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Featured Photos Boxcar Party: Six Hobos and a Hoghead

Discussion in 'Travel Stories' started by Eng JR Lupo RV323, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. Eng JR Lupo RV323

    Eng JR Lupo RV323 Celebrated Poster

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    Autumn, 2006 Jack London Inn - Oakland California. I'm awoken from my sleep before the sun has risen, the conductor and I catch an easy one today. Our eastbound double stacked intermodal train is pulled out to Emeryville, air tested and ready to go. Cal-P route, we make great time. I've brought my train to a stop just short of the red signal at Atkinson, Roseville.


    We're waiting on the RE17/RT17 guys to relieve us(Portola/Sparks), our leg of the trip is complete. I've crew-changed at this signal a couple hundred times or more, this is the first time I've noticed people in the field to our left.

    There was a beautiful large oak tree that seemed to have lost it's leaves long ago. Under that tree stood six figures, four male and two female. I could make out a banjo, fiddle, guitar, accordion, washboard and a trumpet. I couldn't imagine what style of music they'd be playing. They looked like they'd been traveling a lot. Their clothes weathered, shot to shit and then repeatedly stitched back together with scraps of fabric. I asked the conductor to open his window so we could listen to them play while we waited. We couldn't hear them over the locomotives rumbling, the air valves spitting and dispatcher 57 instructing other trains over the radio.

    I stepped out on the front platform of the locomotive, leaned up against the grab iron rail and lit a cigarette. Still not able to hear much so I decided once the relief crew showed up and we got our van ride back into the yard office, I'd tie up(clock out) and go down to that field to introduce myself. I drove east on Atkinson towards Roseville market and followed the curve to the right, made my first left and followed a short street into a cul-de-sac. I locked up my 64 nova, found an opening in the cyclone fence and made my way through waist high weeds towards the group of hobos playing songs under that tree.

    As I got within their sight, a couple of them noticed me and it seemed like they were a bit uneasy about my presence. I was wearing overalls and fit the look of a worker, they may have been concerned that I might give them some long winded spiel about trespassing. I introduced myself, told them I just brought that train there on the mainline in from Oakland. They seemed friendly and introduced themselves as Barnabus, Alynda, Shaye, Todd, Sherman, and Tim. They called themselves The Dead Man Street Orchestra.


    They told me they too had just come out of Oakland and were aiming on Portland Oregon next for Mutant Fest in a few days. They mentioned some of their group had to split up in order to get over the road and some had fallen behind some distance. I'd later learn the remaining group somewhere between Roseville and Oakland were Kiowa, Plague(Dog), Corey, Ian, and Sophie. I sat down there in the dirt with the six present and we got to talking trains. I can talk trains all day long if you'll let me. I'm not a railfan per se, I just enjoy talking about stuff that's interesting to me and trains always have been.

    We talked trains some and I was surprised to learn how much they knew about RxR operations. They seemed to have an understanding of trains, exceeding what I assumed hobos would even care to know about. I asked if they were hungry, one of them spoke for the rest "yeah, we could eat". I drove Todd, Shaye, and Sherman to Raley's and we bought fixings to make giant sandwiches on French bread. Avocados, black olives, meat, cheese, condiments, sauerkraut, tomatoes, sprouts, the works. We then made a quick stop at the liquor store for rolling tobacco and eight six packs of "fancy beer" as they called it. We headed back down into the jungle, I dropped them off with all the supplies and went to the UP yard office.

    I found a large box, then filled several bags with ice, and took a shit ton of crew packs. I then printed the outbound summary for the next three days which was all tentative, but enough information there to know roughly where their trains would be, E.G. engine numbers, car numbers, empty box car placement, built in yard, mainline crew change, etc. I snagged an extra copy of the Roseville sub timetable and a switchman's lantern and brought this all back to their camp. I began fashioning an ice chest out of the cardboard box, wrapping the inside with a couple bags, then filled it with ice, beer, water, and juice. We had one hell of a feast in the dirt under that old oak tree and as the sun set I really enjoyed the company of my new friends.

