How to hop a freight train
May 8, 2007 8:37 AM   Subscribe

How do I hop a freight train? I've wanted to do this for years and I think this summer is going to be the one. Any info you can give me will be more than I know now. Most online sources are very secretive with specifics.

The big questions: How do I pick a spot to jump on? How do I know where the train is going? How do I avoid getting arrested? What routes are nothing but trouble?
posted by the jam to Travel & Transportation (50 answers total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
I read an awesome HOWTO at the graffiti forum a while back, but I don't see the search for non members atm...
posted by acro at 8:45 AM on May 8, 2007


Well, there are really two routes as I understand it. You can get on at the yard or try to jump on while the train is moving. The latter is incredibly dangerous from the standpoint of physics, the former from the standpoint of law. I would absolutely not try to jump on in a major city - I'd start in the sticks.

I think the optimal cling point is going to be outside the yard as the train is still working up speed (they're obviously very heavy and their top speed is about 55mph, iirc). My dad used to do this all the time in the late 70's, early 80's. He said the conductors were often lonely, and would want to chat give him something to eat.
posted by phrontist at 8:47 AM on May 8, 2007

Freight hoppers of the younger punk rock/anarchist variety are pretty secretive about their information, but there are published zine-type sources that have the "where is this train going" and "how do I find a good place to hop" information. Your best bet along these lines is to start hanging out at your local anarchist book collective or other mutual aid project [Food Not Bombs, Books to Prisoners] and start talking to people who have done this. If you're in or near any major metro area these people exist and once they're sure you're not a cop they're usually okay with sharing information.

In the meantime, track down, buy and read this book: The Freight-Hoppers Manual for North America by Daniel Leon.
posted by jessamyn at 8:49 AM on May 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

• Wikipedia: Freight Train Riders of America
An LA Times article from 1997
Two Trains Running by Lucius Shepard (reviews: 1, 2)
posted by mcwetboy at 8:49 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, don't do what I did, which was to hop aboard as the train was slowing down. Soon after that, it stopped. That's when the brakeman started walking along the tracks toward us, carrying a big stick. We got off & left. Rode for a grand total of about a half-mile.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:59 AM on May 8, 2007

I don't think this is the one I was remembering, but here's a primer for yard safety.
posted by acro at 9:00 AM on May 8, 2007

You might keep in mind that a lot of the resources people are mentioning come from pre-Homeland Security days. Train-people are way more uptight than they used to be.
posted by janell at 9:02 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ted Conover wrote a book on his experiences called Rolling Nowhere. This took place during his college years so what happened 20 or so years ago may not be as relevant today. In fact I distinctly remember him saying that it is far more difficult to ride the rails now then it was in the past.

As for how to get on, the author was initially confused as well about getting on the trains (he had the romantic visions of getting on the train as it was moving). After that, he always got on and off when the trains were stopped. As for where the trains were going, there is a whole transient/hobo culture that is very much up on this kind of thing and he met them where they camped out and where they interacted with a city's support services (shelters, churches, day labor pickup spots and so on). As you can imagine this can be dangerous if you aren't prepared since a lot of these people are very terrertorial, have some paranoia and some have some mental inbalances.

Also, the book also gave the impression that in general this was easier to do in the Western US than it is in the Eastern part of the country.
posted by mmascolino at 9:07 AM on May 8, 2007

Um, one tip I can offer: pay attention to what type of rail car you'll be jumping. They're not all the same, and the differences between them can get you killed (if, for example, you expect there to be a ledge you can land on at the end of that ladder, when there isn't).

...and stay out of the yards until you know how they work.

Oh, and don't wear long clothing that's liable to get caught in something at the most inopportune moment.
posted by aramaic at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2007

This previous thread included train-hopping advice.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:17 AM on May 8, 2007

I can't say I've ever hoped a train but I've spent many a month running next to them. At least near the tracks I run next to, the overwhelming majority of them had a regular schedule and most would spend a great deal of time at a full stop well outside of any railyard.

I really think it's a matter of spending sometime on recon and figuring out a good place to hop aboard.

I would also pay attention to what the train is carrying. Some of the cars may be filled with some rather unpleasant stuff.
posted by 517 at 9:22 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

don't do it, a friend of mine died this year trying it.
posted by magikker at 9:35 AM on May 8, 2007

An FPP I did on trainhopping. Lots of resources linked to in it and the comments.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:45 AM on May 8, 2007

it IS a distinctly dangerous hobby. if you're sure you want to try it, do your very best to find an experienced person to show you. reading and guessing is not a great substitute for that.
posted by lgyre at 9:52 AM on May 8, 2007

Never jump a moving train.


