“The Dummy Line (II)”


"Some folks say that the dummy won't run, Now, let me tell you what the dummy done, Left Saint Louis 'bout half past one, Rolled into Memphis at the seein' of the sun." Stories of riding on the Dummy Line, possibly without a fare


This is rather a conundrum, because the texts of "The Dummy Line (I)" and "The Dummy Line (II)" have similar choruses, and most are fragments, and they've mixed a lot, as well as gathering a lot of floating verses; see Cohen for a discussion. In general, though, "The Dummy Line (I) involves an extremely slow train, while this one involves a faster, but perhaps strangely-managed one.

It appears, in the original version, that the trip was from Saint Louis to Memphis -- a distance of nearly 300 miles, implying (depending on the time of the year and hence the time of sunset) a speed between 40 and 75 miles an hour, quite good for a train at the turn of the twentieth century.

Scarborough's "Railroad Song" text (p. 239) is even stranger, because it has the train go from Saint Louis to Tampa in an afternoon. That's a distance of 900 miles, meaning that the train had to move at a speed of at least 125 miles per hour even at the summer solstice!

It may be that the Scarborough text confused "Saint Louis" (Saint Louie?) in the song with Saint Lucie, Florida, on the Atlantic coast almost due east of Tampa. That's a distance of about 125 miles, give or take a few river detours, implying a speed of 25-30 miles per hour. Hardly high-speed -- but not really Dummy Line numbers, either. Alternately, Saint Louis might be a variation on "St. Pete/Petersburg." In which case the speed is ridiculously slow. - RBW


  • Robert N. Page, "Ride and Shine on the Dummy Line" (Victor 21067, 1927)
  • Pickard Family, "On the Dummy Line" ((Perfect 12625/Banner 0744/Conqueror 7574/Oriole 1995/Challenge 882/Jewel 5995/Pathe 32546/Regal 10049/Cameo 0344/Domino 4585/Romeo 1357/Paramount 3218, 1930; Broadway 8150 [as Pleasant Family], n.d.)


  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 485-490, "On the Dummy Line" (1 text plus fragments of several other "Dummy Line" songs, 1 tune)
  2. Scarborough-NegroFS, pp. 244-245, "De Dummy Line" (1 short text, 1 tune); p. 239, "Railroad Song" (1 fragment)
  3. BrownIII 435, "The Dummy Line" (2 short texts; "B" is a mixed text that seems to be mostly a "May Irwin's Frog Song (The Foolish Frog, Way Down Yonder)" type, with a "Some Folks Say a Nigger Won't Steal" verse)
  4. Roud #11776
  5. BI, ScNS139A


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1925 (Scarborough)
Keywords: train travel
Found in: US(So)