Choo Choo Choo to Idaho

In 1950, MGM released a musical called the The Duchess of Idaho. Set mostly in Sun Valley, the romantic comedy starred swimmer Esther Williams (who skied as well as swam in the movie) and happy-go-lucky Van Johnson. This June 17, 1950 menu from the Los Angeles Limited shows Johnson and Williams cross-advertising the movie and Sun Valley.

Click image to download a 0.9-MB PDF of this menu.

The movie seems to be MGM’s response to the 1941 20th Century Fox musical, Sun Valley Serenade. The latter movie premiered Chattanooga Choo Choo, the first song ever to sell more than a million records. The song below, Choo Choo Choo to Idaho was nowhere near as successful, for good reason, but it has numerous nostalgic rail references.

If you have trouble seeing this video, go to the original video page or to Youtube and search for “Let’s choo choo choo to Idaho.”

The song’s main performer is Connie Haines, a popular big-band singer who was with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra for several years and whose part in the movie was otherwise fairly minor. She is backed up by the Jubalaires, a gospel quartet who have some of the best lines in the number. Van Johnson woodenly performs a couple of lines in the song, which is disappointing as the character he portrays is supposed to be a big-band leader but apparently can’t really sing or play an instrument.

Although the train they are riding would have to be the City of Portland, the streamliner that came closest to Sun Valley, the train shown at the beginning of the video is the Chicago & North Western 400. I’m told that the lounge car in the film also appears to be a C&NW car.

Here are the song’s lyrics as near as I can transcribe them.

Let’s choo choo choo choo choo choo choo to Idaho
C’mon let’s go, let’s choo choo choo to Idaho
So Mr. Engineer let’s hear that whistle blow
To let ’em know we’re on our way to Idaho

Hey, there fella, soon to be in Pocotella
Then Sun Valley, according to my Rand McNally
Tell them folks back home and shy
Tell them toodleloo good bye
Let’s choo choo choo choo choo choo choo to Idaho
C’mon let’s go, let’s choo choo choo to Idaho

What a trip, it’s terrific, on the Union Pacific
What a change from that covered wagon day

If those old 49ers had these up-to-date streamliners
They’d commute clear from Butte to Iowa

Hey there, porter, where was that Nebraska border?
Lay my suits out, get my spurs and western boots out
If I’m going West today, might as well go all the way
and choo choo choo to Idaho

Pardon me folks but if you ain’t observed
I’d like to announce that our dinner’s served
And glancing at the menu I’m prone to say
That the chef is cookin’ up a mess today
Now the full course dinner is a work of art
And I most highly recommend the a la carte

The dining car is open and its straight ahead
The first one there is the first one fed
It’s the custom here though it ain’t the rule
If you’re late then you wait in the vestibule

And folks on account of we aim to please
We’ve the latest and the greatest in facilities

Just got word from the engineer
The green light’s shining and the track is clear
We’re breaking every record and we ain’t surprised
For it’s a mighty locomotive and it’s Dieselized

It’s our policy to excel
and provide for the comforts of the clientele
So good people gather here today
We gotta lotta more that we’d like to say
But folks we’ve got to disembark
So we leave you now with this last remark
From the east to the west from coast to coast
The Union Pacific is a foremost

Let’s vacation in the great wild of the nation
Get your snow boots yes and get your eskimo suits
You can have your beach resorts
I’ll take good old winter sports
Let’s choo choo choo choo choo to Idaho

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