“Freight Train” is an American folk song written by Elizabeth Cotten in the early 20th century, and popularized during the period of the 1950s and 1960s. By Cotten’s own account in 1985, she composed â€œFreight Trainâ€ as a teenager (sometime between 1906 and 1912), inspired by the sound of the trains rolling in on the tracks near her home in North Carolina.
A self-taught left-handed guitarist, Cotten developed her own original style. She played the guitar strung for a right-handed player, but played it upside down, as she was left-handed. This position required her to play the bass lines with her fingers and the melody with her thumb. Her signature alternating bass style has become known as “Cotten picking”.