Yup I hopped trains

YanceyGreenhorn

Still Not a Moderator
@KrisB figured I’d make a different post since that retirement thread was good and I didn’t wanna....DERAIL it. See what I did there? I describe it as some of the best worst times of my life. Nothing like being in a hobo jungle fighting with 8 other people. Maybe you knew em. Maybe not. Sometimes you were protecting your life, sometimes you were too drunk to remember what the fight was about. I’ve woken up to guys trying to throw me off a moving train. I’ve beaten someone up for trying to throw an older person off a moving train, just to find out the older feller was a more violent A hole than the aggressor lol. You wanna talk about weird politics and unspoken rules and different factions...that world is full of em. I actually still have my highly coveted “crew change guide.” Buncha old riders compiled a book that lists every single spot in the U.S. where a train stops to change one crew for another. Usually an opportune time to get on a stopped train instead of risking falling and getting your legs cut off by a moving one(know 2 people personally that had that happen). The chick I was with (hard to really consider it “dating” in that realm) got off a stopped train in the middle of the night to get water, went to cross another set of tracks and got splattered by an Amtrak coming the other way at top speed. So yeah, it’s sketchy. But anyways , the only way to acquire this “crew change guide” was from a member of the FTRA(Freight Train Riders of America). Like any other fringe group, there was all kinds of weird factions and cliques within this group . Pretty sure there’s a buncha news articles and stuff on YouTube about them. I met a few who were really decent guys. Vietnam vets that just traveled town to town and worked and wanted to be left alone. But by the early 2000s, the whole thing became overwhelmingly violent. Lots of folks on the run, mentally insane people, career criminals...but always violent. And since everyone is constantly bouncing around the country, there’s no way to remain organized. It was THE definition of a 💩 show. Eventually it didn’t matter who was considered part of this group or not . Everyone was more or less unhinged. I never claimed membership to that group, as I thought the whole thing was dumb. But nevertheless, you’d either cross paths with some that wanted to fight you because you weren’t part of FTRA, or because they heard thru the grapevine that your were falsely claiming to be part of that group. It was absurd and super juvenile. Just so happened that was overshadowed by violence. It got to the point that if you had a gal traveling with you and you ran into another group of male freight hoppers and they didn’t have a woman with them , it was safer to assume they were gonna try to beat you up or kill you and rape the girl. So no matter what, there’d be a fight initially . Afterwards you might find out that they’re nice people and everyone gets along lol. Point being, I ran into a group of these guys one time and they were doing their usual “I’m gonna ask you questions to see if I think you’re a legitimate hardcore train hopper or not” bull crap. All was good until one guy asked if I was trying to fight him and I said no. So he said I might as well fight him because he was gonna hit me either way. So I hit him first and we fought and I choked him out. He was a much bigger dude than me and when all was said and done he started laughing and thought it was funny that I swung on him first even tho I told him I didn’t wanna fight. Anyway he was one of these FTRA fellers and seemed to know everyone so at some point I had one of these guys give me the 2006 crew change guide. There was a whole bizarre speech and ceremony and they would kill me if I handed it down to someone without permission blah blah blah. So my wife framed it for me and it’s hanging up next to our bed. Every time I look at that thing it’s a reminder to the time I pissed away because I was such a lost human being. Besides drugs and booze, I have a lot of friends who are dead from falling off trains, getting thrown from trains, or some other form of violence that goes with that lifestyle. My one buddy stopped some guys from raping a drunk woman, and the next day the guys found his camp and beat his head in with a cinder block.