    We all got pretty drunk and it didn't feel like the kind of place that you couldn't just invite yourself to stay over, so I curled up and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning and we did just about the same thing that day as well. I made some calls to the automated system and determined their train was looking like an evening departure. I drove over to the yard and got an updated outbound line up printed, more ice and bags, gloves, whatever else I could think of. I headed back with news of a manifest/junk train being built in the yard that very moment on number 7 track.

    As I was exiting the parking lot I saw the correct engines on the east end of track 7. I had a full detail of 7 track with commodities, where the empties were, car types, numbers, sequence, etc. I came down to that old oak tree and let them know they were getting out in about an hour and a half and that the crew was already called on duty. I refilled their make shift ice chest with new ice and we made a last minute trip to the liquor store so I could stock them up for the trip. I believe Tim and Todd were the two who came with me this time. We got more fancy beer and rolling tobacco and headed back to the catch out spot.

    As we were driving I had an idea. I thought maybe I could do what they were doing. Even if it was only for a couple days, I could do it. I asked what they thought about an engineer riding with them north maybe to Dunsmuir where the train would crew change, I'd head back South from there where as they'd continue to go North. They liked the idea and said yes you have to come with us. It'd be a first for you and us, riding with an engineer and all. I dropped them off with the supplies, told em I'd hurry to a sporting goods store, buy a sleeping bag and I'd be right back.

    I made it back in time as they were all loading their packs on their backs and squaring away any loose ends. The others seemed equally as excited that I was coming with them. I called in to work and said "I need to lay off sick" done deal. It's pretty easy with the RxR, you don't even have to give them a reason. That bought me 24 hours off the active board. I'd be put to the bottom upon my markup (reporting available again) and as they called the top guys on the board I'd move up one spot until I was first again. I figured I had about 30 hours or so to be back to Roseville, if all went as it should have.

    We walked briskly up over the number 1 and 2 main lines and into the yard, It was about 5 pm. We crossed a few strings of cars and popped out between 6 & 7 rail and I grabbed my list from my pocket and located the car in front of me on it, then looked down the list 14 cars east of us around the curve a little should be a few empty boxcars we can hope for an open door. We found that empty boxcar with both doors open, one half way. We all loaded up inside on the head end of the car and waited silently. Within 30 minutes I could hear the gravel crunching from the wheels of a carmans cart, it felt so weird sneaking around at my place of employment.

    They were about to start the initial terminal air brake test. I could hear the hiss of the air being shot back to the rear, I could hear the reservoirs filling up. I knew exactly what the engineer was doing with his hands in that locomotive, I'd done it many times myself. The carmen made a couple passes up and down the train inspecting the brake shoes, rigging, piston travel, etc. At some point one of them was making his final trip to the head end to give the engineer his successful air brake inspection slip and he'd be off to his next train to test. As he was driving east, the other carman was driving on the opposite side of the train west.

    I don't know if those old guys had spotted us in one of the previous passes or what but when they were driving their little buggies I could hear them coming from both ends, from opposite sides of the car at the same time. They caught sight of one another across the rear knuckle of the very car we were piled inside of. They both backed up a short distance and stopped, what luck! So they get off their little carts and shot the shit between our car and the one behind us.

    They're talking across the knuckle. At some point one of them, a heavy set Hispanic carman steps back and leans in such a way as if to peer into the boxcar, he sees all of us. He comes up to the door and says "God damn! How many of you are up in there, wow!" We gave him some humorous response and he gave us the "I didn't see nothing" and went back to talking with his buddy.

    Myself being an employee at the time, I didn't feel comfortable with this and thought when he got some distance from us he'd surely call the special agents (bulls) and I'd have some pretty fucking serious explaining to do. For sure I'd be fired if not worse for giving up so much information in times of "terrorism" and all, I could just see them making an example out of me. This was my first day at my new job being a non profit hobo travel agent, and I was already making mistakes.

    I hopped out of that boxcar and headed back to that knuckle where he stood talking to the other carman I couldn't see. I said "hey listen, I know you don't see this a lot but" he then interrupted me and said "I see it all the time, don't worry about it get back in there" I then said "well I'm an engineer for this very same railroad, this very same yard, I work here." He got a real wide eyed look and fell speechless. I played the one sympathy card I knew he'd understand and then said "I've met some nice folks up there and I'm tired of working my ass off for this outfit 24/7 on call 364 days a year. I wanna taste a little freedom so I'm headed out of here with those tramps up there and I'd really appreciate it if you could kick this under the rug" He said he wouldn't say a thing and to be safe and enjoy the trip. I felt alright with that, hopped back up in the boxcar and waited with my friends. The carmen eventually left and within about 20 minutes I heard the brakes beginning to release.

