History of the Song: On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

Picture of On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" was a chart topping song from the mid 1940's written by Johnny Mercer and Harvey Warren.  You might be more familiar with Judy Garland's version of the song but it was also covered by Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra and The Andrews Sisters to name a few.  The song is about the former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, and was featured in the 1946 film, The Harvey Girls, where it was sung by Judy Garland. (I included a Youtube audio version of the song at the end of the article.)

Despite mentions in the lyrics of the song, the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe (AT&SF) never directly reached Laramie, Wyoming or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good song? :)

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (reporting mark ATSF), often referred to as the Santa Fe or AT&SF, was one of the larger railroads in the United States, named after the cities and towns of Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe.  Despite it's name, it  did not directly serve Santa Fe, due to the mountainous terrain, the city of Albuquerque instead served New Mexico and the Santa Fe area.

AT&SF was widely known for its passenger train service. The railway introduced many innovations in passenger rail travel, among these the "Pleasure Domes" of the Super Chief and the "Big Dome" Lounge cars and double-decker Hi-Level cars of the El Capitan. The railroad was also among the first to add dining cars to its passenger trains, a move which began in 1891, following the examples of the Northern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads. The AT&SF offered food on board in dining cars or at one of the many Harvey House restaurants that were strategically located throughout the rail system. "The Harvey Girls" (the movie in which the song was written for) was a story about the waitresses of those Harvey House restaurants.

Harvey Girls

In the 1970s, the railroad used Crosby's version in a commercial.  The railroad officially ceased operations on December 31, 1996, when it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway.

Video of  Judy Garland version of "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"

Video of the Johnny Mercer version of "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"

You can also hear the song "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" right here on Swing City Radio.

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