The Great Rock Island Route!!

Here's an interesting contribution to the RITS web site from Elbert Smith ( Elbert has sent, and Jeff Prince ( has scanned, the 1882 sheet music to the song "The Great Rock Island Route!!", by J.A. Foff.

 Text and lyrics are printed below. To see the pages, click on these links:

Inside cover, with route map
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Genl. Ticket and Passenger Agent

"The Great Rock Island Route!!"
Song and Chorus
Words and Music by J. A. Roff.

(Cover has drawings of a snow-covered mountain, "APPROACH TO THE SIERRAS",

(Inside of cover has map of the Great Rock Island Route.)

From a rocky bound Atlantic, to a mild Pacific shore,
From a fair and sunny southland to an ice-bound Labrador,
There's a name of magic import and 'tis known the world throughout,
'Tis a mighty corporation, called the great Rock Island Route.

Now listen to the jingle, and the rumble, and the roar,
As she dashes thro' the woodland, and speeds along the shore,
See the mighty rushing engine, hear her merry bell ring out,
As they speed along in safety, on the "Great Rock Island Route."

All great cities of importance can be found along its way,
There's Chicago and Peoria and Rock Island so they say,
With Davenport, and westward still is Council Bluffs far out.
As a western termination of this Great Rock Island Route.

To the great southwest another, and a mighty line they run,
Reaching far famed Kansas City, Leavenworth and Atchison,
Rich in beauty, power, and grandeur, and they owe it all no doubt,
To the fact that they are stations, on the Great Rock Island Route

There's the "Northern Route," a daisy as you all can plainly see
To St. Paul, and Minneapolis, 'tis the famous "Albert Lea,"
To the lakes of Minnesota, and all points there 'round about
Reached directly by no other, than the "Great Rock Island Route."

Now let music soft and tender, in its mystic power reveal,
Praises to the "Great Rock Island," that the heart can only feel:
And to swell the mighty chorus--comes the glad re-echoing shout,
That for safety, time and comfort, take the "Great Rock Island Route.

Alternate Lyrics

Contributed by Matt Willett
Matt writes, "I recently found and purchased a four page promotional newspaper published by the Rock Island Passenger Department in September of 1882. Among the items are the lyrics to "The Great Rock Island Route" by J. A. Roff. The odd thing is that these are alternate verses to the version posted above"
The Great Rock Island Route
by J. A. Roff

Have you ever heard it rumored,
As you journeyed to the West,
Of the many mighty railroads,
Which was greatest and the best?
The public long have said it,
And 'tis true, beyond a doubt,
That for safety, time and comfort
Take the "Great Rock Island Route".

Chorus --
Only listen to the jingle, and the rumble, and the roar,
As she dashes through woodland and skims along the shore!
See the mighty, rushing engine -- hear the merry bell ring out,
As they speed along in safety, on the "Great Rock Island Route"! 

In her crowded palace coaches
All is happiness and joy,
From the father and the mother
To the little girl and boy;
And a sweet look of contentment
From every face shines out --
For the people all are happy
On the "Great Rock Island Route".


Through darkest hour of midnight
Hear the rumble and the roar,
As she glides like bird of spring time
Past the humble cottage door;
On, on into the darkness,
With headlight streaming out
For the safety of the people
On the "Great Rock Island Route".


Through prairies, rich and fertile
With cities covered o'er;
On, through broad hills and valleys,
to the great Missouri's shore.
Her name's in every household;
'Tis known the world throughout,
So procure at once your tickets
By the "Great Rock Island Route".