How To Hop a Freight Train 113

by Wes Modes
Originally published in Might magazine, October 1994

train

What to Worry About

Safety is a big deal on the railroad. It is real easy to get good and hurt. You are made of soft, breakable stuff, while railroad equipment is made of very hard, very heavy stuff. A rolling boxcar won’t even flinch as it quietly rolls right over you in a sneaky surprise attack.

Furthermore, accidents make everyone look bad. You, me, the railroad gal who told you what train to get on, all the people who saw you and were too cool to call the bull on you. This is why, every time you talk to a rail, he or she will tell you to stay safe.

Don’t walk on the tracks. Don’t cross under couplers or cars. And watch for cars rolling quietly through the yard. Be careful out there.

Some yards have a railroad cop. The railroad cop is referred to as the Bull. The only way to get caught by the bull is being stupid. The bull typically sits in some office somewhere until someone calls him with a problem, which is seldom. [Not at all true anymore. -ed] Occasionally, the bull will make a foray out of the office to cruise around in the bull-mobile, a white pick-up or bronco, typically. The bull may traverse all the roads through the yard before they retire back to their den. To avoid the bull, stay out of sight of the roads within the yard. Walk between strings of cars. Watch for the bull-mobile. Watch for flashlights. Stay out of danger. Steer clear of the office.

What to Bring

Keep everything dark, dark clothes, dark pack, dark sleeping bag or blanket. This will make it harder to get caught by the railroad cops as you blunder around the train yards.

You’ll be walking a lot and throwing your pack on and off of trains, so pack small and light — under 25 pounds. If you have something in your pack that can break, it will. Leave your valuables at home.

And think about warmth. Dress in layers. You may end up on an open car in the middle of the night with a 60 mile an hour wind blowing in your face. Your clothes and your sleeping bag should keep you warm and comfortable and dry. If you’re cold and wet, freight-hopping will be a miserable experience.

Bring some sturdy gloves and boots to keep you safe as you scramble around on freight cars. And if you prefer not to sunburn your ears and nose off, bring a hat.

Its nice to know where you are. An atlas can come in handy, both for finding where to catch-out and for finding out where you’ve been left. You may be able to round up a railroad map. Call up the railroad business office and pretend you are doing a study on rail transportation. Ask for a map of American freight lines.

Bring something to drink. Exposure to the wind sucks the liquids right out of you. Bring something that’s not going to spill when you throw your pack on and off of cars.

Don’t forget to bring your patience. Freight-hopping involves as much walking and waiting as actual riding. You spend most of your time waiting for information, waiting for a train, waiting for your train to get under way, waiting, waiting, waiting. For this you’ll need flexibility and patience.

A quick checklist:

  • dark clothes
  • dark pack under 25 lbs
  • sturdy gloves
  • sturdy boots
  • hat
  • railroad atlas or map
  • a headlamp or flashlight
  • warm, waterproof jacket
  • light, warm bedding
  • water or other liquid
  • non-perishable food
  • newspaper (for kindling, shitting, or reading)
  • patience and endurance

 

Where to Catch-out

Find your local freight yard. There’ll be a train leaving or coming through there eventually. Look for train yards in the forgotten part of town, the part of town with all the rough neighborhoods. The yard is usually near big industry, maybe near a river or port. You can often find giveaway street names like Railroad Ave. The passenger train station is probably not too far away.

There are freight yards in almost every city in America. However, there are fewer marshaling yards where they make up and break down trains. These big yards are going to be the easiest places to gather information and catch-out. Here you can ask the yard crew which trains are leaving where when.

Some yards are crew change-points. A single crew can work a maximum of twelve hours, so yards at which trains receive fresh crews are strategically placed along the mainlines. These are good yards to catch out from.

How to get Information

Railroad workers are your friends and will help you out whenever possible. Crews can usually only tell you where their train is going and when power’s called for. Yard workers often know the whole story. They make up all the trains that are leaving their yard. They know which trains are going where and often when the power is called for. They will sometimes call in to the tower to find out what track your train is on and when it leaves.

What to Ride

In order of preference, you want to ride in open boxcars, on the rear platform of a grainer or hopper, between the wheels of piggybacked trailers, in the well behind cargo containers (if there is a solid floor), on the second or third deck of empty auto carriers (if you can get in), or in empty gondolas. And when you get really bold, you can ride on the back engine of several coupled units at night.

Don’t ride tank cars that carry all sorts of nasty shit, loaded flatcars and gondolas whose shifting load may crush you, or cars marked Bad Order that are broken but have not yet been removed from service.

Your safety should be your most important consideration, so don’t take short cuts to save time. Ever.

113 thoughts on “How To Hop a Freight Train

  1. Reply wmodes Jan 1,2013 11:06 am

    PLEASE NOTE that while I will generally approve comments that are supportive or critical, have good advice and sometimes bad, I won’t publish comments that blow-up or ask about specific yards or catchout spots and I won’t publish comments of the form “Hey I’m gonna be catchin’ out from Albuquerque in early March, hit me up at wouldberider@hotmail.com.”

    I’ve been riding since about 1992. I started riding because I needed to get around, was poor, exhausted from hitchhiking, and had read about it in an occasional literature reference. Specifically, I’d found a book called Vagabonding in America by Ed Buryn that I can still highly recommend. In it, there was a short excerpt of a guide to trainhopping by a guy I’d later get to know.

    I went down to the yards and watched the trains, met workers and riders and hobos and vagabonds. I asked lots of questions and listened. I learned the lingo and started to understand the dangers and mystery and magic of freight trains. I caught my first train solo out of Sac, and rode mostly solo for a long time, not knowing anyone else who did it, thinking I was the very first and last rider since maybe Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Eventually, I met other riders and we occasionally rode together. I met Hobo Lee in Santa Cruz and we worked together on the Something About a Train ‘zine that he published for more than a decade.

    I traveled a lot by train in those few years, and eventually wrote about some of these adventures. I wanted to share this amazing experience with others who might not have had the luck I did to stumble on a great guide. So these articles have been available on the web since 1994. It was a thing I did to get around when I was poor (still am, pretty much, and still ride) and thought some folks might enjoy it and help them hop and stay safe.

    In the 20 years it’s been up, tons of punk kids, friends, traveling kids, rainbow folx, anarchists, activists, ecowarriors, have used it to get an idea of the basics of getting around by trains.

    I’m friends with a lot of the oldtimers in the trainhopping community and we talk now and then about how to share our experiences with others and not fuck shit up for everyone. I don’t mention specific yards, catchout spots, trains, cities, routes. And I actively discourage people from mentioning details that will blowup good things that some people depend on.

    Every 10 years or so, some segment of the people who like to ride freight (and usually consider themselves the only true group of freightriders) “discovers” my pages and freaks the fuck out and sends me a bunch of nasty grams. It’s a cyclic thing, usually after some high-profile site publishes a link or something. And then people forget and it blows over.

    But I think there’s the possibility — and here’s why I keep it around — that some amazing kids (or not kids) discover the magic and connect with the folklore of freight trains themselves. That has been my real life experience: I meet people mostly in the anarchist scene in Santa Cruz who tell me years later, “Oh, I don’t think I ever told you that reading your pages was how I worked up the courage to escape my crappy suburban family life.” And that makes it worth it.

    Yeah, there is totally stupid stuff posted on the internet, bad info, all spectacle, no respect for people whose lives if effects. And you are right to be irritated about that capitalist tendency to suck every piece of magic off the bones of whatever culture they happen to seize on. As much as possible I don’t want to be part of that.

    That said, we all need inspiration. That spark that helps us move on to the next part of our lives. I hope for someone somewhere that these pages ignite their passion.

  2. Reply Tarun Jun 13,2013 3:23 pm

    What’s the fine for getting caught for train hopping?
    I m asking because I was caught and was given warning and let go. Although they placed my name on the file.

    • Reply wmodes Jun 13,2013 4:00 pm

      Generally, the fine is minimal. It is essentially a trespassing ticket.

      However, with a little bit of effort, it is relatively easy to prove that you were not trespassing… or at least you weren’t doing something that meets the legal definition of trespassing. For instance, in most codes, you need to have been warned. That could be a clearly posted sign or a verbal warning. It they are claiming that you trespassed on posted property, the signs have to be every X number of feet apart, and cannot leave any access to the property unposted.