So that’s why I’m so insistent on living my quiet little life here. I don’t ever wish I was somewhere else. I don’t like being around loud mouth drunken parties where folks wanna coerce you into wrestling or bare knuckle boxing with them. I did that :donk:donk:donk:donk daily for years. I love the country and could do without being in another city for the rest of my life. Nope, I wouldn’t miss the different cultures or food or sight seeing. If you’ve seen that movie “Into the Wild” with Emil Hersh, I’ve ridden all those routes they show in the film. Everyone thinks that movie is sad but I thought it was nice that he died in his bus in Alaska and not in some gutter along an intermodal freight train route. I’m grateful to be in Burnsville doin my thing here. Now I just need to get this dang Roth IRA squared away to compliment my 401k😎 Here’s the crew change. It was printed out at the library in Eugene, Oregon. Still got all the dirt and train rust on it. Notice how the title and wording doesn’t say anything about trains. A lot of the stuff in it is written in weird abbreviations and codes. That was done in the hopes that if the authorities confiscated it they wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. But they did anyway lol.image.jpg
 

DC-DXT

Twelve Pointer
I watched a true crime show once about a group train hopping on the west coast. A guy fell in with this group and they ended up killing him. Crime was eventually solved and those responsible caught.
 

OntheHunt

Button Buck
That was a great read. I always thought it was fascinating how the folks riding the rails during the depression developed their own language and left signs for one another. Humans are very resourceful
 

YanceyGreenhorn

Still Not a Moderator
I watched a true crime show once about a group train hopping on the west coast. A guy fell in with this group and they ended up killing him. Crime was eventually solved and those responsible caught.
Yeah I was thinking about that when I wrote this but I couldn’t remember what show it was. It was a normal occurrence to run into at least one a week that was running from the feds for one thing or another.
That was a great read. I always thought it was fascinating how the folks riding the rails during the depression developed their own language and left signs for one another. Humans are very resourceful
That’s what’s sad. The modern day railroad culture is a spit in the face of the traditional real deal hobo. I rode with two guys over 70 that had some interesting stories. They were the most down home decent fellers you’d ever meet. They were super clandestine and damn near nocturnal because of trying to avoid all the riff raff and violence. But yeah, the different signs and symbols was still very much a thing. But as everyone got crazier, that did too. People would leave misleading messages just to mess with people.
One if the best reads on here in a while. Thank you for sharing. I bet you could tell us a different story everyday.
Thx Jake maybe I’ll add to it from time to time. I used to dread thinking about most of it but now I either shake my head and laugh...or just be grateful to live the life of an aspiring old man
 

YanceyGreenhorn

Still Not a Moderator
Wow, @YanceyGreenhorn !! You have got to write a book one day! Thank you for sharing this! And the derail joke was classic. :D

I hereby relinquish my title as "semi-professional drifter." You, sir, earned it and then some. Glad you were finally able to get out of that and that the outdoors have been such a tonic for your soul.
I actually had a rough draft basically done but lost it during one of my fits of infinite genius. Aka I prob got kicked outta somewhere or went on a bender and abandoned my stuff or who knows what. If I tried again it would be written differently
 

pcbuckhunter

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
@YanceyGreenhorn, I know I give you hell more often than not and I rarely say anything remotely serious, but you have my utmost respect.
To have taken the track (see what I did there?) you did and to end up where you are is a testament to the the very strong and capable man you are. You’re someone that anyone should be proud to know. I know I am.
 

YanceyGreenhorn

Still Not a Moderator
@YanceyGreenhorn, I know I give you hell more often than not and I rarely say anything remotely serious, but you have my utmost respect.
To have taken the track (see what I did there?) you did and to end up where you are is a testament to the the very strong and capable man you are. You’re someone that anyone should be proud to know. I know I am.
Thanks Will. That’s my favorite part about you always busting my chops. It makes me laugh and prob gives off the vibe that you’re like my illegitimate abusive brother or something. But that’s funny too cuz you’ve always been a good friend and done right by me. You should be slightly concerned tho. Cuz if you told me you used to ride the rails I’d believe ya🤣
 

pcbuckhunter

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
Thanks Will. That’s my favorite part about you always busting my chops. It makes me laugh and prob gives off the vibe that you’re like my illegitimate abusive brother or something. But that’s funny too cuz you’ve always been a good friend and done right by me. You should be slightly concerned tho. Cuz if you told me you used to ride the rails I’d believe ya🤣
I never rode the rails per se, but I spent my time around people of that sort. We used to call em “floaters”. Cause they just kind of floated from place to place and never really left any trace of having been there.

