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Panama Limited

This song is by Tom Rush and appears on the album Tom Rush (1965).


This is a song about a train called the Panama Limited.
The Panama Limited's a train that runs from Chicago, down to New Orleans.
She's what they call a special streamlined train. That means she's fast.
That train's so fast, the hobos don't mess with that train.
They just stand by the track with their hat in their hands.


Now I had a girl, she was leaving one morning on that train
And she got up singing and crying.
She said, "Daddy, you know'n I hate to go.
Hey, hey, hey, hey."


I said, "I know you do, baby."

Now we're going on down to Union Depot to catch the Panama Limited,
And off in the distance, she heard a local freight blow.
She asked me was that the Panama Limited? I said, "No."
I said, "Babe, the train you heard blows north of town, sounds like this..."

(Local train slide)

"Panama Limited you hear off in the mountains to the south,
She sounds more lonesome, sound like this..."

(Panama Limited slide #1)

Well, my gal she said, "What time is train time?"
I said, "I don't know anything about train time, babe.
I'm just hanging out tryin' to pick up a few dimes,"
And she jumped up singing and crying.

She said, "Daddy, it's alright the way you turned me down.
Hey, momma ain't got a dime."
And she turned her back on me,
And went running down the hill towards Union Depot.

And I stood there a minute, and I went running after her.
I was gonna beg forgiveness for the words I said.
And I went running, and running,
And I got down to the big stone steps going up to Union Depot.
I looked up. She was way up on top of the steps,
I called her name.

She heard me call her name and she turned
And called back to me over her left shoulder,
"Too late, too late, too late, too late.
Hey, momma gonna quit you now."


And just when she said that, you know,
You could hear the Panama Limited blow,
Thirty-seven miles south of Memphis, Tennessee.

(Panama Limited slide #2)

Now my gal she's running across the depot
Up to the depot agent's window
And she asks him what time train time was
And he said, "Go put your head on the track.
When you hear the rail singing, you know train time won't be long."
And she did. She went out across the platform,
Kneeled down on a cross-tie,
Put her pretty head up on that cold steel rail.
She could hear the Panama Limited coming down.

(Panama Limited slide #3)

She heard that rail, you know,
And she jumped up singing and crying.
She said, "Daddy, you know'n I hate to go,
Hey, momma ain't got a home."


And she said that, you know,
I went up and stood behind her and put my arms around her.
And we stood there a little while,
And pretty soon the Panama Limited's on the outside of town.

Now, coming down to Memphis,
You got a downgrade, you got a crossing.
To make that crossing, an engineer's got to cut down on his air brakes.
You can hear that down in the depot.
Now my gal and me were down in Union Depot
With arms around each other.
The Panama Limited hit that crossing, she cut down, began to squall.

(Panama Limited slide #4)

My gal she heard those brakes, she jumped up one last time.
She said, "Daddy, you know'n I hate to go.
Hey, I may never see your face no more."

The Panama Limited's coming around the bend.
You can see the engineer. He's sitting way up in his big tall engine.
He's just leaning out to watch his drive wheel roll.
He's rolling fast.
He's got his one hand outside the cabin.
He's waving at all the little kiddies in the station.
They're all jumping around, waving back.
He's got his other hand upside inside the cab on the bell rope,
And all the time he's riding her in, and all the time he's slowing her down,
That bell keeps on toning.

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