Railroad Overture

Title: 
Railroad Overture
Type: 
Song
Description: 

[Alternately: “The Railroad Overture or Locumloshus Jimjam”]



To listen to this song (and others) on the Artists Respond to Juba Site, Click Here and/or Here.



This instrumental was meant to imitate the sounds of a locomotive. As the prefatory note for the Leoni Lee and Coxhead edition states: “The Rail-Road Overture or Locumloshus Jimjam; which at de fust ob de begginnin commence wery moderate; but when it gits into de circumlution ob de centre ob grabity, it goes into a kind ob canstopimization an run clear off de track!” Mahar suggests a thematic similarity between this song and the “Locomotive Lecture” which came to be a standard component of the minstrel show in the mid-nineteenth century. The Lecture was a recitation of an invented narrative accompanied by sound effects produced by bone castanets (17-18). Unlike the “Locomotive Lecture,” however, “The Railroad Overture” relied exclusively upon the instrumental ensemble placing particular emphasis upon the bones and/or tambourine player(s).



While the piece appears to have been quite popular during the period in question – often functioning as either the opening or closing number – its popularity most certainly did not endure into the twentieth century. With neither evidence to support any transmissions of the song, nor any recorded versions of the song (excepting the version recorded for The Mid-Atlantic Minstrel Show), it seems likely that the novelty of the song worked against its continued popularity. It is recommended to the reader that s/he listen to the recorded version provided here. Structurally, it is consistent with other songs in this canon with respect to the presentation and development of melodic material. Accordingly, it seems likely that the song’s attraction was as a vehicle (so to speak) for the troupe’s efforts to imitate the sounds of a locomotive, rather than with the music. Minstrel performers were, in the performance of some numbers, frenetic in their movements and physically all-encompassing in their noise-making – using feet, hands, body as percussive instruments as much as their violins and banjos in a show that appeared to be out of control.



Works Cited:

  • Keller, Albert, arranged by. “The Railroad Overture or Locumloshus Jimjam.” London: Leoni Lee & Coxhead: n.d.


  • Mahar, William J. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Chicago: Illinois UP, 1999.