    I felt the slack action locking up and stretching the cars from the locomotive on back through the train which I'd heard from the ground but never from within a boxcar. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG and we were jerked pretty hard and instantly a smooth 3 miles an hour, 4, 5 slowly creeping up in speed. We might have been rolling at about 8 miles an hour as we went over a familiar road crossing in the yard and I knew this one well, it was just feet away from the main yard office. I knew Linda Pitchford was in there barking orders, the yardmaster was in there as well. I could just see the image of all the yard surveillance camera monitors in that same room from my memory and I didn't like how it felt one bit.

    They were all in that building, in that corner, the command center with all those windows and I felt them figuring where they'd have the train stopped. I could feel them talking to the bulls telling them how there's some rogue engineer on that train and how he needs to be made an example of. I could feel my paychecks turning into unemployment checks, if I was lucky enough to get that. I felt scared for my job, more than I have ever feared losing any job in my life and I've pulled off some pretty gnarly heists in my time from this job to the next, I've always been a hustler in some way.

    When we got past the wye and we were sailing at about 30 MPH approaching the casino I started to wonder if everything I was worrying about was nothing but made up fears and nobody but that carman knew the score. At 40 MPH nice and smooth, these people came to life around me. They sprung up, stretched, grabbed a banjo, fiddle, trumpet and started to blow. They played a song called Buba Mara , it put me at ease instantly. I grabbed a Samuel Smith oatmeal stout, peeled the foil back, popped the cap with my lighter and began to catch a case of what I guess is something that everybody catches when they ride their first train, it felt right.

    I made mad duckets everyday up in that head end running that damn train and it didn't feel like anything other than cooler than average slavery, but this felt right. I knew all train rides weren't this easy and nice but if that old couch is close enough to the tracks you drag that son of a bitch up in that boxcar with you and you make it nice. We were making it nice, we still had freezing cold beer in a box enclosed with plastic bags and fresh ice holding strong. We had leftovers to last a couple days, and live music delivered at 40 MPH by these folks I just met the day before, standing there under that oak tree. I fell in love with hopping trains, and I'd only been doing it for about an hour.

    We got rolling into the country and the highway had folded up behind us out of sight, the sun had almost set. Barnabus and I sat with our feet hanging out the side of that boxcar with cold beers, smoking cigarettes, talking about life in general. We rode into the night northbound through Marysville, Chico, Redding, up onto the sides of mountains that exposed the fingers of Lake Shasta. It was gorgeous at night and for once without the stress of the head end job, the stress that job constantly kept me under. I think the only stress I had since leaving the yard was when we entered the first of a dozen or so small tunnels.

    I knew we carried SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) packs with us over Donner Pass and I knew these tunnels were much shorter and built by the military with far better funding and engineering focused on ventilation but I was still a bit concerned. I asked if we needed to cover our face with cloth, they said it wouldn't hurt but they didn't seem to be worried much about it at all. I covered my face through each one but none of them seemed too bad at all, I think they're just too short. I believe the longest tunnel up there is near O'brian and it's about 3/4 miles long which isn't much. We rode till we got tired and we all separately went to sleep. I woke up around castle crags, I knew the mile posts and I knew we had about 20 or so minutes till Dunsmuir.

    I woke everyone up like some fool, they mostly all went back to sleep. We rolled into Dunsmuir and the train information I had printed showed the train would sit in Dunsmuir yard for about 20 hours before heading north again to Portland. Sure enough, we stopped short of the yard and were lined into the yard. The train came to a stop again inside the yard and we all waited silently. I heard the conductor tying down brakes on the top dozen or so cars and the engineer apply a big 20 pound set of air through the cars. It wasn't going anywhere for a long time, I know those sounds. I peeked out towards the head end. I saw a Renzenberger van pull up and a crew got inside but no crew got out. The paperwork I had showed Lynn Gale as the engineer, I'd never met him before but I can say he's a damn fine engineer, handles a train almost like he knows he's got some hobos back there in tow.

