Written and first recorded by Steve Goodman (1971).
Hit versions by Arlo Guthrie (US #18 1972), Willie Nelson (US #30/C&W #1/CAN #1 1984).
From the wiki: “‘City of New Orleans’ is a folk song written by Steve Goodman (and first recorded for Goodman’s self-titled 1971 album), describing a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad’s City of New Orleans in bittersweet and nostalgic terms. Goodman got the idea while traveling on the Illinois Central line for a visit to his wife’s family.
“Goodman performed the song for Arlo Guthrie at the Quiet Knight, a bar in Chicago, and Guthrie agreed to add it to his repertoire. The song was a hit for Guthrie on his 1972 album Hobo’s Lullaby, and is now more closely associated with him although Goodman performed it until his death in 1984. The song has been recorded by numerous artists both in the US and Europe.
“Steve Goodman won a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1985 for Willie Nelson’s version. Nelson’s rendition was a #1 Hot Country Single in the US and #1 RPM Country in Canada.”
Arlo Guthrie, “City of New Orleans” (1972):
Steve Goodman, “City of New Orleans” live radio broadcast WNEW-FM (NYC) (ca. 1973):
Willie Nelson, “City of New Orleans” (1984):