“Reuben's Train”


Lyric piece about Reuben's train and travels. Versions vary widely; most contain a verse something like this: "Reuben had a train and he put it on the track, Hear the whistle blow a hundred miles."


I know two tunes for this piece. One resembles "Nine Hundred Miles" and "Rain and Snow"; these three songs seems to have cross-fertilized (so much so, in fact, that I literally cannot tell which one was the more direct ancestor of the Grayson & Whitter recording; I placed it there almost arbitrarily).

The other is that used by Frank Proffitt, who said of it, "This is one of the oldest simple banjo tunes.... It was generally the first tune learned, by playing two strings. There are about fifty different verses to this" (quoted by Warner).

G. B. Grayson is said to have turned "Reuben's Train" into "Train 45" -- but they are still so close that I think they can be considered one song. - RBW

Same tune

  • Jack O'Diamond Blues (recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson)

Cross references


  • Emry Arthur, "Reuben Oh Reuben" (Paramount 3295, c. 1931; on BefBlues2)
  • Dock Boggs, "Ruben's Train" (on Boggs3, BoggsCD1)
  • Carolina Ramblers String Band, "Ruben's Train" (Banner 33085/Romeo 5345, 1934; Melotone M-13947, c. 1935)
  • Bill Cornett ,"Old Reuben" (on MMOKCD)
  • Elizabeth Cotten, "Ruben" (on Cotten02)
  • [G. B.] Grayson & [Henry] Whitter, "Train 45" (Victor 21189, 1928, rec. 1927, on GraysonWhitter01) (Gennett 6320, 1927/Champion 15447 [as by Norman Gayle], 1928)
  • Vester Jones, "Old Reuben" (on GraysonCarroll1)
  • J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers [or Wade Mainer], "Riding on Train Forty-Five" (Bluebird B-7298, 1937; Victor 27493, 1941)
  • Wade Mainer & the Sons of the Mountaineers, "Old Reuben" (Bluebird B-8990, 1941)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Riding on That Train 45" (on NLCR06, NLCRCD2)
  • Poplin Family, "Reuben" (on Poplin01)
  • Wade Ward, "Old Reuben" [instrumental] (on Holcomb-Ward1)
  • Doc Watson, "Old Ruben" (on Ashley02, WatsonAshley01)


  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 503-517, "Reuben's Train/Train 45/900 Miles" (2 texts plus exceprts equivalent to about three more, 2 tunes; the first text is close to "Reuben's Train," the second to "Nine Hundred Miles," but the article is mostly devoted to showing how the two songs mix)
  2. BrownIII 236, "Reuben's Train" (2 texts, with "A" being closer to "Nine Hundred Miles" than "B")
  3. Warner 133, "Reuben's Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Lomax-FSNA 302, "Reuben" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Roud #3423
  6. BI, Wa133


Alternate titles: “Old Reuben”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1927 (recording, Grayson & Whitter, as "Train 45")
Keywords: train nonballad
Found in: US(SE)