Even if it's moving really slowly. Even if it's hardly moving. Do not get on that train. Even if your pack is on there. Let the pack go. Let the train go. There will be another train.

I say this so strongly because someone in my circle lost both her feet this way.
posted by jennyjenny at 9:54 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've jumped on a few, mostly while I was spending summers in Lake Louise. There, the westbound trains are going fairly slowly up over the Rockies, usually with these hopper-type cars full of wheat from the Prairies or sulphur from who knows where, all bound for Vancouver. You'd wait for the last car and then sprint alongside it and grab for the end ladder. Once you got ahold of it it would just yank you along and you'd feel the full power of the train; the first time I did this I got a huge adrenaline rush . Then you pop a foot up onto the ladder and you're on. The reason we'd choose the last car is that it was pretty fool-proof - the ladder was behind the last set of wheels so if you did happen to slip off there'd be no danger. Under the hopper at the end was a place to sit. I'd only ever go a few k's then jump off again, although friends of mine went all the way through the spiral tunnels and on to Golden BC... If you wanted to you could have gone all the way to Vancouver I guess.
Not sure if this technique would work for your classic hobo freight car though, although I have seen those going really slowly and with open doors so maybe you could hop right up and inside without much trouble.
Another time my roommate and his buddy went in to Calgary to go to the Stampede, and they jumped a train leaving the main Calgary yard (which is right by the Stampede grounds, I think that's what gave them the idea). Thing was this train was travelling pretty light and didn't have to slow down at Lake Louise. Gilles had to jump off at speed, resulting in a tumble that left him with road rash right up one side - it was not a pretty sight.
Out west I think it's pretty unambiguous where trains are going - especially Canada where there's only two lines, one CN and one CP, just linking the major cities. A good map showing the lines should be all you need, plus just keep an open mind about where you're going and when you need to get there.
And don't try and jump on a moving train, unless it's either going really really slowly (and it isn't raining) or if you can grab the end ladder clear of any nastiness below

By the way there was an amazing documentary about this on TVO (televison Ontario) a while back; there is still a subculture of people who do this.
posted by Flashman at 10:04 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I say this so strongly because someone in my circle lost both her feet this way.

We either know the same person, or this is not a rare occurence at all.
posted by jessamyn at 10:05 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Alright alright, DON"T EVER jump on a moving train. (My friends and I are climbers- I guess pretty strong and confident about grabbing things)
posted by Flashman at 10:06 AM on May 8, 2007


It's dangerous but lots of things are dangerous. All in all I don't think train hopping is particularly difficult or dangerous. But I can't imagine reading books will really help. It's not anything complicated, really it's mostly a matter of instinct and timing and a good bit of recklessness. But it's not the sort of thing you should try by yourself or with your inexperienced friends. Find somebody to teach you and watch them do it before you try anything yourself.

How do I avoid getting arrested?

Don't worry so much about getting arrested. Most likely you'll be asked to get off and nothing will come of it -- this is with the train stopped of course. Worst case scenario you'll get an over-eager citizen arrest type in which case just surrender, don't resist, and be prepared to spend a few hours detained and pay a fine or three.
posted by nixerman at 10:15 AM on May 8, 2007

holy shit FTRA
posted by yonation at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2007

You need to read Hopping Freight Trains In America by Duffy Littlejohn. I've read and researched a lot about freight hopping, and I found his book to be far and away the best. It's very specific, including a catalog of all the common types of rolling stock (train cars, etc), which to prefer and which to avoid.

The Freighthopper's Manual for North America was written in 1979, it's pretty thin and in my opinion outdated. Hopping Freight Trains has been updated since September 11, and is five times as long. You can find a copy here.

Ultimately, I never did end up hopping any freight myself, but I remain strongly enamored of the idea. I concluded that I would only try it if I could get a more experienced person to show me the ropes. If the opportunity ever presents itself, maybe I'll give it a shot.
posted by autojack at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2007

As a warning, the door on a boxcar can cut you in half if it slams on you. Believe me, my father was a conductor for 30 years, he was the one that gets to find stupid kids who think taunting a freight train is fun.