      And if they charge you with criminal trespass, a misdemeanor that is essentially squatting, the standard of proof is even stricter. You have to basically have set up a squat on their property and they have to have warned you or show you are on well-posted property.

      Generally, after I get a ticket, I take notes of what happened, photos of the unposted access routes to the property, and immediately write to the district attorney with the details, photos, and applicable laws as soon as I get home.

      I’ve put these civil codes to good use numerous times and — though I’ve been caught and ticketed a bunch — never been convicted. I’ve also got many friends out of court dealings as well.

  3. Reply Pattie Crider Jun 15,2013 8:56 pm

    Great info and tips! Thanks!

    • Reply mo_pac_man Aug 9,2014 10:06 am

      You still riding Pattie? I rode for 39+ years but was a trainman.. I just thought might be interesting to chat sometime. I worked in IL, MO AR CA and OR. I been around.. thats all. let me hear from you. mo_pac_man

  4. Reply Jimmy Sep 23,2013 5:37 am

    Oi Oi! I was wondering if you could tell me how to hop a gondola, specifically how to get out of an empty one once your in it. Is there a latter on the inside? I have hopped a lot of different cars, but never rode junk before. Any info would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

  5. Reply Rotekk Oct 11,2013 5:53 pm

    Gondala cars basically require jumping and pulling yourself up. If they are rock cars with slanted walls you run up the slant be prepared to slide back down if you miss.

    Hoppers have a little hole cut out in the walls you can take shelter in but those are only on plastic cars. If mounting a moving car grab grab irons lean in the sirection of the move and step up with your trailing foot.

    Hopping off get low srop trailing foot and point toe towards movement release lead hand and drop lead foot. If your going 10 to 15mph try to push off to slow your momentum.

    I would not advise bailing faster than 15mph.
    Also never hop on with a car following you. Always catch the lead end of the trailing car unless its the last car. Reason being you could swing inbetween the cars if something goes wrong if you catch tje leading end of the trailing car you will swing into the car body and be ok or bounce off .

    Happy railroading and be safe

  6. Reply Mike and scuz Oct 24,2013 1:32 pm

    Can u take this down Plz… Your goin to kill dumb little kids!! If you don’t have an experienced friend to help you then get off the tracks!!! If kids keep dying cuz they do DUMB crap then it will make it even harder for everyone else!

    • Reply wmodes Oct 24,2013 2:20 pm

      It has been available on the web since 1994. Those dumb kids have already survived and grown up into adults who now bore their own kids with stories of riding the rails. And many folks have told me that these guides have helped them stay safe on the rails.

    • Reply Teddy K Dec 21,2013 8:47 am

      its the over socialized libtards who complain about this shit that makes it harder for people to do this, “I dont know this dead person, nor really how he died, but whatever he was doing prior should be banned! banned!! BANNED!”

      “Think of the children..”

      etcetc

      • Reply David Mar 17,2014 11:54 pm

        Teddy you are a idiot. I worked on the rails Southern and later NS for 34 years. It’s dangerous as hell for and experienced person and 100 X for some fool thinking they know every thing like you. I’m pretty easy going but one needs to know it’s dangerous and illegal. Was a time years ago when experienced hobo road the rails but these days are gone. Now it’s likely to be a poor person from south of the border. There is a good possibility of getting you head caved in by someone wanting to rob you. One hot day in late spring my engineer and I noticed a guy hoboing on a TTX not far from the engine. It had been a long day so when we stopped I walked back with a couple of bottles of cold water to offer it to them. The guy must have been scared and refused to come out for the water. I left it and returned some minutes later to see it gone. Trains stop for many reason and sometimes because they are told the yard can’t take them. That was the case that day and some hours later I was relieved for the hours and service law.

  7. Reply RamesesRadio Oct 28,2013 3:27 pm

    Hey, I’ve been hitchhiking for a couple of years now with varied success. I sat down a few weeks ago with a veteran freighthopper and he highly recommended it if I thought I had the stomach for it. I googled up rail riding last time I was in a library and found your site, which happens to be one of the only ones readily available. Thanks for your insight, warnings, and stories. I feel like if I ever decide to hop a train, I can feel a little more educated about it. Thanks in advance.

  8. Reply Jesse James Nov 8,2013 5:26 pm

    How do you navigate effectively? How do you know which trains are going where? Im afraid of hoping on a train and ending up 150 miles in the complete opposite direction I was hoping.

    • Reply wmodes Nov 8,2013 6:56 pm

      Knowing the train routes are helpful. And unlike freeways, trains generally are limited to a small finite number of routes. One way to find out what trains are going where is to ask the workers in the yards. Most will be helpful and a few may snitch you out. Being friendly, curious, and non-threatening goes a long way. In spite of all your research and questioning, there will be times when you end up 150 miles in the complete opposite direction. I happens even to experienced riders.

  9. Reply Sean Nov 10,2013 4:47 pm

    Hey!
    I’m looking at traveling sometime this April / May From Toronto to Halifax. So…I don’t want to travel by myself but I will if I can’t find someone that will come with me by the time Spring 2014 rolls around. So I was wondering, how can I find people online or in public that would be willing to come with me? Posting on Kijiji / Craigslist? I’d like to go with someone who has done this before so they can teach me the ins and outs of how everything works from trying to avoid “bulls” and locating the right freight cars to ride. You have some of the best information and tips on the net today and I must say this site has built my excitement and knowledge for my upcoming trip. Thank you for posting all of this.

    • Reply wmodes Nov 10,2013 6:09 pm

      Sean, thanks for the kind words. Best not to be super public like Craigslist, and also best not to travel with strangers. Nothing like being on a boxcar for 12 hours with someone who you’ve recently come to realize is a total sketchball. Ask around, make friends, get to know people, hang out at the freight yards, and so on. A lot of folks in the punk, rainbow, traveling kid communities are experienced hopping trains.

    • Reply flo Nov 16,2013 4:37 am

      yo Sean!! I’m in the same boat as you dude, I want to catch out to Halifax, but don’t want to do it alone. man if your still searching and keen send me word, seriously!

      • Reply Sean Jun 18,2014 7:59 pm

        Hey Flo! I haven’t left for Halifax yet, a great job offer came up and I had to delay my trip but I’m still down for going. I don’t know how often you read this but I’ve been planning on leaving sometime in August. I don’t know how to contact you without posting personal information on the board…. But I’m interested in meeting up for coffee or something and going over a plan / map of a trail to take. Hopefully you get this before I leave, I live in the High park / Dundas West Area of Toronto. So if you wanted to meet up we could do so in that area whenever.

    • Reply David Mar 19,2014 6:36 pm

      Sean from what I understand the weather in Canada is still quiet old and you might want to wait a few weeks. You know the weather in Canada better than me but just remember no heat and might not even be something to stop the rain or Snow from falling on you. You will be lucky to stop most of the wind from hitting you. I know some might be tired of reading my stuff but using your head for something besides weight on your neck needs to come into play. Remember Railroads are the coldest place when cold. The hottest place when hot. Add rain or snow to what ever happens to top it off.

  10. Reply flo Nov 16,2013 4:38 am

    Though I haven’t done it before man, so i may be useless, who knows though

  11. Reply Carl Nov 20,2013 8:25 am

    What could be the best place to hop out of Chicaago ?

    • Reply Jak Feb 6,2014 3:56 pm

      [REDACTED] is a pretty good spot

      [Note, as I've said earlier, discussing specific details on a public website is a dumb idea. It is however, a good way to blow up a catchout spot that people rely on. -Wes]

  12. Reply Carl Nov 20,2013 2:06 pm

    I have looked at google maps, at it seems that after forest park, there is a big yard. And one of the tracks lead to Mississippi, and then goes north right along the river, so that could be beautiful. but over all i don’t really care about the directions, so my question would be, which is the safest place to hop a train out of Chicago, I have heard that it is one of the hardest cities. Thank you.

  13. Reply Matt Nov 22,2013 5:42 am

    What is the best place to catch a train out of the Minneapolis/ St Paul area?

    • Reply wmodes Nov 22,2013 10:35 am

      Not a great place to ask about specific trainhopping information. Trainriders try to keep specifics off of the internet because it blows it up for everyone. As I mentioned before, ask around. Go to the local infoshop and make friends in the punk, rainbow, and traveling kid communities. Many are experienced riders.

