Freight trains and the lore of hopping freights /2010/11/08/freight-trains-and-the-lore-of-hopping-freights/

Freight trains and the lore of hopping freights

/2010/10/27/full-disclosure-on-rajneesh/comment-page-1/#comment-36753

Sorry for delay in posting your comment: didn’t notice it on the dashboard.

Riding freight trains is an ancient American practice, and if it survives it is because the employers in the California/Arizona truck farms make sure they can get plenty of workers at key points of the year. Farmhands, now many of them Mexican, get a free ride, no problem, at many times of the year. That hyprocrisy makes it hard to fully police the train yards, which are immense zones with all kinds of hiding places. One sheriff in a pickup soon gives up and goes through the motions. I have seen hobos ride car rigs with brand new cars, turning on the heaters, without getting caught. The logistics of policing such immense industrial yards makes it impossible to stop hobos.

And the logic of the situation makes it counterproductive to succeed: a hobo about to catch a freight is one less ‘unsavory character’ on your beat. Why arrest someone about to leave town. So the schizophrenic mood of enforcement is all in favor of someone’s using a freight train to get out of local jurisdiction.
The same for the apple harvest in Washington, and, and….When you add up all the labor zones that need cheap transport at various harvest periods, you have most of the West covered.

That this is the case can be seen from the way that Union Pacific is close to hobo free while Southern Pacific is totally laid back on the question. So the authorities could stop the practice, more or less, but the economic result would be counterproductive. Arizona has thousands upon thousands of tiny truck farm strips, run behind the scenes by Big Ag corporations, and vegetable patch parcels that take a lot of cheap labor to maintain, and the availability of cheap labor is essential. It takes twenty to thirty men a day with hoes (I recall the now outlawed short handle hoes for this, horrible) to weed a strip. The work has to be done, can’t be automated, or the crop will fail. You wouldn’t see lettuce in supermarkets without the open freight trains.
The authorities have tried a massive number of times to stop the practice of freight hopping, and there were even periods in the nineteenth century when railroad agents opned fire on riders. But they have never to my knowledge suceeded in stopping the practice, which became an American institution during the Great Depression.
Amateurs get caught, but decided freight hoppers can easily get away with free rides, hiding in the front hole of a grain car, for example…., and many other hard to stop practices.

The surveillance issue could change at any moment with new technology, but in general the railroad agents (‘bulls’) have a hard time policing large freight yards where riders hide until the crucial moment.

Rail riders are too clever for the practice to fully stop. This was a few decades ago, so I don’t know.
The union men on the trains are often sympathetic, also, and I have ridden in the back locomotive in a double/triple engine lien in the end cabin of the front section (nicely heated in winter) while the crew was aware of my presence.
They are unarmed workers, and as long as there is nothing they must see they see nothing.
You learn about these things by going down to the outer sectors of a rail yard and talking to the guys there waiting, sometimes for days on end. They will have all the current info, viz, the bulls are active here ‘this month and so…’, etc…
In general, especially during recessions/depressions, people hit the rails looking for work. I don’t know if this is still the case.

MBFM
66.81.240.202 2010/11/05 at 9:20 am
Nemo, you are so fortunate that you survived your freight train journey. Ive never done anything of the sort, but have read a small section in Abby Hoffman’s Steal This Book describing how to hop freight trains. (Note today one probably cannot do it, survaillance is tighter)

1) Watch out for the bull who supervises the yard

2) Choose your car carefully–open cars get ferociously cold at night and if one doesnt have enough warm clothing and food, death by hypothermia is possible.

3) Beware of cattlecars or anything too close to where smoke comes in from the engine.

4) A door pin can break loose, shutting the car and trapping you inside.

5) Journey is bumpy and noisy.

6) Dangerous as fuck to jump onto or off a moving car

Be able to defend yourself if you discover you are in unsavory company and the unsavory company decides to try and include you in their chaos.

Takes cojones grande and good health to ride freight–and you had a real adventure, not a virtual one.

Nemo, you are so fortunate that you survived your freight train journey. Ive never done anything of the sort, but have read a small section in Abby Hoffman’s Steal This Book describing how to hop freight trains. (Note today one probably cannot do it, survaillance is tighter)

1) Watch out for the bull who supervises the yard

2) Choose your car carefully–open cars get ferociously cold at night and if one doesnt have enough warm clothing and food, death by hypothermia is possible.

3) Beware of cattlecars or anything too close to where smoke comes in from the engine.

4) A door pin can break loose, shutting the car and trapping you inside.

5) Journey is bumpy and noisy.

6) Dangerous as fuck to jump onto or off a moving car

Be able to defend yourself if you discover you are in unsavory company and the unsavory company decides to try and include you in their chaos.

Takes cojones grande and good health to ride freight–and you had a real adventure, not a virtual one.
MBFM
1

Your listed points are good:
1. I have spoken of the bulls already. Usually they have given up, with important exceptions. Never go into a yard exposed until you get the lowdown from hobos at the edges. A yard can be hot for a while, then cool off, as the bulls tire. Also, it costs small towns a lot of money to put one hobo in jail if the judge gives him thirty days, so mostly they chase you away, and you wait, and try again.
2. The right car can be crucial, and open box cars are the best. But the end of a grain car is also good, as is the hole in rear. Keeping an eye on the doors is absolutely vital. A closed door is a calamity if you are inside. They might not open the car for months.
3. The smoke is a problem, but diesel locomotives are not so bad at this point.
……
Moving freight trains are dangerous, and every year people get hurt. It is made more dangerous by the need to hide until a train starts to move, when the hobos run to jump on.

The question of cold is a vintage issue with hobos, who preen their ‘bedrolls’ ad infinitum. Crossing the rockies in winter is a NO, but people still do it anyway, too often because they are drunk, too often to their regret. A good sleeping bag is a precious possession, and usually gets stolen sooner or later.

You need to know what you are doing if you ride freights in winter.

Go snooping the bushes in any rail head and you will find a bag there somewhere. The owners don’t like to walk through town with a sleeping bag. It is a bit often you are not properly socialized. Or else they got drunk, forgot where they hid it, and jumped a freight without a bag.

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