Western Song: Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad
“Life’s Railway to Heaven,” also known by its first line, “Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad,” is a gospel song written by Charlie D. Tillman, M.E. Abbey, and J.R. Baxter. M.E. Abbey added the chorus while Tillman published its lyrics and composed the music. Sources state that Eliza R. Snow originally wrote the classic hymn in poem form in the 1890s. However, the copyright document did not credit Eliza Snow’s contribution.
Edward Allen and Charles Hart first released “Life’s Railway to Heaven” in 1918. Since then, many country artists have recorded and performed their versions in 3/4 time set by Tillman. These artists include Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Jordanaires, Merle Haggard and The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, and many more. On the other hand, Patsy Cline popularized the 4/4 version in 1959. Aside from recording it solo, she also had a duet with Willie Nelson using the same version. Brad Paisley also recorded the gospel song for his This Is Country Music album featuring Carl Jackson, Marty Stuart, and singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow. He also performed its 4/4 rendition on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion in 2012.
The popularity and meaning of this hymn led to its inclusion in the Top 100 Western Songs of all time, selected by members of the Western Writers of America.
About the Song
The gospel song describes the Christian life using railroad jargon. Its lyrics depict how life may be full of challenges and exhausting, just like a trip on a mountain railroad. However, the imagery also shows how a journey on the railroad requires courage and watchfulness to possible danger and not giving up—much like how we should approach life.
Some of the most popular versions of the song were recorded by the following artists:
- Edward Allen and Charles Hart
- Oscar Seagle and Columbia Stellar Quartette
- Ernest Thompson
- George Reneau
- Hermes Zimmerman
- Bradley Kincaid
- Burl Ives
- Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Jordanaires
- Patsy Cline
- The Oak Ridge Boys
- Merle Haggard & The Carter Family
- The Amazing Rhythm Aces
- Russ Taff
- The Chuck Wagon Gang
- Boxcar Willie
- Johnny Cash
- Brad Paisley feat. Marty Stewart, Sheryl Crow, and Carl Jackson
Listen to Life is Like a Mountain Railroad (Patsy Cline Version)
Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad Lyrics
Life is like a mountain railroad With an engineer that's brave We must make the run successful From the cradle to the grave. Watch the curves, the hills, and tunnels Never falter, never fail Keep your hand upon the throttle And your eye upon the rail. Blessed Savior thou will guide us Till we reach that blissful shore Where the angels wait to join us In that great forevermore. Blessed Savior thou will guide us Till we reach that blissful shore Where the angels wait to join us In that great forevermore.