    • Reply debra Mar 8,2014 6:44 pm

      Hi. I would like to give this a try but am a bit nervous about doing it alone. Do you have some experience with it or are you toying with the idea? If you (or anyone else) would be willing to show me the ropes a bit, or would like to team up with someone, let me know. In exchange for showing me a bit of your world, I can offer a bit a bit of mine . . pedestrian creature comforts. I know there are freight yards nearby and I wait endlessly for trains that just just seem to sit there, so I think it would be fairly easy to get started.

  14. Reply nick Dec 10,2013 5:05 am

    Hey dude, I was wondering where a good spot for finding slow trains [would] be….do you have to be at a yard or bend?

    • Reply wmodes Dec 15,2013 8:38 pm

      A yard is the most reliable. Less reliable are sidings on single track (trains occasionally have to go into a siding to let other trains pass) or places where tracks cross (trains will sometimes have to wait for another train to go by). But chances are that any of the old spots where trains had to slow to a crawl to go around a tight bend have been probably been straightened out by now.

  15. Reply Jason Jan 4,2014 6:38 pm

    Hey, thank you for writing, this has definetly helped prepare me to do this. I was just wondering, when was the last time you rode in a box car and were the yard workers just as friendly as they were back when you started?

    • Reply wmodes Jan 4,2014 6:43 pm

      Been about 2 years, and the workers were just as friendly. I was probably more cautious than when I started though and as usual tried to stay super low-pro, only talking to workers when I was pretty near neutral territory not deep in the yard. More than not wanting to get busted, I don’t want to have them put their job at risk either. Also, as time wears on and I learn more about my home yards, about trains in general, there is less I have to ask about.

  16. Reply Jeremy Jan 11,2014 11:12 pm

    i have been dreaming about hopping trains for a while, and i feel my adventure shall begin this summer, but i’m not looking for a week vacation, i mean full on, living on the rails, i was just wondering if anyone had any advice? stuff like additional survival skills, cities/yards to avoid, best ways to make money out there, and where i should aim to be in the colder months of the year?

  17. Reply Sean S Jan 14,2014 8:28 am

    Well, would there be a way to hop onto a train crossing the US/Canadian border..? E-mail me plz: sean.smith228@hotmail.com

    • Reply vroom-vroom Feb 19,2014 10:02 am

      Ok, so, I’m not entirely sure why I took all the time to read this article, the comments, or reply to you, but here goes.

      (WALL OF TEXT TO COME:)

      First of all, if you really are 14 years old ( like a quick google search of your email address has suggested – http://ca.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20131230015442AAyf4Mr – ), make for absolute certain that running away is the best option for you.

      Before you go, put yourself in your moms shoes as best you can and really think about how heavily affected she would be from it. If the answer to that is ‘not that much’ , or you believe the benefits that leaving may bring could out weigh the negative affects on your mother, there are a bunch of things you should do and think about before going. You should not be under the assumption that leaving your problems behind means they won’t follow you, but I understand there are many people who run away from home and actually get a better life out of the deal. If you are still in a suicidal state, it may be best to stay close to home and ask for help. Sometimes the strongest people seek their own help instead of wait for someone to offer it. Either way, if you decide to go, you may want to re-think leaving your country.

      If you leave your country at your age, there is a good chance that police will stop you in Canada and have to notify your mom since you’re not a citizen. On top of that, it may prove to be very difficult to get back into the US without being detected or using the border itself. Both of which would end up in your mom being notified, and you being held until the customs officers figure out what to do with you, since they couldn’t just let a person your age simply carry on their way. Just because you were lucky enough to get out of the US doesn’t mean you would be lucky enough to get back into the US, even if you take the same route.

      In my opinion, although many people wouldn’t agree, you may want to consider hitch hiking instead of train hopping, especially if you are going alone. Many people have horror stories of abuse they endured while hitch hiking, but I know plenty of people who have gone unscathed. The reason I say this is because, while train hopping you have to toss your back pack and end up where you’ve tossed it or you lose all of the belongings you had. Train hopping is more isolated with less chance for help if something bad does happen and less company/opportunity for good things from random people. Additionally, while train hopping, one simple slip of a hand can mean death or dismemberment. You really want a teacher for train hopping, in my opinion. It can be trickier than you may think, and rain/bad weather (and possibly territorial people) only adds to it.

      If, in the end, you decide to leave home, get a really good back pack, make a list of belongings you think you will need along the way, save as much money as you can before you leave, tie up any loose ends possible at home, spend as much time with the most important people in your life as you can and possibly work out an approximate route/destination you decide on before you go.

      If you do decide to hitch hike, always stay alert as possible and constantly be on the look-out for any sketchy behavior. On the flip side, don’t be paranoid and think everyone is a piece of shit. Good judgement of other peoples vibes and trusting your gut can be key.

      Although there are shady people out there, there are also people who want no harm to come to you, who will give you a ride, feed you, give you money/food/heart-felt thoughts/advice, and even give ideas/hook-ups for other rides/resources (which you should take advantage of if you feel comfortable enough with the person giving any of the above).

      Someone reading this may think I’m irresponsible or crazy for trying to do anything but talk you out of leaving, and although I think you should explore all options to stay rather than leave, sometimes education is better than abstinence whether it be about sex or running away from home. I left home for the first time at 13, and there is not a whole lot that could have convinced me not to. In my opinion, I would have been better off if I could have talked to someone who understood and was a bit more prepared because of that.

      Also, I will say, if you go, you should really think about telling someone before you go that you can trust, or at the very least writing a letter to your mom so she’s not in the position of having no clue what happened to you. She will be worried either way and she wouldn’t need the extra stress of thinking you were kidnapped or committed suicide or were killed. I think, even though you probably wouldn’t want to talk to her right after leaving, that you should call her (or someone) every day or two so there is some sort of trace of you. You can buy a phone card for $5 or $10 that will have you call a 1-800 number before dialing your moms number and will show the call as coming from the connecting city’s number instead of the number you’re calling from so she won’t know where you are if you don’t want to be found easily. Even if she is mad at you and the phone call wouldn’t be enjoyable, she would still be grateful to hear your voice and know you’re ok even if you won’t tell her where you are. Lastly, if you do decide to leave and regret it as you get into your journey, don’t be afraid to ask for help to get home and admit your mistake. Never let your ego get so big that you’re staying away even though you’d rather just go home.

      Hopefully you get this reply to your post and it helps in even a small way.

      Sorry for rambling. I know I’m just an internet stranger to you, but let me know if you have any questions.

      Cheers!

  18. Reply face tat Jan 15,2014 12:33 am

    stay out of big citys iv ben on the road for a month so I cant give much more then that but stay on your toes but its a great time

  19. Reply Marz555 Jan 19,2014 10:59 am

    Oh the babies, boo hoo… if you are riding the rails, you might have a death wish. THATS LIFE WE ALL DIE. One thing to remember is life is short. Most people are boring, dull and have no story worth listening to… and will never experience anything like the adventure we do. Some will die, others will be injured… but if you survive, you will have one hell of a story to tell. And, more important you will no longer be just another “townie”.

    YOU ONLY GET WHAT YOU ACCEPT.

  20. Reply Maddog Jan 21,2014 6:34 pm

    Are there any specific things you should look out for on boxcars while train hopping?? I tried before and only ended up going about 14 miles…pretty disappointing.

  21. Reply tim freeman Jan 23,2014 12:25 pm

    any one near pensacola fl wanna go for a ride

  22. Reply tim freeman Jan 23,2014 12:27 pm

    anyone near pensacola fl wanna go for a trip west??

  23. Reply Casey Jan 31,2014 7:22 am

    does anyone know hoe to hop a train near cleveland or northeast ohio (South bound)? I am ultimately trying to make my way to south Carolina

    • Reply David Mar 18,2014 12:07 am

      Personally think it a bad idea to hop trains as I worked there for so long. Take water and plan on being on the road for weeks. That means food. My guess is the best way is to catch one to Atlanta and then NS or CSXT has 3 lines east to South Carolina. South Carolina is a big place so remember you will be on the north and west side of the state. Augusta Ga, Abbeville SC or Greenville.