Don't worry so much about getting arrested. Most likely you'll be asked to get off and nothing will come of it -- this is with the train stopped of course. Worst case scenario you'll get an over-eager citizen arrest type in which case just surrender, don't resist, and be prepared to spend a few hours detained and pay a fine or three.

Railroad police, or yard bulls, are notorious for their abuse of trespassers. Trainyards are private property and can be very very dangerous places for people who don't know what is going on.

As well, the land next to train tracks is federal property, get caught and you are trespassing on federal lands. They don't just let you go with a warning.
posted by rabbitsnake at 10:39 AM on May 8, 2007

(this is all advice I can give you having been in a train loving subculture of crusty punks, and it's all west coast based, but it should still be helpful. Hopping trains is a thrill, doubly so when you're young, drunk, and reckless)

How do I pick a spot to jump on? How do I know where the train is going? How do I avoid getting arrested? What routes are nothing but trouble?

If you really, really want to experience the thrill of hopping on the fly, you need to look for a sharp bend in the tracks. The traditional place in Portland, Oregon for trains going south is underneath the steel bridge, right after the freight trains have slowly crawled past an Amtrak station. It's dangerous, but you can even hop drunk once you're experienced enough if the train is going slowly enough. People do die doing that, though. DO NOT HOP ON THE FLY THE FIRST TIME YOU RIDE. DO NOT HOP ON THE FLY ALONE.

The best way to start is to get yourself a copy of a 2007 or 2008 crew change guide (ask your local hobo kids - they're usually acquired from helpful UP workers and photocopied and passed around. I might have a 2007 one at my house if you really can't find one). The crew change, much like the name suggests, lists the different places trains stop in order to change crews every 8 hours. This'll tell you where you can get on safely without hopping on the fly, and where you might reasonably be able to get off.

As for where a train is going, ask a yard worker. They usually don't give a shit about the hobos as long as you're not threatening, and quite a few of them rode trains when they were younger. After you ask, hide well in the yard until the train starts getting coupled. It'll sound like the apocalypse in the form of several dozen iron railcars banging into each other, you can't miss it. If the yardworker is a jerk and calls the the railroad police (commonly called "the bull"), you can be arrested for trespassing. The bull will almost certainly beat the crap out of you because you are just a filthy hobo and what are you going to do about it? Avoid Klamath Falls, Oregon for this reason, the cop down there is sadistic. Lemme repeat this again: trainhopping is illegal, I know very few people who haven't been arrested for trespassing, and warrents will be issued if you do not go back to the county you are caught in and either pay the ticket or, in some cases, deal with the court case and whatever jail time you get.

* If you happen to be in a boxcar, wedge a rock into the rail where the doors slide. The doors do not open from the inside.
* If you sleep in a boxcar (good luck! I never could. It's cold, uncomfortable, and noisy in there), sleep with your feet pointed towards the front of the train. If it stops quickly and you slide, a broken leg is better than a broken neck.
* You can easily fit into the hole at the end of a grainer.

Some of the larger yards are very bad places to get off in. Chicago, for instance, is covered in infrared cameras and heat sensors. Don't get off in Chicago. You're better off in most towns getting off in smaller yards and walking or hitchhiking to the city.

Don't even think about riding in the northern part of the country in fall or winter without a subzero sleeping bag and an ability to accept the risk of freezing to death.

Yeah, the best advice I can really give you is: don't do this alone your first time out. Find someone you trust to show you the ropes first. Read Evasion and make friends with some kids who already know how to do it.
posted by cmonkey at 10:41 AM on May 8, 2007 [28 favorites]

Huh. My grandfather and some of my grand-uncles used to hop the freight back in Depression times. When I learned of this, I made the mistake of referring to that practice as "riding the rails", and he got indignant. He said that phrase referred to the tactic of perching on part of the undercarriage of a car, and that only the lowest of the low were reduced to such an extremity.

Upon research, I see he meant "riding the rods".
posted by Midnight Creeper at 10:47 AM on May 8, 2007

First off, no one with any sense jumps on a moving car. In the years when I did this I never once saw anyone try this. That's just garbage from the movies. So don't do it.

You get on the train in the yards when they are stopped. I'm sure things have changed now but I used to go into the freight office and ask the dispatcher which track and what time for a train to my destination. I doubt you could do that anymore, but you might try it.

You can also ask the workers in the yards. Remember that they are just regular folks -- some are nice and some are jerks. Never approach a worker from behind. They are liable to whack you in the head with their lantern or radio. Let them see you from a long ways as you approach and talk to them in a friendly manner from a distance as you approach. They get a lot of criminals and mental cases in the yards and you need to differentiate yourself from them in a friendly, non-threatening way, especially at night.

