There are many theories about this song, we will highlight two:
In the first, Utah Phillips, said that the hobos, imagined a mythical train, called the “Wabash Cannonbal, which collected the souls of dead hobos, to take them on that train, as a reward.
The second theory is based on a story, in which Cal S Bunyan, built a train, known as the Ireland, Jerusalem, Australian & Southern Michigan Line. After 2 months of circulation, he had 700 wagons and was so fast that he arrived at his destination one hour before its departure. One day I start so fast, that it shot out into outer space, it is said to continue circulating through space, when the hobos learned that this train existed, they called it “Wabash Cannonball”, and that in all the stations of the United States, his whistle was heard.
Wabash Cannonball Namesakes:
With the popularity of the song, the Train, Wabash Railroad,which circulated between Detroit and St. Louis, changed itsname to 1949, for the song, Wabash Cannon Ball, whichlasted up to 1971, with the entrance of AMTRAK. However,the train was named after the song, not the other wayaround. On October 26th and 27th, 2013, the Fort WayneRailroad Historical Society’s Nickel Plate Road 765,inconjunction with Norfolk Southern Railway’s 21st CenturySteam program, toured 225 miles back and forth, followingthe old Cannon Ball route between Fort Wayne andLafayette, Indiana.
There is also a roller coaster in the now disappeared Opryland USA theme park, also called as the song. It was operational from 1975 to 1997. [ In 1998, after theclosure off Opryland, the double-screw roller coaster wasrelocated too Old Indiana Fun-N-Water Park (Thorntown, Indiana, USA).In 2003 I stopped working.
At the beginning of 1882, this song appears, with the title of”The Great Rock Island Route”, which is Atrivuye to J. A. Roff,in 1904 is rewritten by,William Kindt, giving it the name thatwe know today, “Wabash Cannon Ball”. The first documented recording of this version, dates from1929, recorded by Hugh Cross.
In 1929, A.P. Carter (member of the Carter Family), writesanother version, which would be the most versioned of the three. Being recorded in 1932 by the Carter Family, from this recording are countless singers the version of the song.
Boxcar Willie & Brother Oswald :
Boxcar Willie, his first recording of the song appears in a medley, recorded in 1980 for the column one label, and later the same year on the Killroy Records label. The song would be included in many of Boxcar’s compilations, being one of his themes icon.
This song sung by Boxcar and Oswald, there is no record together, if separately. Always sing it together is live, especially in Grand Ole Opry, and in Branson, Missouri.
Brother Oswald, recorded this first version in 1975, along with Charlie Collins, for the album, “That’s country” (Rounder Records), the same theme is again included in the album; “The best of Oswald” from 1986 on the country heritage records label.
some of the many versions :
Roy Acuff & His Crazy Tenneesseans 1938 ( Okeh Records )
Mac Wiseman 1955 ( Dot Records )
Ernest Tubb 1960 ( Decca )
Hank Locklin 1962 ( RCA )
Hank Thompson 1964 ( Capitol )
Jerry Reed 1967 ( RCA )
Willie Nelson 1970 ( RCA )
Dolly Parton 1970 ( RCA )
Lee Conway 1981 ( Rebel Records )
And many more ……….
Roy Acuff & Smoky Mountains Boys – Wabash Cannonball Lyrics
From the great Atlantic ocean to the wide Pacific shore
From the queen of flowing mountain to the south bell by the shore
She’s mighty tall and handsome and know quite well by all
She’s the combination on the Wabash Cannonball
She came down from Birmingham one cold December day
As she rolled in the station you could hear all the people say
There’s a girl from Tennessee she’s long and she’s tall
She came down from Birmingham on the Wabash Cannonball
Our estern states are dandies so the people always say
From New York to St. Louis and Chicago by the way
From the hills of Minnesota where the rippling waters fall
No changes can be taken on the Wabash Cannonball
Here’s to daddy Claxton may his name forever stand
And always be remembered ’round the courts of Alabama
His earthly race is over and the curtains ’round him fall
We’ll carry home to victory on the Wabash Cannonball
Listen to the jingle the rumble and the roar
As she glides along the woodland through the hills and by the shore
Hear the mighty rush of the engine hear the lonesome hobos call
You’re traveling through the jungle on the Wabash Cannonball