  24. Reply Casey Jan 31,2014 7:23 am

    And if anyone who is not a rapist or a murderer wants to join that would be great :)

  25. Reply Laura Feb 3,2014 8:23 pm

    Anyone near Chicago wanna hop out east or down south this spring/summer? Hit me up!! electricpunch17@gmail.com. I’m trying to go around early April. and if any experienced people have anything they’d like to share to a first timer… I’m all ears!

  26. Reply Victoria Feb 11,2014 10:23 am

    I assume the ratio of men:women is small, is there a larger threat of a young girl (like myself) hopping? I’m able to take care of myself, but I didn’t think there was actually this much of a society, I thought I could hop without contacting too many people.

    • Reply wmodes Feb 11,2014 11:31 am

      Let me try to offer a nuanced answer. The short version is Yes, But.

      There are fewer women hopping trains. Among people hopping out of necessity, homeless folk, itinerant workers, the majority are male. Among people riding the rails by choice, I see a lot of relatively young persons, punk kids, traveling hippy kids, activists, and so on. There is much more gender diversity in this group (including trans, queer, and genderqueer folk).

      So in terms of being a woman on the rails, you are outnumbered by men. Unfortunately, women traveling alone seem to invite attention, both positive and negative. This misogynistic society is a difficult place for women in general. Sexual assault is still very real and present for female-bodied people, no matter where you go. None of this is restricted to trainhopping.

      Just to put Stranger Danger is the freight yard in perspective: According to RAINN: “Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim. 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger. 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. 28% are an intimate. 7% are a relative.”

      All that said, how does one want to live their life? Fearfully or courageously? And if one chooses to do risky things, is there anything that can be done to make one safer?

      Here are some tips from the women trainhoppers I’ve known:

      • Travel with others. Some friends prefered to hop with other women, some with burly dudes. Some women friends felt safest when they traveled alone.
      • Know how to keep yourself safe. Assertiveness training, self-defense training, or martial arts really help.
      • Consider low-scale weapons such as bear mace or pepper spray. Firearms or edged weapons have the dual disadvantage in that they can be taken away and used against you, and increase your risk of serious trouble with authorities.
      • Most female friends tended to dress down their femininity. “Dress like a boy and you don’t get hassled,” one said.

      I’d love to hear from other female-identified trainhoppers and potential riders here. (I will prioritizing publishing comments from female-indentified folks here, and may hold comments from male riders to make space for women’s voices.)

    • Reply David Jul 14,2014 8:25 am

      I’ve freight hopped with lady friends over the years and have had enjoyed those times. We safely completed our trips and had great stories to share. Over the years, such adventures have been a great bond among my friends, both male and female. Certainly, great caution should be exercised by women. I recommend traveling with a male. Perhaps it would be safer to ride in the central parts of the US and away from the borders. In those areas, I’ve found fewer people riding.

  27. Reply Joe Feb 18,2014 2:46 pm

    For gods sake, man! stop publishing this shit… If someone is meant to hop a train, they will meet train hoppers and either be accepted and shown the ropes, (which is fucking impossible to purvey in print), or they will not be accepted and will either try to go it alone or they’ll call their fucking Mom for a greyhound ticket. listen man… I dont know who the fuck you are but what I do know is that you have immediately ostracized yourself from the ACTUAL train hopping community by writing this. this shit is illegal. It is secret! there are already too many young kids tryin to hit it and it’s makin it more difficult for everyone and getting hurt in the process… As someone who’s been ridin’ hard since ’93, one thing I can tell all you kids out there is, DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS GUY! Not a single dirty kid in north america would condone this shit… The only thing he’s said here that I’ll rep is, if you go it alone, USE COMMON SENSE and STAY SAFE!!!

    • Reply wmodes Feb 18,2014 3:25 pm

      Thanks, Joe. This stuff has been up on the web almost as long as you’ve been trainhopping. Pretty much unchanged since ’94 or so. Glad you finally found it.

      And yes, quite a few crusty kids have been inspired to hop trains — hopefully a little safer, a little more informed — because of it. I’ve met some.

      Personally, I have those other assholes publishing trainriding secrets to thank: Jack London, Kerouac, Steinbeck, Jack Black, Hemingway, Upton Sinclair, Ben Reitman, Woody Guthrie, and many others.

    • Reply Dan Mar 3,2014 1:29 pm

      I agree with joe. dude take this shit down. our lifestyle is illegal and not everyone is fucking cut out to hop freight. if the kids that read this shit are tryin ta ride, then they need to run into dirty kids in real life. if the kids decide to show em the ropes then so be it, but otherwise, go home and play some videogames. you will get killed or lose limbs. there are some nasty people in our society and they won’t think twice to beat you to near death (or all the way) for no reason. or maybe they like your fancy cell phone and pack. do yourself a favor and stay off the rails.

      • Reply wmodes Apr 13,2014 3:36 pm

        Dan, were you born a dirty punk on a train? Or were you once some fresh faced newbie?

        And yeah, there are some serious sociopathic assholes out there, and they tend to get pushed to the edges of society, i.e., the trainyards and home jungles.

        But really, how often have you met total assholes who threatened violence? Not just drunk punks fronting, or aggro meth heads, but the real-deal the mythical Bad Guys that are out on the rails ready to slice and dice happy hippie hobos.

        While I don’t doubt they are out there, I just doubt they are more than an extremely small minority, probably comparable to the number of sociopathic killer cops.

  28. Reply Oogle666 Feb 18,2014 4:00 pm

    WHAT ARE YOU DOING! Are you trying to blow up a beautiful lifestyle? This is completely ludacris. You need to take this down immediately. Be advised that is someone who has red your blog gets hurt, you will be responsible. Your information is putting people in harms way. Who the fuck are you to give people this information via the internet?

  29. Reply Joe Feb 18,2014 4:30 pm

    a celebration in song or fiction is a mite different this “guide”. and while I appreciate the fact that you published this eons ago, I still maintain that a kid googling “how to hop a freight train” and getting an answer is a terrible idea. I could read all day about bull fighting and possibly even feel a little better about stepping in to the ring afterwards, but some things can not be taught in print. Alternatively, if these kids were searching “how to etc.” and were shown links for sinclair, kerouac, guthrie etc.. i think we’d all be better off for it…

    • Reply wmodes Feb 18,2014 4:37 pm

      Agreed. There is no substitute for learning from someone you trust. I think we both highly recommend it.

  30. Reply mat Feb 18,2014 6:23 pm

    your information is all bullshit anyways stop trying to kill people indirectly…cut the crap and go back to bed

  31. Reply tasha Feb 18,2014 6:46 pm

    take this off the net. your a retard.

  32. Reply Wesley Feb 18,2014 8:10 pm

    I think that while what Joe says is true, I disagree in the sense that if you didn’t post this.. other people would, and already have. Whether or not this is the most reliable source of information is up to the reader. Not everyone is going to read this and think “Let’s go hop a freight train!” Thinking about maybe hopping a train for a few kilometres this summer, will be doing my research in advance and prepping myself for sure.. and yes, i’ll stay safe. Thoroughly enjoy this site, good work.

    – another wes

  33. Reply railspike Feb 18,2014 11:21 pm

    I agree the rails have changed big-time since 94 there are a lot of kids who don’t ride full time and act dumb and ruin it for those who are in it for life. There has been a lot of accidents a lot of deaths all young kids at that. Good riders know thru experience not random advice from the internet and not the greatest advice at that. Not all workers are friendly the will call the bull and get your ads arrested. This was a tight knit community and should stay that way.

  34. Reply Big Gay Nik Feb 18,2014 11:25 pm

    Why are you publishing this? The fantastic part about riding the rails is how it’s such an esoteric thing. You redacted someone’s comment up there because you didn’t want the spot to get blown up, but that’s mighty hypocritical considering you are blowing up the entire lifestyle…
    When I learned my way around a train, it was by travelling with crazy old hobos, and using a crewchange that i got from a friend, not by googling it on my smart phone. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Did you post this to feel cool? Like some sort of train god for newbs and oogles to pray to? Because thats pretty selfish. If you care about the preservation of the mysticism and romance of this bitchin’ lifestyle at all, take this down and stop encouraging every little douche with internet access to go blow up our spots, and ruin all our fun.

  35. Reply Nicholas Feb 19,2014 8:17 am

    Anyone who is defending this post is absolutely rediculous. The fact that anyone can see and read something like this is in no way a good thing. I’m not about to get into the in’s and outs of it all. Simply because it’s a waste of my time. Hands down, somthing like this should not be on the internet. You can’t even begin to argue its a good idea.