The friendliest railroads are in the northwest. Avoid the east and especially the south. I can tell you from experience that cracker jails are not fun.

If you need to get to the track on the other side of a train, never crawl under a car. Never step on the coupling between cars if you value your feet. Most cars have a narrow platform on the ends that you can cross. Be aware that a train can start moving at any moment and send you tumbling.

Look for a boxcar with two open doors so that you get a view from both sides. These may be rare. If one door is open, you may be able to go to the other door and use a pair of dikes to cut the tag on the lock and open the other door. Only do this if the one door is open and the car is obviously empty. Otherwise you could be arrested for breaking and entering. be aware that if caught, having a pair of dikes in your possession could be incriminating.

Avoid open cars like flatcars, gondolas or car carriers. Even if the temperature is in the 70s, you will be freezing cold after a few hours of wind whipping by at 60 mph.

Stay away from trains that are carrying new automobiles. If there is one thing the bulls are on the lookout for, it is people boosting radios on the car carriers. Don't even go near them. There are always security personnel around.

Boxcars get banged about violently so some people are paranoid about the doors sliding shut and locking them in. There are cases of people baking in the sun for days in a locked car. Some people jam the door track with a brake shoe to prevent this. You can find brake shoes lying all over in the yards along the tracks.

Don't jump into a car without inspecting it carefully. Some cars are very dirty. When you get up to speed all that dirt flies around like a sandblaster. Regardless expect to get filthy. There is a reason for the caricature of the dirty faced bum.

Make sure you have plenty of water. You could be on that car for a very long time. The traditional choice is a gallon plastic milk jug. Finding water, both to drink and to wash up are major concerns for hoboes. It's something you think about all the time. There is a reason bums are dirty.

Empty boxcars bounce around very violently. So violently that it can be hard to sit down. Some people end up squatting all day instead of getting their backside bruised. The traditional mattress is thick piles of cardboard, both to keep you cleaner and for cushioning. I always took along one of those mesh hammocks that roll up to the size of a softball. Put about 10 feet of nylon rope on each end. Then you can string it up diagonally from one wall to the other. Don't string it directly from side to side or you will find youself doing loop-de-loops.

Take earplugs. The noise is deafening.

Try to stay out of sight when going through towns. People in cars stopped at the crossings will see you and may call the cops. Be aware that you are legally trespassing any time you are on railroad property -- in a car, standing in the yards, on the tracks. On the whim of some railroad worker having a bad day, you can end up in jail.

If you are in a hurry going someplace, don't take the train. I've hitchhiked from coast to coast in three days. On freights it can take more than a week. You take the freights for the journey, not the destination.

Given all this, it can be quite fun -- or at least is was back in the day. There's nothing like standing in the 15 foot wide door of a boxcar, humping along at 70 mph, taking a leak across a mile of Nebraska prairie. Crossing the Rocky Mountains on a freight with wide open doors will give views you won't see from an automobile or even a passenger train.
posted by JackFlash at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2007 [44 favorites]

Oh yeah:

* Bring one of those hand-cranked flashlights with you. A friend of mine passed out in what he thought was a car full of recycling and woke up with maggots all over him because -surprise- it was a garbage car.

* Avoid military trains at all costs. They have armed guards and you don't want that kind of trouble.

* You'll come across some really fucked up people in the jungles. Avoid those and keep to yourself unless you really like trouble.
posted by cmonkey at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2007

Met someone who did this sort of thing - one tip he gave was to always bring at least 2 gallons of water, since you might be stuck on the train for a few days once you get on.
posted by yohko at 11:38 AM on May 8, 2007

My Dad, full of excitement during his first winter break at Reed (at the tender age of 16, no less) hopped a freight train to visit his family in Southern California. He's a mountaineer, and rode the train with all of his climbing gear, and despite wearing 3 wool sweaters, jacket, and "every other thing I had" he says that he nearly froze to death as the train climbed through the mountains. He doesn't regret doing it, but suggests you discern the route of the train in advance and wear appropriate clothing.
posted by arnicae at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2007

You'll come across some really fucked up people in the jungles

Jungles = ?
inner city area?
posted by zek at 11:59 AM on May 8, 2007

Sorry, jungles are hobo camps that are usually made near, but out of sight of, the tracks.
posted by cmonkey at 12:01 PM on May 8, 2007

