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GM&O Is Spelled C-O-O-L!

Most notably, the GM&O was featured prominently in the 1967 movie In The Heat Of The Night, which was filmed in Sparta, Illinois.  Staring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, the gritty murder mystery/thriller won 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor (Steiger).  The actors may have won the awards, but we know who the real star was.  Additionally, the Sparta depot still stands, indeed it has been restored as a museum for local artist Roscoe Misslehorn’s work.  An area within the depot is devoted to memorabilia associated with the filming of the movie.  Information about the museum may be seen at: http://www.egyptian.net/~mgallery/index.html

At left is the picture sleeve for the 1988 single release of the Traveling Wilburys’ ’End of the Line’.  The Wiburys ( LtoR George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison) formed as a super group and had a decidedly different take on life.  How it was decided to use this image for a record jacket is anybody’s guess, but we’re not complaining.

We got help from David Eisman in identifying this photo as having appeared in Don Ball’s 1978 book America’s Colorful Railroads.  Credited to Ball, it shows the Ann Rutledge southbound at Lincoln, Ill. in 1953.


Guitarist extraordinaire Adrian Belew (King Crimson, Frank Zappa) wrote his ode to railroading in a first person account of falling in love with trains, then working on the rails, and finally seeing the railroads’ displacement by air travel. Belew, a native of Covington, Kentucky, also has strong Illinois ties. The Rail Song is excerpted here where the protagonist hires on with the GM&O. It’s not quite the Wabash Cannonball or Rock Island Line, but what is? Click on the cap to listen to what is probably the only song mentioning the GM&O.


Well, there is at least one more recording that mentions (and is even titled after) our favorite railroad.  GM&O Blues was recorded on July 2, 1945 by Sonny Boy Williamson in Chicago, Ill.  Click on the label to hear the first two verses of this B-side to Mellow Chick Swing, neither of which climbed the charts much in its time.  This one’s on our hit parade, though.  Lyrics to follow along, are below.

Now that G. M. & O.
Runs right by my do’
Taken’ my baby up the country, Lord
An won’t bring her back no mo’
I’m sittin’ here thinkin’, just sad an longin’
I wants my baby back to me
Now, I know my baby
Is goin’ to jump ’n shout
When the G. M. & O. roll up
An oh Lord, ’n I come walkin’ out
I’m sittin’ here thinkin’, just sad an longin’
I wants my baby back to me

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This page was last updated on 8 March 2017