  36. Reply fuckyerself Feb 19,2014 8:20 am

    Okay kids if ya wanna ride a train ,how about getting out of yer moms house and getting off the internet for once. Did you ever think that there are things in life you can’t learn just by “googling it”? Things like intuition and common sense? That’ll get you farther on the road than this guys cute little “advice” column. This shit is seriously so basic that if you didn’t already know then you never will. All I read was “bring water, look out for cops,
    trains are dangerous, if ya wanna hop out go to a train yard, train workers are yer friends (actually a lot of them won’t hesitate to call the bull on first site), blah blah”. The more this douche says about trains the more it sounds like he’s full of shit and probly rode a few trains one summer so he could brag about it. So what did we learn kids? This guy sucks , quit asking him for advice cuz he don’t know shit, and maybe try figuring out something for yerself? Nevermind just stay home and google it

  37. Reply Dica Feb 19,2014 8:48 am

    I learned how to hop from friends and that’s the only way to learn, stop saying your B.S. cause you’ll get someone killed. Oogle’s go away!!!

  38. Reply Cat Feb 19,2014 10:01 am

    This shit is straight dumb.
    You don’t learn how to ride a train by reading about it you get up and fucking do it. Oogle mother fuckers.

  39. Reply wmodes Feb 19,2014 11:36 am

    Oh and for the uninformed, what are the oogles that the last few posts have been mentioning?

    Here’s a pretty funny article about Oogles in NOLA: Everyone Hates the Oogles: Exploring the Animosity Towards New Orleans’ Panhandling Punks. It might be funny, because discussing Oogles and crust punks is inherently funny.

    And it’s true, everyone hates the oogles, but the problem is no one agrees on who that is. Like the term “hipster” (that I’ve seen people who are clearly hipster kids use to denigrate other hipster kids — “What happened to your cool fixy, man?” “Oh I sold it to some hipster kid.”), it is mostly use to Otherize out-group people.

    My hobo friends and I refer to traveling kids and crust punks who have no respect for others as oogles. Urban Dictionary, a sketchy source of info at best, says:

    “Oogle: a migratory pack animal that drunkenly stumbles onto your porch and sets your couch on fire. they are the uninvited guests who throw inappropriate things (i.e. veggie oil, pressure treated lumber, spray paint cans, someone else’s full beers) into a bonfire. while under your roof, they will talk shit on “house punks” while their shitty dog attacks your dog. the term crosses subcultural boundaries; includes hippies, punks, metalheads, ravers, etc.”

    Oogle dogs are called “doogles,” by the way. We call our dog Hazel a doogle on occasion for fun, though she’s pretty far from the requisite wild-eye poorly-socialized aggressive pitbull mix.

    But I’ve seen drunk punks that I’d consider oogles calling other people they don’t like oogles. This is the other major variant, oogle as poser. Also from that reliable source of internet info, Urban Dictionary:

    “Oogles are street rats that don’t have street smarts. They are the ICP kids, the tweekers on bikes, the 15 year olds who runaway cause they think it’s cool, not cause their lives at home weren’t working out. Another good word for an oogle is poser. The kids that pose as punx don’t know shit about the scene, don’t know shit about the music. Age is often a big part of oogle-ism, you have to be around for a while before people will respect you in street scenes. Some kids grow up and get street cred. Others are doomed to be oogles for the whole time they choose to hang out. Tweekers and ‘juggalos’ are doomed to be oogles for all of eternity. Oogles don’t know shit about squatting. these are the kids that sleep in doorways. You find them in every city.”

    So there you have it. Those other folks over there — the ones who are too drunk, or too wasted, or too young and inexperienced, or too gnarly, or not gnarly enough — those are the oogles.

    Does that clear things up?

  40. Reply Doobie D Feb 21,2014 9:40 am
      Safety is a big deal on the railroad. It is real easy to get good and hurt. You are made of soft, breakable stuff, while railroad equipment is made of very hard, very heavy stuff. A rolling boxcar won’t even flinch as it quietly rolls right over you in a sneaky surprise attack.

      A rolling boxcar won’t even flinch as it quietly rolls right over you in a sneaky surprise attack.

      Furthermore, accidents make everyone look bad. You, me, the railroad gal who told you what train to get on, all the people who saw you and were too cool to call the bull on you. This is why, every time you talk to a rail, he or she will tell you to stay safe.

      Don’t walk on the tracks. Don’t cross under couplers or cars. And watch for cars rolling quietly through the yard. Be careful out there.

    I think this was the absolute right way to start this off. The safety factor cant be stressed enough. It seems like as the years tick by there are more young folks coming out onto the rails with zero clue of how to act.

    Take the recent Mobile deaths. The fact they rode IN BETWEEN the load shows how clueless these kids were. It basically came down to a kid that didnt know what he was doing leading other kids that had no clue. I believe that greenhorns should take up with a seasoned rider to learn things IN REAL LIFE. But a lot of these kids coming out dont want to listen and think they already know it all because they watched some train videos and read some things on the internet.

    I know that before this internet age a lot of folks just went out and did it. Trial and error. Thats how i learned. But i also picked up any kind of wisdom the older riders were willing to put down. Its seems that lately theres a lack of respect for those that have been before. Theres an attitude out there now that its hip to ride trains and be a scumbag and theres a pervading attitude of “i know everything there is to know about trains.. ive ridden 3.. So follow my lead” *proceeds to ride a suicide grainer in daylight*

    I dont know why the worst type of behavior on the rails is becoming more common and acceptable but it seems that slowly the positive customary disposition of the older (1930’s to 1980’s style) tramps are fading away.

    If you read the old “hobo code of ethics” that was written in the 1800’s you would have a good impression of what most tramps are about. Then if you go out and meet majority of the folks out there today you’ll see every single “rule” being constantly smashed to smithereens. Its sad.

    I dont know.. I suppose im just ranting and wishing that things wouldnt have gotten as bad as they are today. It used to be when i saw other riders i would go towards them to have a chat. NOW i usually walk the OTHER way. Especially when there’s a giant group of them with 50 dogs, Oi’ing at the workers, trashed out of their brain.

    Ok im done. No point to this rant.. just a rant

    • Reply wmodes Feb 21,2014 3:22 pm

      I’m not really convinced there ever really was a good ol’ days. I imagine that while there were some folks who honored a Hobo Code of Ethics, the majority of riders were poor, dirty, migrant workers, driven by poverty and need to take the only option available to them. And I imagine there have always been a few fucked up sociopaths driven to the edges of society who rode trains.

      Of course, as the old poor, dirty, itinerant early 20th century hobos got old and harmless we venerated them and pissed on the filthy violent ‘nam-era hobos. Now, of course, those guys are older and mellowed, and the traveling crusty kids are seen as a plague.

      And as long as I’ve been riding trains, kids have gotten killed riding trains. Every once in a while, when the kids are white Americans from relatively well off backgrounds, it reaches the level of media interest. And then everyone wonders, how did it ever get so bad?

      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  41. Reply Sven Feb 21,2014 12:08 pm

    Word Wes. With increased access to inforation via the internet everywhere you go I think adequate information about basic train riding safety measures will keep people (usually 16-18 year old kids) from getting killed and ruining yards, cities, and dispositions about trainhoppers. Basic info about gear and trains in general isn’t that much of a risk to making every underside of a trackside bridge like times square. Also, as far as consequences go it’s a good thing for first timers to keep in mind that you can go to JAIL for this shit. I’ve done 17 days for getting pulled off. Depends where you are, what you look like, what your skin color is, gender, the attitude of the cop, the attitude of the town, etc. Usually you’ll get a ticket or the boot but I’ve known people who’ve done 30 plus days for trainhopping. Just a little FYI.

    As far as the train hopping community goes, well there isn’t really much of one. I’d say about 80% of kids I’ve met traveling could be described as “oogles” who had no sense of community and were more interested in drinking, shooting heroin, or beating their dogs than forming a solid brotherhood or alliance. When I was first starting me and my friends I met on the road thought we’d be at this forever. Well, now most of us who had half ways decent heads on our shoulders rarely ride anymore. It comes in cycles, someone that thinks they’re hardcore now might be working at an AMPM down the street from a house they pay rent in tomorrow.