Hop on when the tracks make a sharper curve. The train has to slow down for curves so it should be easier. If you are on the outside of the curve it is much less dangerous and the engineers won't be able to see you in their mirrors. Run parallel with the train and hop in the nearest open car door. Don't try to jump a ladder, you want to be inside a freight car.
posted by JJ86 at 12:47 PM on May 8, 2007

Very very carefully. Not to be a downer, but a good friend of mine in college died attempting to jump a train. It was with my roommate at the time, who's obviously been plagued with guilt ever since...
posted by svenx at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2007

Also ... stay away from Amtrak equipment, right-of-ways, yards, personnel, and anything else related to passenger service. I have known people who work for Amtrak, and in general as an organization, they seem to despise train jumpers even more than the freight people do. (And post-9/11, they're all paranoid as hell, for good reason.)

Amtrak has their own police, who are actual Federal law-enforcement officers, with guns and everything else, but who will also not hesitate to beat the tar out of you before or in lieu of arresting you. (I have heard that they are bigger on arrests and less on beatings recently, but YMMV.) Do not mess with them.

Also not mentioned so far ... I would be very wary of walking around in a working freight yard. If you do decide to do something foolish like that, be careful where you step, and walk where the yard workers walk; in particular stay away from switches. Modern yards are highly automated and I can imagine it wouldn't be hard to get killed in one. If you've never seen a train cut up and sorted in a "hump yard," it's worth watching (in Selkirk NY there is a bridge where the railfans hang out where you can watch it), just to have an idea of what you're dealing with. There's a whole lot of mass in motion, and you're not going to last long if you're in the wrong place.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:50 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bulls on the major freight lines are also bona fide law enforcement officers.

I imagine the INS has a presence on southwestern routes.
posted by ryanrs at 3:50 PM on May 9, 2007

If you've ever wondered how kids get their legs cut off, think about how one climbs out of a swimming pool. You might attempt to board a box car in a similar manner. But imagine lifting yourself out of a pool without the benefit of bouyancy, and the wall of the pool, and while wearing a backpack. You end up hanging onto the ledge by your armpits, legs dangling free under the moving car. Most kids probably hold on for many minutes, until their arms tire.
posted by ryanrs at 4:07 PM on May 9, 2007

for a sense of just how dirty train-hopping can be, check out the photos of the polaroid kid. specifically numbers 1, 2, 10 and 21.
posted by antitext at 6:08 PM on May 9, 2007 [8 favorites]

You should be very, very worried about the gangs that ride the rails. I think it's not as bad as it used to be, but some of the groups riding the rails are some tough customers. Robbery, rape, murder, you name it. I read an article a few years ago about the various gangs on the rails (there's a term for them that I can't remember), and it was a very chilling read. These folks are about as off the radar as a person can be, and lots of these crimes go unreported.
posted by zardoz at 7:44 PM on May 9, 2007

Meta'd - cause its a great question.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:55 PM on May 9, 2007

This from a kid who grew up next to some trax.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:56 PM on May 9, 2007

A friend and I hopped trains a bunch of times when I was in college. I learned, early on, that you have to be very careful jumping off a train. After the train has been going full-speed, the slower speeds can tempt you to jump off, but keep in mind, the train may be going faster than it appears --- it just feels slow because you were going seventy miles an hour just a minute ago.

We jumped off a train that seemed to be going slowly, and damn we hit the gravel hard. Imagine bloody palms, torn clothes, bloody knees ... you get the picture.

We had some really interesting experiences riding trains. Once when a train stopped in the middle of nowhere, we walked up to the engine to ask, "When are you taking off again," and the engineer didn't mind that we were riding the train. In fact, he let us ride in the engine just behind his ... saying, "if anyone finds you back here, I don't know you're here."
posted by jayder at 9:04 PM on May 9, 2007

Great link to the rail photos antitext, but why are so many of those hobo kids attractive? What's the deal? Are they on vacation from the real life of mom and dad's house?

They seem like regular old crust punks, but ++dirty.
posted by splatta at 9:11 PM on May 9, 2007

I've removed bodies from railroad tracks. Not pretty. Be careful.
posted by ColdChef at 9:23 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I didn't see this site linked here.
posted by Eideteker at 3:59 AM on May 10, 2007

I've read that if the train is about to go into a very long tunnel, you have to jump off or get into an enclosed area of the train. The exhaust from the train can fill the tunnel and suffocate you.