I was a bit jealous of some of them. The
seemed happy and free. They traveled all over the place, with no real responsibilities and moved on whenever the notion struck them.

Others made me glad I wasn’t in their shoes, always miserable and volatile, mad at the world and ready to fight anyone at the drop of a hat.

Still others mad me sad, they were in that position not by choice. These were mostly children. Usually scared and lonely.
 

YanceyGreenhorn

Still Not a Moderator
I will say....all the bad rough n tumble stuff aside, I did get to see parts of America from some interesting perspectives. I wish I still had all my pictures(hard copies). No idea where they ended up. Last I remember I had stuff uploaded on MySpace (lol) or possibly an old Instagram account but who knows. So for the sake of this, I’m using Internet images. This is an intermodal train. We called it a hot shot(hauling azz because it’s cargo had priority). For obvious reasons we called this setup a double stack. This was in Palm Springs, CA. This was a pretty neat ride. It’s funny, looking back I realize some of the only sober times I had during that time period were when I was actually riding. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of rides that I didn’t remember even getting on the train. Absolutely reckless and stupid. But the first time I rode thru Palm Springs and all these turbines I was stone cold sober. It was a memorable one. I always look at stock pictures of trains and rail yards and assume there’s a rider in there somewhere .
1626405891394.jpeg
 

Starfan

Eight Pointer
@KrisB figured I’d make a different post since that retirement thread was good and I didn’t wanna....DERAIL it. See what I did there? I describe it as some of the best worst times of my life. Nothing like being in a hobo jungle fighting with 8 other people. Maybe you knew em. Maybe not. Sometimes you were protecting your life, sometimes you were too drunk to remember what the fight was about. I’ve woken up to guys trying to throw me off a moving train. I’ve beaten someone up for trying to throw an older person off a moving train, just to find out the older feller was a more violent A hole than the aggressor lol. You wanna talk about weird politics and unspoken rules and different factions...that world is full of em. I actually still have my highly coveted “crew change guide.” Buncha old riders compiled a book that lists every single spot in the U.S. where a train stops to change one crew for another. Usually an opportune time to get on a stopped train instead of risking falling and getting your legs cut off by a moving one(know 2 people personally that had that happen). The chick I was with (hard to really consider it “dating” in that realm) got off a stopped train in the middle of the night to get water, went to cross another set of tracks and got splattered by an Amtrak coming the other way at top speed. So yeah, it’s sketchy. But anyways , the only way to acquire this “crew change guide” was from a member of the FTRA(Freight Train Riders of America). Like any other fringe group, there was all kinds of weird factions and cliques within this group . Pretty sure there’s a buncha news articles and stuff on YouTube about them. I met a few who were really decent guys. Vietnam vets that just traveled town to town and worked and wanted to be left alone. But by the early 2000s, the whole thing became overwhelmingly violent. Lots of folks on the run, mentally insane people, career criminals...but always violent. And since everyone is constantly bouncing around the country, there’s no way to remain organized. It was THE definition of a 💩 show. Eventually it didn’t matter who was considered part of this group or not . Everyone was more or less unhinged. I never claimed membership to that group, as I thought the whole thing was dumb. But nevertheless, you’d either cross paths with some that wanted to fight you because you weren’t part of FTRA, or because they heard thru the grapevine that your were falsely claiming to be part of that group. It was absurd and super juvenile. Just so happened that was overshadowed by violence. It got to the point that if you had a gal traveling with you and you ran into another group of male freight hoppers and they didn’t have a woman with them , it was safer to assume they were gonna try to beat you up or kill you and rape the girl. So no matter what, there’d be a fight initially . Afterwards you might find out that they’re nice people and everyone gets along lol. Point being, I ran into a group of these guys one time and they were doing their usual “I’m gonna ask you questions to see if I think you’re a legitimate hardcore train hopper or not” bull crap. All was good until one guy asked if I was trying to fight him and I said no. So he said I might as well fight him because he was gonna hit me either way. So I hit him first and we fought and I choked him out. He was a much bigger dude than me and when all was said and done he started laughing and thought it was funny that I swung on him first even tho I told him I didn’t wanna fight. Anyway he was one of these FTRA fellers and seemed to know everyone so at some point I had one of these guys give me the 2006 crew change guide. There was a whole bizarre speech and ceremony and they would kill me if I handed it down to someone without permission blah blah blah. So my wife framed it for me and it’s hanging up next to our bed. Every time I look at that thing it’s a reminder to the time I pissed away because I was such a lost human being. Besides drugs and booze, I have a lot of friends who are dead from falling off trains, getting thrown from trains, or some other form of violence that goes with that lifestyle. My one buddy stopped some guys from raping a drunk woman, and the next day the guys found his camp and beat his head in with a cinder block.