    Went on an old railroad grade hike/camping trip with you, Wes, a couple years back in Santa Crustacia. Good times.

  42. Reply SkEtCh Feb 23,2014 3:13 am

    i been hoppin and hitchin walkin bikin and driving (mainly hop/hitch/walk) the last 15 or so years 90% of travelers you meet with not all the same exact patches , will be dicks and whatnot or if they know “more” about lingo areas or anything pertaining to punk crust grindcore or especially this new ish lame start of the last few years of “folk punks” which are just fuckin hippi’s to self righteous and “cool” to be hippis callin themselves crust or watever but not listening to a single band they sport or even care but only judge on what you do and dont know and bands you do and dont know its silly as shit to that people try to keep this “secret” its not and its easy i started hoppin trains when i was about 7 and i dont mean “xHxCx” i mean from side of town to the other through a yard or so (Spokane, WA) and i figured the only difference (when i was older) between that andleaving town is just stayin on. be comfortable be safe and keep a watchful eye. Good info can come from both sides of the scope also whether fellow travelers of whatever breed and workers of whatver company or yard. completely varies. But my main reason for this reply was how fuckin many people talkin down and shittin on decent if not at least well intentioned info for people who are lookin into it cause more then likely a small child will have no clue what they are ;lookin up or what the people are talkin about so that threat is just dumb and all the people tryin to keep our scene “esoteric” (< couldnt beleive that one lol) and "undreground" well quit teachin all these stupid kids you meet aka (yourselves and immediate towns area of bums punks and hippis etc)and makin all these "hobo" gatheringsand crews and stupid shit.. just go for fun no matter who ya are who ya with and just remember. if stopped climb on in and hide, if rolling slow (visual 3-4 bolt spinin) watch for spot jog (not run!) next to it be ready to grab 1/2-1 wholecar leangth prior (watch ground in front while constant check on upcoming car) and if fast sit back open a beer/bottle/bag or what have you and sit it out til the next.

    outside that all travelers think they are "better" then the next or know more or more about areas… so what so does everyone else get over yourselves you glorified bums. Hobo's traveled for work and land… we dont do that nomore and spangin aint a job. aint nothin against riders these days but most are just full of shit or tryin way to hard to be "badass", "hardcore", "crusty" or just plain punx/ individuals.. were not we all dress look and travel the sameget over it. and this post is fuckin 20 years old half you fucks bitchin about this bein up even in the last 5 10 years.. prolly were "trained" (if you really wanna call it that lmao)by people who read this when they started and you are nowspawnof that knowledge lmao fuck you stay OI and thanks WMODES for at lest makin the effort for others to learn and enjoy safelymy friend.

    -SkEtCh aka Dogboy aka JUNKYARD aka John aka My-fuckin-self

  43. Reply just me Feb 23,2014 1:53 pm

    People blow up the spot whether or not stories and info are posted on the internet. Want to keep this a secret, stop polluting the rails with your garbage all while screaming drunkily through town how you ride trains. Most all of you will die from your own dumb decisons. If you know how to use a computer I am sure you got someone that will buy you a greyhound ticket and already has but now your just a little tougher or to dissapointed in yourself to talk to them. upthepunx keep givin dirty kids a bad name cause i hate when people like me especially oogles.

  44. Reply Darius Feb 26,2014 5:30 pm

    Thank you for this great tips.
    If anyone is intrested in freight in hungary or europe feel free to check fuvarborze . Have a good day :)

  45. Reply kristofferson Feb 28,2014 9:06 am

    good advice

  46. Reply Bard Mar 1,2014 2:42 pm

    I’m here, reading this because I’m writing a novel about a pair of twenty-something misfits who windup hopping a train. Of course, being fiction, all of what I write is lies. But. I need basic info on southern routes. I recognize that everyone (pinned with whatever title) has investments to protect and I do want to respect that. So. If Wes or anyone is willing to share some basic (again, Basic, vague, etc) info with me that will make my book stronger (realistic, believable, etc), please email me at: klydebarrett@gmail.com . Thanks.

  47. Reply Rockrawl Mar 2,2014 7:50 pm

    Some friends and I use to hop a train to get to a specific location down the tracks a few miles that we’d always hike to. Seems everytime there was a train moving slow as we were hiking so we started hopping on. That was 20 years ago and I’ve always wanted to hop one on a long trip out of Knoxville, tn. Sounds like an awesome adventure.

  48. Reply Doug Mar 3,2014 12:47 pm

    Firstly this info is useless if you, say, want to get anywhere; let alone getting there alive. I really couldn’t give a shit about the stupid people who read this, think they can catch out and end up hurt or dead; people that stupid are bound to die anyway. What bothers me is how pissed off the workers are going to get when troves of dumbasses decide to commit mass suicide on the rails after reading this. Hopping train is about respect and part of that respect is not telling just anyone how to do it. People who read this and go out are not just a danger to themselves, their a danger to anyone they might bump into in a yard, and to the culture as a whole. Please take this down, or at the very least emphasize respect for the people who need to do this to get by, and maybe if you show some respect you’ll get it back and some who knows what their doing will teach you.

  49. Reply Old Ray Mar 8,2014 10:04 am

    Anyone wanna come with me from Fort Worth to San Diego this June I’m planning ahead and I’m bringing an old pal of mine if you want to come message back soon.

  50. Reply David Mar 18,2014 4:03 pm

    Things you need to know. Trains don’t have walking boards down the top like they did at one time. Outside covered hoppers and a few tank cars. Most auto racks are closed and pined so you want be able to ride in them. I’ve heard some shocking stories from those who ride trains. Some may of may not be true. Several told how they started off with a group but for different reasons could not stay together. That includes some got on before the train was moving to fast and the rest did not. One young girl said she started with her boy friend. She got on and some guys kept him from getting on. You can picture the rest. She was traveling with 3 nasty looking guys who were some 20 years older than her and she looked tired and scared. I was wanting to call the tower and tell them as I thought she was in danger but the rest were against it so I did not. She will if not already wind up dead or pregnant or both. Most crews In the past would tell another if they saw someone on there train. A warning if they have to get on the ground for any reason to watch out. One day we make a short stop in Dalton. We get a signal and start moving. It was a coal train. Crews know to take the signal or wished they had. We got several calls that someone was on a hopper of coal. We finally stopped near Rockmart and that was about 60 miles down the road. I make the walk back offer him some water and he kept asking how he was going to get back to Dalton. I said that is something you should have thought of before climbing on the train. In a stop in south Georgia some kids hanging around talk this boy in to climbing on the train. The train started moving and he was to scared to jump. He fell off about 20 miles down the road when to tired to hang on any more. Almost ever bone in his body broken and as they say his mom would not be able to pick him out. I was not on that one. Another one I was. Again at Dalton we get stopped and when we move a kid has climbed on. He gets slung loose and the car rolls over his leg. One man saw it and rapped his leg in a jacket and rushed him to a hospital. Some 20 miles down the road we are instructed to make a rolling inspection of train and see if we see anything. We find out about the kid at the end of our trip. Don’t know if the kid made it or not. I have hundreds of stories like these. So you are warned. You choice, you hurt it your fault. If you are in that big a hurry try getting a ride with some trucker. After he rides you butt a few days he may buy you a meal before trading you to another trucker.

  51. Reply Eric Mar 23,2014 12:34 pm

    STOP POSTING THIS STUFF. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? You realize that these types of posts will get you jumped eventually. Also, anyone that needs to read an online tutorial about how to hop trains safely should stay far the fuck away from the yard.

    • Reply wmodes Mar 24,2014 8:43 pm

      How did you find out about and learn to hop trains? And if from someone else, how did they find out about it?

  52. Reply Hector V Mar 24,2014 8:19 pm

    HI fellow curious explorers. I’m planning a trip to europe to search for my best friend who left my country (Peru) like 3 years ago, we kept in touch but we recently stopped talking and no one has heard anything from him in a few months, including his brother. So a friend and I want to go find him. But we only have money for the plane ticket. And this train hopping idea sounds just perfect to get all the way from italy (destination) to germany (last known whereabouts of my friend). Does anybody have any idea how i can find a FREIGHT station/yard in italy? i know there are, but every time i look for them online i find PASSENGER stations and ticket deals and bla bla bla. Nothing about Freight yards, or a map of the trains’ rails. Please, if anybody has been to Italy and has seen a FREIGHT yard, please tell me where.

