Hey Julia,

I heard again Arlo Guthrie’s song “City of New Orleans” the other day and wondered if he was riding that train when he wrote the song. 

– Fred Bocava (New Orleans)


First, the song, about a passenger train once operated by Illinois Central railroad that travelled between New Orleans and Chicago, is one of the most classic railroad songs ever. Like riding in a train, it is slightly melancholy (“Dealin’ card games with the old men in the club car/Penny a point ain’t no one keepin’ score”) yet has moments of joy: “Good Morning America how are you?”

In answer to your question, Guthrie never wrote the song. It was penned by a Chicago-based songwriter named Steve Goodman whose wife explained that he had the idea for the song while the couple was travelling on the train from Chicago to Matoon, Illinois. According to his bio, Goodman’s big break came one night when he was performing at a Chicago bar called the Quiet Knight. Goodman happened to meet Arlo Guthrie there, who reluctantly agreed to listen to a song he had composed, under the condition that Goodman bought him a beer.

Guthrie would listen as long as the beer lasted. Goodman agreed. The beer did not last long; the song became immortal.

Steve Goodman died in 1984 of leukemia.

Amtrak took over the operation of the City of New Orleans in 1981.

Still connecting New Orleans and Chicago, the train leaves the local terminal every evening at 8:05 pm.


Dear Julia,

I live in Marigny off of St. Claude. I have looked in the Bible for reference to a saint named Claude and see nothing. What gives? Did he perform any miracles? 

– Rhett Smith (New Orleans)


Well, I guess the evolution and fame of the Tremé neighborhood can be considered to be a miracle, but it may have more to do with urban spread than Claude. There was once a tradition that when major streets were named after land developers or other prominent folks, that the title “Saint” was also added, just to give it class, I presume. That was the case with developer Claude Tremé. The site of his former plantation is now the basis for the neighborhood that borders the Quarter. Another example would be St. Bernard named after Bernard de Marigny.

I don’t want to mention any names, but I hear of someone trying to get a street named St. Poydras.



Poydras is looking for something to do. Send your questions to julia@myneworleans.com and be sure to include your name and information. For the subject line use: Julia and Poydras Question.