So that’s why I’m so insistent on living my quiet little life here. I don’t ever wish I was somewhere else. I don’t like being around loud mouth drunken parties where folks wanna coerce you into wrestling or bare knuckle boxing with them. I did that :donk:donk:donk:donk daily for years. I love the country and could do without being in another city for the rest of my life. Nope, I wouldn’t miss the different cultures or food or sight seeing. If you’ve seen that movie “Into the Wild” with Emil Hersh, I’ve ridden all those routes they show in the film. Everyone thinks that movie is sad but I thought it was nice that he died in his bus in Alaska and not in some gutter along an intermodal freight train route. I’m grateful to be in Burnsville doin my thing here. Now I just need to get this dang Roth IRA squared away to compliment my 401k😎 Here’s the crew change. It was printed out at the library in Eugene, Oregon. Still got all the dirt and train rust on it. Notice how the title and wording doesn’t say anything about trains. A lot of the stuff in it is written in weird abbreviations and codes. That was done in the hopes that if the authorities confiscated it they wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. But they did anyway lol.View attachment 70058
Amazing story! Thank you sir for sharing it and good luck to you.
 

Zach's Grandpa

Old Mossy Horns
Great story. Take some advice, if you ever write a book, and I think you should, do it under a pin name. Be super discrete and keep the spotlight off of you. You never know how successful a book could be and in my opinion you are not the guy that wants the spotlight shinning on you.
 

RBR

Six Pointer
Thats one hell of a previous life experience. To live through that and completely change gives one a different outlook on life. I’ve had a different experience with cancer,heart attack in my twenty’s, heart transplant in 2008 and working construction 65+ hours a week. I am happy every day.😎😎
 

sky hawk

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
I have never known anyone who actually hopped trains. I always thought your biggest concern would be getting caught by the railroad folks. If I ever had the notion to jump on one, you just cured me of it. Crazy story. Must be a reason you're still here.
 

YanceyGreenhorn

Still Not a Moderator
I have never known anyone who actually hopped trains. I always thought your biggest concern would be getting caught by the railroad folks. If I ever had the notion to jump on one, you just cured me of it. Crazy story. Must be a reason you're still here.
Well that leads me to another mini story lol. At one point we had taken advantage of the alternative legal agricultural practices of the northwest. So after harvest season we had a considerable amount of money. First thing we did was buy high powered scanners with long range antennas. By this time we had already scoured libraries across the country, and internet when we could get to it, for anything related to railroad operations. Vernacular, how trains are built, what the name of a train correlated with as far as manifest and destination, etc. We spent weeks camping out in and around yards just watching and listening on the comms. We’d set up in an area away from where the train was being built and try to guess what kinda train it would be and what track it would be on based solely on what we heard. Long story short, one time we were playing cat and mouse with the railroad police and they were on the radios arguing about why it seemed like we were one one step ahead of them. One of them suggested we were listening to their comms and the other guy said “no way. They’re bums! They can’t even afford soap after they blow all their money on fortified wine and top tobacco! They don’t have radios.” That night ended with us diving off a moving car after realizing they ordered the train to stop and they were gonna roll on the whole thing with suvs, spotlights and a dog.
 

