Chicago musicians set to ride the rails

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by Patty Wetli

LINCOLN SQUARE - The Great American Songbook meets the Golden Age of Rail Travel in a newly-announced partnership between the Old Town School of Folk Music and Pullman Rail Journeys.

For its Chicago-to-New Orleans service on restored Pullman rail cars, Pullman Rail Journeys has recruited Old Town School musicians to come along for the ride, providing entertainment on select trips.

The kicker: The Pullman train has been dubbed "The City of New Orleans," same as a folk song penned by the late Steve Goodman, an Old Town Alum.

The song - part of a "vast repertoire" of folk music centered on riding the rails or working on the railroad - "gets performed at some class at Old Town a dozen times a week," said Bau Graves, Old Town School director.

"It's a huge part of this institution's background," he said.

Of the partnership, Graves added: "There is not a finer match that you could come up with."

"It really does put two things together that belong together," said Steve Torrico, assistant general manager of Pullman Rail Journeys, and a former locomotive engineer.

"Music and railroading go hand in hand," Torrico said.

The City of New Orleans departs from Union Station every Tuesday and Friday, covering the 934 miles from Chicago to the Big Easy in 19-and-a-half hours.

A lounge/club car is located at the end of every train and will serve as the musicians' performance venue.

Old Town's Mark Dvorak and Chris Walz have been tapped as the inaugural entertainers on the October 8 run. The two teamed up once before on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad in Colorado.

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