‘Baggage Coach Ahead’ lesser known train venue ballad

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Following the publication of “An Eastbound Train” lyrics in this Twice-Told Tales column, a resident of Saluda, N.C., called to ask when I might be including lyrics for a third train venue ballad, “The Baggage Coach Ahead.”

Not able to immediately recall them, I asked the enquirer to say or sing a stanza or two.

When she did, a long forgotten memory began to reform itself in my conscious mind.

Here was a ballad that I had not sung for more than 60 years. It had not been quite as popular as other train ballads in the Dark Corner, but certainly was a part of our musical heritage.

She was happy to honor my request for all the lyrics.

When receiving them a day or so later, it was possible to hear again, in my mind’s ear, my mother’s lilting voice as she used to sing them.

Here is the story they tell:

On a dark and stormy night as the train rolled on,

All the passengers all gone to bed;

Except a young man with a babe in his arms,

Who sat with a bowed down head.

Just then the babe commenced crying

As though its poor heart would break.

One angry man said, “Make that child stop its noise,

For it’s keeping us all awake.”

“Put it out,” said another, “Don’t keep it in here;

We’ve paid for our berth and want rest.”

But never a word said the man with the child,

As he fondled it close to his breast.

“Oh where is its mother? Go take it to her,”

One lady then softly said.

“I wish I could,” was the man’s sad reply,

“But she’s dead in the coach ahead.”

Chorus

As the train rolled on and on, a husband sat in tears,

Thinking of the happiness of just a few short years.

For the baby’s face brings pictures of the cherished hope now dead,

But baby’s cries can’t awaken her in the baggage coach ahead.

Every eye filled with tears as the story he told

Of a wife who was faithful and true;

He told how he’d saved up his earnings for years

Just to build a home for two;

How when heaven had sent them their sweet little babe,

Their young happy lives were blest;

His heart seemed to break when he mentioned her name,

And in tears tried to tell them the rest.

Every woman arose to assist with the child;

There were mothers and wives on that train.

And soon was the little one sleeping in peace,

With no thought of sorrow or pain.

Next morn at the station he bade all goodbye,

“God bless you,” he softly said.

Each one had a story to tell in their homes

Of the baggage coach ahead.

As the train rolled on and on, a husband sat in tears,

Thinking of the happiness of just a few short years.

For the baby’s face brings pictures of the cherished hope now dead,

But baby’s cries can’t awaken her in the baggage coach ahead.