn More

Listen: A Curator's Insights

The railroad was a dangerous place to work at the turn of the 20th century. In the thirty years before 1900, more than 170,000 miles were added to the nation's rail system, and this explosive growth did not always encourage careful planning and thorough safety measures. Track layers and shop laborers were exposed to harsh weather and toxic chemicals, while engineers and firemen faced the daily risk of death or dismemberment by the exposed moving parts of the massive rail cars. Brakemen coupled train cars by hand and often lost fingers in the heavy machinery. By some accounts, the annual injury rate for railway brakemen in the 1890s was over 50 percent.

The threat of violence also haunted labor relations between rail workers and management. Attempts to organize unions were fiercely resisted by railway owners and their allies in government, and strikes in St. Louis, Baltimore, Kansas City, and San Francisco all ended in bloodshed. In 1894, a strike by Pullman workers in Chicago was broken up by 12,000 federal troops in a confrontation that left 13 strikers dead and 57 wounded. At the same time, communities of rail workers were themselves torn by conflicts between striking workers and non-union replacements, whom the strikers called "scabs."

Rail workers took pride in their work and were gratified to be hailed as heroes in popular culture. However, their own songs and stories often took a different view of railroad work, and explored the risks, the conflicts, and the more complicated heroism that came with life on the rails.

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4. Rewrite the Song

1) First Name:

2) Last Name:

3) Title of New Song:

Verse 1 (Read Lyrics)

Chorus

Verse 2

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