Railroad songs can also be used in an exercise focusing on lyrics. Lyrics are a wonderful way to learn of the lives of those who wrote and sang them. Lyrics to railroad songs provide further evidence of the significance of the railroad in America. Have students search on railroad in these collections to find lyrics about trains.
- African-American Sheet Music, 1850-1920
- America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets
- Blues, Gospel, and the Fort Valley Music Festivals, 1938-1943
- California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties
- Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier
- Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920
- Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip
- Voices from the Dust Bowl, 1940-1941
- With what are railroads associated or equated?
- What words and imagery did people use to describe railroads?
- Were trains a part of their daily lives? If so, how?
- Do the songs reflect hopes and fears people associated with railroads?
- What other information about trains do the songs provide?
Noting the names of towns and cities and the names and types of trains mentioned in the lyrics, students can search Railroad Maps to find evidence of and information about the rail lines people may have been singing about.
Having studied the language and content of lyrics, students can write their own songs about trains. They can practice using imagery and conveying emotions and concepts through word choice.