Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Briefly explain these four unusual terms:

  • Navvy (not ‘navy’): they are people or workers that work under the railway in poor working conditions
  • Muskeg:  A muskeg is a swamp formed by an accumulation of moss or leaves.
  • St. Lawrence: St. Lawrence is a North American river that flows into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and North Atlantic
  • Gaspe: It is a city of eastern Quebec, Canada.


1. Describe why and when Lightfoot composed this song?

Lightfoot composed this song in 1967 to describe “the efforts and sorrows of the nameless and forgotten navies whose manual labour actually built the railway.” (Wikipedia)


2. Explain what this song celebrates?

This song celebrates the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway.


3. Describe the form (structure) of the song.

The form of the music is very catchy because the music and lyrics are very simple and repetitive , it can be very easy for the listeners to remember and in a very traditional fashion.  In the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, it starts out fast and strong, then it becomes slower and then it gradually becomes loud again.

4. The use of acoustic instruments is typical to Lightfoot’s songs. Describe the instrumentation. Explain why you think he has chosen this combination.

In Canadian Railroad Trilogy, acoustic instruments such as 12 string, the lead acoustic guitar, fender bass and the harmonica are used to create different effects. In my opinion, the reason why he chose this combination is that these instruments are a part of traditional of Canadian culture and since his song is about his experience in Canada, this combination of instruments would make sense.


5. Identify the region(s) of Canada that this song celebrates.

This song celebrates creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway.


6. Analyse what makes this a successful example of a Canadian folk song.

This song is a successful example of Canadian folk song because it reflects on the lives of many Canadian people (railway workers) . Another reason why the song is famous perhaps is because the combination of Gordon Lightfoot’s voice and the background music sounds very pleasing.


7. Explain why Canadians could have a personal connection with this song.

Canadians could have a personal connection with this song because talks about the life of a railway worker and some of the Canadians grew up with this piece of music


8. Do you think people living in the west would have a stronger personal connection than the people living in the east? Argue your point.

No, since the railway was originally built between eastern Canada, people there would have a better connection since it was the place that this grand accomplishment first took place. This means that people from eastern Canada will actually see the whole development of the railway which is something to be proud of.

Leave a Reply