    Mark Turner


  • Media: 
    Sheet Music Cover
    Audio File - Minstrels in the Parlour

    Performance(s) listed of this act

    Performer(s) Troupe Event and Venue
    Minstrel Show, 19 Jan. 1846 - 23 Jan. 1846
    Hanover Square Rooms, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 09 Feb. 1846 - 14 Feb. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 16 Feb. 1846 - 21 Feb. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 23 Feb. 1846 - 28 Feb. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 24 Feb. 1846 - 24 Feb. 1846
    Gloucester House, Piccadilly, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 02 Mar. 1846 - 07 Mar. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 09 Mar. 1846 - 14 Mar. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 16 Mar. 1846 - 21 Mar. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 23 Mar. 1846 - 28 Mar. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 30 Mar. 1846 - 04 Apr. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 22 Apr. 1846 - 22 Apr. 1846
    Crosby Hall, London (city-county)
    Variety, 27 Apr. 1846 - 27 Apr. 1846
    Drury Lane Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 01 May. 1846 - 01 May. 1846
    Crosby Hall, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 04 May. 1846 - 09 May. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 11 May. 1846 - 16 May. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 11 May. 1846 - 11 May. 1846
    Crosby Hall, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 18 May. 1846 - 22 May. 1846
    Sadler's Wells, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 25 May. 1846 - 30 May. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 25 May. 1846 - 25 May. 1846
    Sussex Hall, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 29 May. 1846 - 29 May. 1846
    Hall, The, Berkshire
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 30 May. 1846 - 30 May. 1846
    Chiswick House, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 01 Jun. 1846 - 01 Jun. 1846
    Royal British Institution, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 09 Jun. 1846 - 13 Jun. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 10 Jun. 1846 - 10 Jun. 1846
    Horns, The, Kennington, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 12 Jun. 1846 - 12 Jun. 1846
    Green Man, Blackheath, London (city-county)
    Original Creole Vocalists Variety, 22 Jun. 1846 - 26 Jun. 1846
    Vauxhall Gardens, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Delineators (Pelham's, 1846) Minstrel Show, 26 Jun. 1846 - 27 Jun. 1846
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 29 Jun. 1846 - 04 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 29 Jun. 1846 - 04 Jul. 1846
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Original Creole Vocalists Variety, 30 Jun. 1846 - 03 Jul. 1846
    Vauxhall Gardens, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 06 Jul. 1846 - 11 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Original Creole Vocalists Variety, 06 Jul. 1846 - 10 Jul. 1846
    Vauxhall Gardens, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 13 Jul. 1846 - 18 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Original Creole Vocalists Variety, 14 Jul. 1846 - 17 Jul. 1846
    Vauxhall Gardens, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 20 Jul. 1846 - 25 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 27 Jul. 1846 - 01 Aug. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Variety, 03 Aug. 1846 - 07 Aug. 1846
    Vauxhall Gardens, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 03 Aug. 1846 - 08 Aug. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Variety, 11 Aug. 1846 - 14 Aug. 1846
    Vauxhall Gardens, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Dramatic, 08 Sep. 1846 - 09 Sep. 1846
    Theatre Royal, Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire
    Ethiopian Serenaders (Van Dwyer, 1846) Minstrel Show, 07 Nov. 1846 - 07 Nov. 1846
    Music Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne (city-county) in Northumberland
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 21 Dec. 1846 - 26 Dec. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 28 Dec. 1846 - 02 Jan. 1847
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 04 Jan. 1847 - 09 Jan. 1847
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Minstrel Show, 06 Mar. 1847 - 08 Mar. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Minstrel Show, 30 Mar. 1847 - 01 Apr. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Female American Serenaders Dramatic, 05 Apr. 1847 - 05 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire
    Female American Serenaders Dramatic, 06 Apr. 1847 - 06 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire
    Female American Serenaders Dramatic, 07 Apr. 1847 - 10 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire
    Female American Serenaders Minstrel Show, 12 Apr. 1847 - 13 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire
    Female American Serenaders Dramatic, 14 Apr. 1847 - 15 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire
    Female American Serenaders Dramatic, 17 Apr. 1847 - 17 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire
    Female American Serenaders Dramatic, 19 Apr. 1847 - 19 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire
    Female American Serenaders Minstrel Show, 21 Apr. 1847 - 24 Apr. 1847
    St. James Assembly Rooms, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 03 May. 1847 - 08 May. 1847
    Strand Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Minstrel Show, 15 May. 1847 - 15 May. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Minstrel Show, 17 May. 1847 - 22 May. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Beyadere and Female Serenaders Minstrel Show, 26 Jun. 1847 - 26 Jun. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Delineators (not Pelham's, 1847) Minstrel Show, 10 Jul. 1847 - 10 Jul. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Philadelphia and Mississippi Ethiopian Serenaders Minstrel Show, 12 Jul. 1847 - 13 Jul. 1847
    Theatre Royal, Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire
    Minstrel Show, 19 Jul. 1847 - 20 Jul. 1847
    Mechanics' Institute, Nottinghamshire
    Ethiopian Melodists and New York Serenaders Minstrel Show, 21 Sep. 1847 - 24 Sep. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Melodists and New York Serenaders Minstrel Show, 27 Sep. 1847 - 01 Oct. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1847-?) Minstrel Show, 01 Nov. 1847 - 05 Nov. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1847-?) Minstrel Show, 13 Nov. 1847 - 13 Nov. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1847-?) Minstrel Show, 15 Nov. 1847 - 19 Nov. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Dumbolton's Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 06 Dec. 1848 - 09 Dec. 1848
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1850) Minstrel Show, 18 Mar. 1850 - 23 Mar. 1850
    , Devon
    Royal Marionette Theatre (inc. Ebony Marionettes) Dramatic, 22 Oct. 1852 - 23 Oct. 1852
    Theatre Royal, Williamson Square, Lancashire
    Royal Marionette Theatre (inc. Ebony Marionettes) Dramatic, 24 Oct. 1852 - 29 Oct. 1852
    Theatre Royal, Williamson Square, Lancashire