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Although its origins are unknown, the song was relatively popular during the 1920s as a religious tune, and it became a gospel hit in the late 1930s for singer-guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe. After switching from acoustic to electric guitar, Tharpe released a more secular version of the song in the early 1950s, a recording that is considered one of the precursors of rock 'n roll.
The song's popularity was also due in part to the influence of folklorists John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, who discovered the song while making field recordings in the American South in the early 1930s and included it in folk song anthologies that were published in 1934 and 1960. These anthologies brought the song to the attention of an even broader audience during the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s.
The song provided the inspiration for the title of Woody Guthrie's autobiographical novel Bound for Glory. Sister Rosetta Tharpe's 1950s version of "This Train" was featured as a selection on Bob Dylan's XM Satellite Radio program Theme Time Radio Hour, during its first season in 2006–2007. The song, which was played on Show 46, "More Trains", was later released on The Best of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, Volume 1 on the Chrome Dreams label. Many, many artists have covered the song including Woody Guthrie, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Pete Seeger, The Seekers, Mahalia Jackson, etc. For more info check out Wikipedia.