    PS. It has to be an active freight yard, not a train cemetery/dump please.

    Thank you very much in advance!! And if anybody is planning on hitchhiking in europe i’ll be glad to meet up and travel together!

    • Reply wmodes Mar 24,2014 8:42 pm

      I have a friend Hobo Lee who freight hopped all over Europe. Not sure how he found stuff, probably just asked around. Very punk but congenial. He said, no one hopped trains in Europe and it was almost impossible to convey in his English-only what he needed information to do. Everyone invariably pointed him to the passenger train station thinking he was a dumb lost American.

      I’d recommend just use google maps to follow the train lines until you find freight yards. However, you should probably find out what the consequences are for getting caught in the EU.

  53. Reply safetravels Mar 27,2014 10:35 pm

    Seriously after riding the rails for almost 14 years it can not be understated that this (what ever this bullshit web site/blog) is, is not I repete NOT THE WAY THIS KIND OF KNOWLEDGE IS TO BE SPREAD. This is borderline criminal negligence. I hope the first green youngsters that get maimed or killed, that there familys litter this thread with pictures for you to brood on. If the purveyor of this website is an actual tramp that he should leave this type of conversation under the bridge by the fire where it belongs……uuuggghh

  54. Reply Caden Apr 5,2014 5:51 pm

    How long does it generally take to get from place to place? For instance, New Orleans to Albuquerque (or some distance like that)–assuming the train doesn’t stop at any yards along the way.

  55. Reply darstust Apr 12,2014 3:44 pm

    For anyone here who thinks this article is bullshit, can you explain exactly every detail of why this article is bullshit? I don’t understand. I just see some people dissing the author and article for almost no reason without explaining why. Any feedback would be appreciated.

  56. Reply Shannon Apr 13,2014 2:55 pm

    Wow, this entire train hopping idea sounds so wild. As a female, I would probably feel extremely intimidated. Thwre isn’t much to do for this though living on the north east coast. The idea of adventure sounds wonderful at first glimpse, but dangerous at the surface. You really have to want to make this a part of your life style in order to survive it and stay safe. Sweet read as I ride on the NJ Transit.

  57. Reply ProoN May 23,2014 10:06 pm

    So, I’ve been considering hopping a train or two for .. well, several years now. Just haven’t had the nerve. This year is going to be the year I think- it’s the first time I’ve ever actually even bothered to look up the term “train hopping.” I walk to/along some tracks about a mile away all the time, mostly just to admire the graffiti when trains are stopped. Usually during broad daylight, sometimes at night though not nearly as often. Have never seen any kind of security, seems like it’d be simple to hop on. Also have never encountered any “punks” or “addicts” in the 3+ years I’ve been going. Is there anything specific one can expect the very first time they hop onto one? Is it likely I’ll get stabbed or anything? Reading some of these stories has me a bit apprehensive, but no to the point where I don’t want to try.

    • Reply Wes Modes May 24,2014 12:31 am

      I think it amazing unlikely you’ll get shanked. In fact, I’d be surprised if you met anything but friendly cool people. Most of the time when I go to the yards, I meet no one. Or I’ll meet some guy walking along a road adjacent to the tracks and we’ll “hey” each other, you know. Just know your safety stuff regarding train equipment and have a good ride.

  58. Reply ts4287 May 28,2014 11:49 am

    Well, I just finished reading all of the comments on this site and I have to say it never fails to disappoint me when people insist on forming these hyper-judgemental “it’s our lifestyle, not yours” idealogies. Generally in my experience, if you’re interested enough in something you will eventually find a way to do it, and if you’re not then it won’t ever cross your mind. I understand the necessity of keeping certain things secret and yes, this article is open to the public, but I am positive that only a very small cross-section of it is actually going to read this because most kids DO just want to sit in their mom’s house and play video games or whatever. However, for people who want to change their lives and are looking for ways to do it, this is a good way to start thinking about it practically. A lot of people with little knowledge of the lifestyle (or are so super proud of themselves for having it) seem to attach a sense of grandeur to train hopping that glosses over the parts that require common sense and patience. That’s the gist of what I got from reading this and I think that was the reason it was published-not to invite everyone and their mother to be part of this sub-culture.

    I live in a city that gets a lot of trainhoppers and I’ve let many of them stay in my house. The ones that I let stay are the people who are just pumped for somewhere to sleep/refill their water bottles/drink rolling rock with me on my stoop-not the ones openly pissing on the corner or berating me for being a townie. My best friend train hopped for a while too and has never had that attitude. Acting like your lifestyle is some sort of sacred thing only meant for those who “deserve it” makes you come off as close-minded and stupid and DEFINITELY means you are not getting free beer from me. Unless you were born on a boxcar and rode trains all your life, you were a curious newbie once too. Stop yelling at someone for actually getting useful information out there to those who may not know the right people yet to ask for it.

    Thank you for continuing to share your article Wes. I hope anyone thinking about hopping their first train reads this.

  59. Reply Joshua Jun 2,2014 4:39 pm

    I think it’s interesting that a culture formed by people wanting to break the mold and fuck the government would be so elitist about their mode of transportation.

  60. Reply Jim Beam Jun 3,2014 3:54 pm

    Ok, I will throw in my two cents worth about this site and what I have read. And some warnings for newbies who want to start riding trains. I understand what some of these guys are saying when they talk about secrecy and not publishing this info, not to say there is a whole lot of info on this site except Very basic information and I would not advise anyone to ride freight just by reading about it. I started ridding because a friend of mine rode and he is the one who introduced me into the lifestyle. I spent a lot of time hitching before I started ridding trains. I was accepted, more or less, by this sub-culture and I have rode ever since for the last 5 years. The first thing any newbie should know is that it is absolutely true that this lifestyle is really dangerous and I personally have known kids who have died in this shit, so its not all glamorous. Its not just riding trains that is dangerous, its the culture itself. A lot of the people your going to run into are outlaws, guys that have been in and out of jail or prison and they’re violent as fuck. They are not all Oogle, hippie kids looking for an adventure. I’ve seen people get severely beaten, jumped, fights break out etc. So if you are going to be an idiot and jump into this culture without someone to show you the ropes then my advice is to Be Careful! Respect shit! Respect is paramount! If you disrespect people, cut people off (i.e. panhandling in the wrong areas) trying to be a tough guy, getting drunk and running your mouth, your not going to last long and you’ll be lucky if you come out of it with just a knot on your head. Generally, if your not liked, they will tell you. If your sitting in a circle with a bunch of other kids drinking and they tell you to leave, then LEAVE! pick up your pack and go somewhere else, or go home! Not everyone is meant for this lifestyle, its rough and not always fun and games! There are kids out there who take this shit seriously! I know all this through trial and error, so believe me and take my advice!! My last and final piece of advice?? Please do not just up and decide to go on the road and start hopping freight by yourself without any experience or having an experienced person with you who knows what the fuck they are doing. If your hell bent on ridding or going on the road, go with someone, pay the fuck attention and learn the lifestyle, and once again respect shit! If you cant do that, then STAY THE FUCK HOME!!

    • Reply Wes Modes Jun 3,2014 6:45 pm

      This is all good advice. Respect goes a long way. I’ve never really had any serious conflicts with anyone on the road, but then I’m not a douche. Pay attention, learn from others, and don’t be douchey.

  61. Reply Jim Beam Jun 3,2014 5:09 pm

    Oh yeah, and another warning to Newbies, I forgot to mention the parasites that you’ll definitely be exposed to while on the road such as lice, body lice( and yes the two lice are different), and scabies! Oh I also want to mention hepatitis is a mother fucker out there! Good luck on the travels…

  62. Reply Caleb Jun 18,2014 1:07 pm

    Trying to get some info on train hopping. I’m interested in planning a train hopping trip in august/september based out of the St. Louis area. My questions:

    1) How long does it take to travel by freight train? Looks like some trains will stop somewhere for a week, some while travel 200 miles in 3 days, and some will travel cross country in 3 days. If I wanted to travel from St. Louis to Memphis, or Atlanta, or New Orleans, etc. how much time would I have to account for travelling there?

