“Freight Train”


"Freight train, freight train, run so fast/Please don't tell what train I'm on/So they won't know where I've gone." Rest of song gives singer's wishes for her burial "at the foot of old Chestnut Street."


Though not folk in origin, it was so widely recorded in the Sixties that it did seem briefly to go into oral tradition, though I suspect it's nearly dead as a folk song by now.

The popularity of the song seems to have been due partly to its use as a fingerpicking exercise. It is ironic to note that Elizabeth Cotten herself was left-handed, but instead of playing a left-handed guitar, she played a right-handed guitar flipped 180 degrees (i.e. she had her left hand on the fretboard, but with the bass strings on top and the treble on the bottom). So effectively none of the people imitating her style are actually imitating her technique. - RBW


  • Elizabeth Cotten, "Freight Train" (on Cotten01) (on Cotten03)
  • Pete Seeger, "Freight Train" (on PeteSeeger34)


  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 521-523, "Freight Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 120, "Freight Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Silber-FSWB, p. 63, "Freight Train" (1 text)
  5. BI, CSW120


Author: Elizabeth Cotten
Earliest date: 1952 (composed c. 1905?)
Found in: US(SE)