YanceyGreenhorn

Still Not a Moderator
Great story. Take some advice, if you ever write a book, and I think you should, do it under a pin name. Be super discrete and keep the spotlight off of you. You never know how successful a book could be and in my opinion you are not the guy that wants the spotlight shinning on you.
That’s a valid point ZG. I don’t ever really talk about it anymore and it was on my mind
 

Woods and water

Ten Pointer
I’ve known you nearly 4 years I didn’t know that much detail. Hell of a testimony brother!!
I would have never expected he lived that kind of lifestyle from the day I spent with him . It's a good thing me and him didn't know each other 20 years ago. We would have probably been very successful for a short amount of time. And probably cell mates now. Glad we are both living the good life now. 👍
 

BarSinister

Old Mossy Horns
Wow! I'll never look at a train the same way.
Or Yancey! lol.

J/K of course.

When I was a kid we would hop freight trains and ride them a few towns over and either spend the day walking back along the tracks or hop another going the other way They would slow at a road crossings and we would run next to the ladder and jump on or off. One day some of the older kids were drinking beer under a highway overpass that the train ran under. When the train came by a bunch of them ran to hop on and one girl slipped and it cut her leg off between the knee and her foot. It was about then we stopped hopping trains
 

YanceyGreenhorn

Still Not a Moderator
I’ve known you nearly 4 years I didn’t know that much detail. Hell of a testimony brother!!
Thanks Drew. It’s not like I avoid it or anything. We just have plenty of other blessings and good stuff to talk about!
I would have never expected he lived that kind of lifestyle from the day I spent with him . It's a good thing me and him didn't know each other 20 years ago. We would have probably been very successful for a short amount of time. And probably cell mates now. Glad we are both living the good life now. 👍
Hahaha amen buddy. We met each other at the right time I reckon
Or Yancey! lol.

J/K of course.

When I was a kid we would hop freight trains and ride them a few towns over and either spend the day walking back along the tracks or hop another going the other way They would slow at a road crossings and we would run next to the ladder and jump on or off. One day some of the older kids were drinking beer under a highway overpass that the train ran under. When the train came by a bunch of them ran to hop on and one girl slipped and it cut her leg off between the knee and her foot. It was about then we stopped hopping trains
I believe it! Our rule of thumb was if you couldn’t focus on an individual wheel nut as it rotated, it was going too fast to jump “on the fly.” Another way was running next to the train and if you could keep your hand on the ladder and run fast enough that your hand wouldn’t be pulled forward , it was doable. Granted, it was all dangerous. I once had a buddy knock me out because I was super whiskey drunk and jumped up from our fire and took off running into the yard. Apparently I was jumping on random trains and riding them outta the yard and coming back in and doing it again. Like a good blundering buffoon, I got combative when he tried to stop me. So he gave me a good uppercut and put me to bed lol. I only have one small memory of that night. I had tried to jump up and grab on a passing rail car, and bounced off it back into the ballast . I remember how close my head was to the dang wheels screaming by. But in typical drunken autopilot fashion, it was once of those “I’m watching myself do this but cant stop.” Good thing I had buddies that liked to throw hands lol
 

beard&bow

Twelve Pointer
Contributor
I wish there was a better way to express how much I enjoyed reading this.

They way you described it, was like reading a Harry Potter book. In the sense that I could imagine what you were describing.

That's rough dude. Living every day in a blender. Never knowing what ingredients are going to be thrown in, or when it's going to get turned on.

I haven't met you, yet*. But I'm proud of you.

That's one hell of a testimony.

*Hopefully someday.
 
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