(This is from a memoir in which one of the characters is a "street punk" who rides trains across the country, so I'm not sure how accurate it is, but it seemed not-obvious enough and important enough to mention.)
posted by chickletworks at 10:01 AM on May 10, 2007

I've read that if the train is about to go into a very long tunnel, you have to jump off or get into an enclosed area of the train. The exhaust from the train can fill the tunnel and suffocate you.

Not true. I've ridden the 8-mile Cascade Tunnel over Stevens Pass near Seattle. It gets smoky but nothing that will kill you. After all, the engineer and conductor are all riding with you through the same tunnel. (Many trains no longer have a conductor or caboose, just an electronic black box sitting on the last coupler.) There are enormous fans that blow fresh air into the tunnel to clear it out between trains, which can pass through about every 30 minutes. They have enormous doors on the tunnel entrances that they close so that they can create a pressure gradient to push air through the tunnel.

Now if the train gets stalled in the tunnel for some reason and the engines continue to run for some time, that could be a problem and the crew carry emergency breathing devices, but this would be very unlikely. Some tunnels have emergency air tanks stashed at regular intervals in the tunnels for emergency. But under normal circumstances, you just ride right through.

The diesel smoke and tunnels are one of the reasons that virtually everything you touch on a train will turn your hands black. The grim just builds up over the years and the freight cars are never washed.
posted by JackFlash at 11:55 AM on May 10, 2007

Okay, a little late to put in what I know but I'll do so for posterity:

Someone I know was (and, as far as I know, still is) a hobo and has traveled on the rails a lot. I don't know how experienced they were, but one of their friends got their leg badly damaged (I dunno, maybe ripped off) when trying to take a dump off the train while it was moving.

After that, they all took craps in plastic bags and hurled them off the train.

So, um, yeah. Make sure to bring some plastic bags with you.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:20 PM on May 10, 2007

I'm really late on this. But I did this in college (because my grandfathers told stories about doing it in the depression, and the freight trains stopped a block from my dorm) and it was really cool -- I rode about 150 miles on an open flatcar, in the warm summer night, looking into the lighted up windows in people's houses, and waving to kids at crossings. And then I made that classic mistake of wanting to get off when I got to my destination and thinking, "oh, the train is going pretty slow, I'll just jump off."

And the train wasn't going all that slow, and I got pretty chewed up by the gravel. But that was ok -- it was just like a pretty good bike crash. What I still, more than 15 years later, have nightmares about is looking over when I hit the ground and seeing the steel wheels rumbling by a few inches from my hand and foot. Had I tumbled slightly differently, the cuts from the gravel would have been the least of my worries.

So the advice to not jump on and off while the train is moving is pretty good advice. So is the advice about wearing warm clothes and carrying water. Some friends (also in college -- the freight yard was so close, and so tempting...) hopped a train. But somewhere north of the California border, the train pulled onto a siding, and just stopped. My friends stayed there for hours, then walked up to ask the crew what was up, and found that the crew had gone home. Maybe mechanical problems? Or just a scheduled stopping of the train? Either way, they had a really long walk in the rain, and then lots of hitchhiking, to get where they were going. In colder weather, or in a more isolated location, their little adventure could have been a lot more problematic.
posted by Forktine at 8:56 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

cmonkey wrote: The bull will almost certainly beat the crap out of you because you are just a filthy hobo and what are you going to do about it? Avoid Klamath Falls, Oregon for this reason, the cop down there is sadistic.

My impression was that the Klamath Falls bull (Roger?) took pride in rooting out hobos traveling through his yard. He also likes writing tickets. Of course these habits make him a real pain in the ass, but I've never heard of him beating people. Did you hear this from a reputable source or just 'some guy'? If it's mentioned in the guide, well that sucks.
posted by ryanrs at 1:01 PM on May 13, 2007

A family friend hopped a train in Leeds, Alabama in 1985. He lived near a tunnel entrance and always wanted to ride through the long tunnel. The train was moving slowly upon entering the tunnel but too fast to jump off when it exited on the other side of the mountain. He had to ride all the way to Opelika before hopping off. He called us and my stepdad found him and he spent the night with us. We drove him to the interstate the next morning and he hitched back to Leeds.

I was 16 and thought he was the coolest. Still do.
posted by JoLo at 12:42 AM on May 14, 2007


these are words to continue living by
posted by frecklefaerie at 3:45 AM on July 20, 2007

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