    2) It looks like yards are good places to find trains. But also, sidings look good. Theres a spot by my house in St. Louis (about 8 miles west of the Mississippi R.) where I notice trains stopping for anywhere from 5-30 minutes before continuing on. I assume these trains are preparing to cross the mississippi. I thought about one day on an off day I could hop on one, and see how it goes. Alot of them are unit coal trains with an extra locomotive on the back you could ride in. The only problem, is I don’t know what the train would do. Maybe it would start moving and go right across the river into illinois, or maybe it would just go a few miles and stop in a major train yard. How can I get an idea of when a train will move and where it’s going?

    • Reply Wes Modes Jun 18,2014 3:50 pm

      I approved your comment because it has some good questions in it. However, please note (as I’ve said before) that I will remove any comments that offer specific advice about yards, locations, or catch out spots. I also will remove any of the surprising quantity of comments of the form, “Hey, I’d love to have a partner to ride with. If you are anywhere near XXX, hit me up!”

  63. Reply joshuaaa Jun 19,2014 11:19 am

    Been thinking about doing this for quite awhile. I’m in southern Oregon and wanting to leave soon. What are some good tips for knowing what trains are going where. I know you could ask workers, but if that doesn’t work is there any other way to figure it out? Like I have heard that you can tell by the numbers on the train but how does that work?

  64. Reply Dennis B Jun 21,2014 6:22 pm

    I’m having a hard time finding a freight line map. Every time I search for apps on my phone, Google maps comes up. Is this an adequate way to hop trains to where I need to go? Can anyone recommend any android aps for train maps?

    • Reply Caleb Jun 23,2014 4:02 pm

      Get rid of the smart phone and just look up “Union Pacific map” on your computer. Should come up with about 10 different pictures of the same map. Look up BNSF, CSX, NS, and KCS maps as well. Print em out and take em with you.

  65. Reply Granite goat Jun 30,2014 11:15 am

    For those searching for railroad maps, go to the goodwill or a used bookstore and find an old atlas from the forties or earlier. The atlas’s of that period show railroads not highways. You will be able to follow your progress quite easily.

  66. Reply Taigen Jul 11,2014 8:40 am

    No one group owns a life of train hopping. Everyone has their own reasons whether or not they fit into some contrived category. Information on how to be safe and to know the ropes is good for everyone. Some of you want this lifestyle all to yourself. Guess what? It’s not yours. People discover the northwest and now you can’t find parking for less than $10 the first hour. It’s the way it is. Some people yearn for adventure and this is one way to seek it. Some of you need to lighten up.

  67. Reply David Jul 14,2014 8:12 am

    I’ve hopped freights across the USA, from Chicago to Sacramento and from Alexandria VA to Jacksonville FL and numerous smaller trips.

    Of course, safety comes first. Research helps you stay safer, if you use trial and error, your errors could cause your death. To the previous comments about safety, I add these. If you ride in a box car, bring a small amount of rope to tie the door open. If the door slides shut and locks you in during a ride, you will die in the car before being found. As for walking in the freight yards, be constantly alert. There may be cars quietly moving alone without an engine. This happens all the time in “hump yards.” My personal decision was to NEVER get on or off a moving freight train. Never walk under the couplings or cars.

    You must find a place to be hidden in a car. If you can be seen from the outside, you will likely be removed from the train. The bull (or dick) often watches the train pass. Even if you get out of the yard, the bull will call ahead to have you removed. Usually, you are kicked out of the yard. Once, I was charged with unlawful train riding in the State of South Carolina and sat in a jail for a few hours. If you are being respectful and nice, you might find that railroad workers will tell you on which track the next east bound will leave. I found that my ride from Chicago to Sacramento and also the return trip took me about 8 days. I was able to hitch hike this much faster. In addition, riding the rails is dirty. You get covered with all sorts of grime and there is no bathroom to go wash in. Try to find “hot shot” trains. On the UP they are now called Z trains. These are the fastest without lots of local stops. If you get stuck on a local, you might walk to your destination faster. Once my box car was taken off in the middle of the night with me sleeping in it. I awoke in the middle of some Iowa corn field. I’ve also had all my gear stolen by a yard worker. I’ve been given a ride to the freeway by the bull. My decision was to ride alone or with a friend and not trust others who might be seen riding. Be quiet in the yards, do everything to blend in and not call attention to yourself. A cell phone is very helpful. You can use it for safety. You can use the GPS to make sure you are going in the right direction. You can use Google maps to navigate a freight yard. A paper map is very helpful once your battery on the cell dies. I never ended up going in the wrong direction because I went to yards that serviced the direction that I wanted to travel. Workers directed me to the correct trains, but often you have to wait for hours for the train to leave. You will find a few moments of joy, some of reflection but many of boredom. That being said, I might be doing a Southern California to Florida trip in August. I’d be open to some joining me. Reply to my message if interested.

    • Reply Siphran Sep 2,2014 3:28 pm

      Hey David, I have a lot of questions about your experiences train hopping. You said that you’ve gone close to all over the US riding rail. thereal(insert name) via gmail. If you could reply soon thatd be great.

  68. Reply Carnybarney Aug 4,2014 4:37 pm

    I lived on a circus train for four years. I miss the rails. I want to catch a train from Houston to Los Angeles. Anybody In the Houston area into the moniker scene. Hit me up

  69. Reply rumford Aug 12,2014 11:41 pm

    hello i am interested in going from nova scotia to alberta, and was wondering for some advice or which train goes long distance west? thanks, and i enjoyed reading everybodys comments, cheers

  70. Reply Outraged conductor Aug 30,2014 10:16 am

    Idiots like y’all are why I carry a pipe wrench at work. Don’t let me catch your ass on my train.

  71. Reply wolfie88 Sep 17,2014 1:23 pm

    Well I have caught out a total of three times with some really cool traveling kids I met,all they had to say was if you can keep up.. It a lifestyle I do enjoy for the most part but I don’t wish to do it just myself so I was hoping I could intrigue another guy I have just sold my car and in ready to run again … I am in the IE “California” please contact me if your cool with the idea

  72. Reply John Burns Sep 22,2014 12:13 pm

    Ive been riding since 1990 an i will say this its harder now cause a lot of these dirty kids an dopeheads dont do anything but beg an get drunk or shootup wont work an then they get aggressive cause someone says no then when a hobo comes to town he`s treated like shit Cause the kids before burned it up i`ve taught a few people how to ride some listened the others i don`t know.

    I was taught to respect my ride an respect the citizens don`t fuck it up for the next guy but these punks who think they`re so tough cause they got a bunch of friends they`re just trust fund kids mommy took away their toys they ranaway they brag i made $300 on this corner next thing every oogle is bound for that spot then these young girls get drunk start fights then next thing you know she`s claiming she got raped
    Meanwhile us old school hobos are fighting to get work at the labor halls busting our ass for $50 these dumbasses stand on the corner same spot for a month an blame us cause its burned out

    Then you got these kids born in 76 rode their first train in 78 rode solo in 80 they aint 40 yrs old yet claim they`re FTRA lol i call them out say you Fixin To Ride Amtrak

    • Reply Wes Modes Sep 22,2014 12:27 pm

      I don’t disagree that acting shitty in a town blows it up for other people. Spare changing to buy malt liquor at 10am is not my personal idea of fun. But most of the street kids I met — even if they came from middle class families — really are dirt poor. The widely-told story of street kids who have trust funds they draw from is a myth, a way of delegitimizing their experience of living on the street.

      And living on the street is hard. Particularly for women. Sexual assault is real and happens. Not stoked to see anyone broadly deny women’s claims of sexual assault.

      W.

  73. Reply Emily Oct 26,2014 7:59 pm

    I’m trying to learn as much as I can on here before I head out to find my train hopping companions for the summer and have a few questions.
    1) Where on the train is it best to ride, the back, middle or front, or does it really matter at all, as long as you find a safe car to ride in?
    2) Also, boxcars are few and far between in my area, but I’ve heard from friends that grainers are a good ride. Just wondering how safe those platforms are once the train starts moving? My biggest (and quite possibly illogical fear) is the train cars bumping into one another and me going flying off. I almost feel like tying myself in for a long ride would be a good idea, that way you could sit on the platform without the fear of falling off…

  74. Reply Wes Modes Aug 22,2014 8:03 am

    It is a highly customized implementation of WordPress which I highly recommend. Drupal has a very very steep learning curve and will offer you no end of frustration to do things that are quite basic in WP.

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