“The Hell-Bound Train”


The drunk passes out and dreams of the hell-bound train. The Devil is the engineer. When he announces that Hell is the next stop, the riders beg for mercy; the Devil replies with a list of tortures they face. The drunkard awakens and reforms


Lomax editions suggest "J. W. Pruitt(e)" as the author of this piece. One of Randolph's sources mentions a "Tom Gray." I wouldn't bet much on either attribution. - RBW

In the Beck version, Tom Gray is the protagonist, rather than the author (the song is in third person). - PJS

Cohen notes a strong similarity in concept to"Ride on the Black Valley Railroad," credited to I. N. Tarbox and printed in 1876. For more on this, one should see Cohen. - RBW


  • Frank Hutchison, "Hell Bound Train" (OKeh 45452, 1930) (Velvet Tone 2366-V, 1931)
  • Sunset Jubilee Singers, "The Hellbound Train" (Hub 3004, n.d.) [Note: I'm not certain this is the same song, but I'm playing the odds]
  • Joseph Walsh, "The Hell-Bound Train" (on MREIves01)


  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 638-644, "The Hell-Bound Train" (1 text plus extensive excerpts and aportion of "Ride on the Black Valley Railroad" and a broadside print of "Railroad to Hell"; 1 tune)
  2. Randolph 599, "The Hell-Bound Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Lomax-FSNA 210, "The Hell-Bound Train" (1 text, 1 tune, the latter allegedly by Lomax himself)
  4. Fife-Cowboy/West 125, "The Hell-Bound Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Ohrlin-HBT 15, "The Hell-Bound Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Beck 94, "The Hell-Bound Train" (1 text)
  7. Ives-DullCare, pp. 163-164,246, "The Hell-Bound Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Darling-NAS, p. 263, "The Hell Bound Train" (1 text)
  10. Roud #5103
  11. BI, R599


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1910 (Railroad Men's Magazine, according to Cohen)
Keywords: train Devil Hell drink
Found in: US(So) Canada(Mar)