The song came first. Let there be no doubt whatsoever as to that fact. Hoboes and folk musicians had been singing about a mythical and magical train which would carry them, "From the great Atlantic Ocean, to the wide Pacific shore..." since the late 19th century. But after The Carter Family, Roy Acuff, and others sung the tune to the top of the charts in the mid-1930s, the management of the perenially struggling Wabash Railroad belatedly realized that they had a potential public relations gold mine on their hands. And so at some point in early 1950 the Wabash's daytime express train between St. Louis and Detroit was renamed from the Detroit Special (eastbound) and the St. Louis Special (westbound) to—drum roll and banjo licks, please—the Wabash Cannon Ball

From the pages of the Official Guide, December 1952

Wabash RR "Follow the Flag" herald

The "Wabash Cannon Ball"

Wabash Railroad Company
September 28, 1952

4 Train Number 1
Daily Miles Services Daily
9 00A Dp 0.0 St. Louis, MO (Union Station) (CT) C R Ar 5 05P
9 13A 5.6 St. Louis, MO (Delmar Blvd.) C 4 41P
F 9 37A 8.3 Granite City, IL C F 4 15P
9 53A 21.8 Edwardsville, IL C F 4 01P
10 25A 52.3 Litchfield, IL C 3 27P
10 58A 84.8 Taylorville, IL C 2 55P
11 31A Ar 113.2 Decatur, IL C Dp 2 27P
11 36A Dp Ar 2 22P
F12 03P 140.2 Ivesdale, IL
F12 09P 146.3 Sadorus, IL
12 17P 150.8 Tolono, IL (Champaign/Urbana via bus) C 1 43P
F12 24P 156.6 Philo, IL
F12 29P 161.2 Sidney, IL
F12 36P 167.3 Homer, IL C
F12 43P 174.1 Fairmount, IL
F12 51P 181.0 Catlin, IL
1 09P 187.1 Danville, IL C R 1 01P
1 39P 209.0 Williamsport, IN 12 28P
1 45P 211.9 Attica, IN C 12 21P
2 16P 233.3 Lafayette, IN C 11 55A
2 39P 250.1 Delphi, IN C 11 26A
3 09P 270.3 Logansport, IN C 11 00A
3 31P Ar 286.2 Peru, IN C Dp 10 35A
3 36P Dp Ar 10 30A
3 59P 299.9 Wabash, IN C 10 10A
4 15P 312.5 Andrews, IN
4 29P 318.3 Huntington, IN C 9 46A
5 02P Ar 342.3 Ft. Wayne, IN (CT) C Dp 9 17A
5 15P Dp Ar 9 07A
7 06P Ar 391.9 Montpelier, OH (ET) C Dp 9 17A
7 09P Dp Ar 9 15A
7 48P 429.6 Adrian, MI C 8 39A
8 55P Ar 488.8 Detroit, MI (Union Sta., Fort & 3rd St) (ET) C R Dp 7 35A

Train 4 (St. Louis-Detroit): 27 stops, 10:55, 44.8 MPHTrain 1 (Detroit-St. Louis): 19 stops, 10:30, 46.6 MPH

Observation Parlor Car, Drawing-room (Pullman) [No. 20].
Dining-Lounge Car (Radio).
Chair Cars, Reclining Seats.

Observation Parlor Car, Drawing-room (Pullman) [No. 21].
Dining-Lounge Car (Radio).
Chair Cars, Reclining Seats.

NOTE—Wabash tickets reading to or from Champaign and Urbana will be honored via the Illini Coach Co. through Tolono, also all baggage checked under usual rules will be handled on through checks between above points without extra charge.

The Wabash Cannon Ball would continue to bear the Wabash name even after the 1964 merger into Norfolk and Western, surviving all the way up to the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.