I first heard this barbershop-harmony style song on Doc Watson's album "Doc and the Boys" from the 1970s (reissued on CD along with "Live and Pickin'" and one bonus track) and have since tried to locate Doc's original source for that song.
In live recordings, like one from Rochester (I presume Rochester, NY) from the mid-1970s, Doc identfies his source as a record by a group called "Birmingham Boys" -- so far, I have been unable to locate a group by that specific name.
A variant of the song was recorded under the title "Pullman Passenger Train" by the PULLMAN PORTERS QUARTETTE (Chicago, IL, 1927), another one by BRYANT'S JUBILEE QUARTET/QUINTETTE as "Southbound Passenger Train" in Richmond, IN, c. April 24, 1928, and once again (as "THE FAMOUS GARLAND JUBILEE SINGERS") in New York, NY, March 19, 1931, reproducing their 1928 arrangement note for note (even though the high tenor and low bass singers do not seem identical to those on the previous recording).
Nothing is known about the identities of the Pullman Porters Quartette, nor the unidentified group who performed a further variant in the 1931 Laurel & Hardy movie "Pardon Us".
Norm Cohen's otherwise excellent Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong) seems to be a variant of a song recorded by The Carolina Twins as "Southern Jack" (reissued on "Gastonia Gallop", but unfortunately, so far, missing from my collection).
UNRELEASED LIVE VERSION
BY DOC WATSON
(Live, Rochester, mid-1970s)
(3.33 MB JOINT STEREO mp3)
PULLMAN PORTERS QUARTETTE
"PULLMAN PASSENGER TRAIN" (1929)
(1.69 MB MONO mp3)
BRYANT'S JUBILEE QUARTET/QUINTETTE
"SOUTHBOUND PASSENGER TRAIN" (Richmond, IN, c. April 24, 1928)
(2.07 MB MONO mp3)
THE FAMOUS GARLAND JUBILEE SINGERS
(BRYANT'S JUBILEE QUARTET/QUINTETTE)
"SOUTHBOUND PASSENGER TRAIN" (New York, NY, March 19, 1931)
(1.98 MB MONO mp3)
BIRMINGHAM JUBILEE SINGERS, Atlanta, GA, Apr 23, 1926
(COMPLETE SESSION) (15.38 MB MONO mp3)
Vocal group including CHARLES BRIDGES (leader), LEO "LOT" KEY, tenor vocal,
DAVE AUSBROOKS, baritone vocal, ED SHERILL, bass vocal
01 He Took My Sins Away
02 Crying To The Lord
03 We Will Leave
04 Home In That Rock
05 Do You Call That Religion?
06 Southbound Train (as "BIRMINGHAM QUARTET")
07 Birmingham Boys (ibid.)
08 Pharaoh's Army Got Drownded
Unidentified Vocal Group in "Pardon Us" (1931)
(10.77 MB avi/Divx)
(724.66 KB MONO mp3)
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