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Songs of the West

Four Cords 

Railroading on the Great Divide

     I learned "Railroading on the Great Divide" in the mid-50s from an Acme 78 RPM record sung by the Carter Family. I often sang the song, which reminded me of my father. I knew a great deal of my father's activities up to the end of World War II but it wasn't until my father died in 1976 that the song gained special meaning for me when I read in my father's 5 year diary that in 1916 he was on the Great Divide in Wyoming on the North Platte River near Fort Laramie working on a small subsistence cattle ranch, while my grandfather had just moved to Cheyenne after he stopped working as a foreman of a railroad construction crew working with long steel rails and short cross-ties.

Nineteen sixteen I started to roam
Out in the west, no money, no home.
I went drifting along with the tide,
I landed on the great divide.

    Railroading on the great divide,
    Nothing around me, but rockies and skies.
    There you'll find me as years roll by,
    Railroading on the great divide.

Ask any old timer from old Cheyenne,
Railroads in Wyoming, the best in the land,
The long steel rails the short cross-ties,
I laid across the great divide.

As I looked out across the breeze,
Number three coming, the fastest on wheels,
Across the valley, she glides with pride,
As she rolls across the great divide.