    We slept in that boxcar till the sun came up right there in that yard. When we were all awake and ready for breakfast, we began hopping out of the boxcar. This was my first attempt at it and I don't think anybody including myself was all that impressed. I was sitting on my ass at the edge of the boxcar with my feet dangling out and I figured in one swift motion I could scoot my ass forward and just shoot on out and land on my feet. Instead my overalls snagged the track the door rides in and I was thrust forward with one mighty rip my overalls had a rectangle missing about 5 inches wide and a foot long right on my ass exposing mah humps for the world to see.

    We went into town looking for coffee. We found the river cafe on Dunsmuir Ave. Had coffee, then strolled up that street to Thriftway where we bought some food before heading down to the river. We sat on the riverbank and had breakfast, I felt like a rush so I took all my clothes off and ran into the river. They all played music for a while and eventually they followed me in, I guess when they determined the water couldn't be that cold considering I was in there a good ten minutes. It was cold and I just hung in there because I felt like I had to get my money's worth so to speak, I was already in it. It was the coldest damn water I had ever been in, up to my neck in it and freezing.

    Their train was scheduled to roll out fairly soon so we got a move on back towards the yard office where I planned on walking in as if I was supposed to be there. I planned to print off the same information or at least a basic schedule of trains called with the crew on duty times so we'd know when their train was likely and my southbound as well. I walked into that crew room dirty as fuck with my ass hanging out. All the old timers turned and looked. Lynn Thomas was sitting at one of the tables and he was one of the sharpest railroaders I've ever known. He was the kind of guy who knew who was on duty ahead of him and behind him from his terminal and any terminals crews who's trains departing might pass him. He knew the names and he'd call it out before you even got a glimpse through their window "Here comes old Jerry Mintkenbaugh and Judd Strelo on the MEURV."

    I hired on with Lynn's son Randy, Lynn has since passed away and I'm honored that I got a chance to work with him and include him in my story. Alright, back to the story; Lynn turned to me with this big shit eatin grin on his face and said "what are you doing up here Jason?" I said "well I came in last night with Lynn Gale." The thing was, I didn't know who Lynn Gale was or what he looked like, I just knew he was running the train I came in on and it felt like my safest play.

    Lynn Thomas turned to who I then learned was Lynn Gale and said "did he come in with you Lynn?" Lynn Gale turned, looked at me and said "No, he didn't come up here with me" Lynn Thomas looked back at me and I had no cards to play, I had to level with them. I said "Listen guys, I know this sounds nuts but I came in on your train Mr.. Gale, last night you brought me here. I was in a boxcar some few dozen cars back with a band of gypsies who played music through the night and it's good luck to have a hobo on your train you know that, so cut me some slack would ya!

    They got a big kick out of the story and told me to take my friends some water. It's a little more laid back in Dunsmuir than it is in Roseville. I got the train list, their train was the same one which we came in on, it was called on duty to come out of the yard and head to Portland. I guess it just sat those hours in the yard because there were no crews rested to take it further north till evening. So I walked them down into the yard and they loaded up on our very same boxcar we rode in on. I walked twenty feet from the train, set my pack down and put my camera on timer and set it on my pack and aimed it at the train and ran up to it and we all took a picture together before parting ways.


    So that was that, they were on their train. I had worked it out with Lynn Thomas that I would ride his second units back to Roseville. He was paired up with Lynn Gale the engineer who also agreed and before long they were on duty and I was headed back to Roseville. What a bizarre coincidence, two male Lynn's working the same train. Well, that train had all sorts of bad luck, nothing was going our way(or should I say everything was going our way and we were in the hole (siding) for all of it) We were in hole after hole for every train that passed, seemed like we had the worst priority on the line. Problem with that was I was now back on the board and available to be called and my name was getting close to the top of the list. I had a conductor buddy in Roseville who I grew up with and he was keeping me updated on the trains and when I would probably get my call.

    We finally got back on the move and as we were approaching Binney junction near Marysville the dispatcher called the crew I was hitching a ride with and said there was a bridge ahead on fire and we had to stop. Well our train crew (The Lynn's) died on the hours of service(12 hours and you gotta stop moving) right there and I was a good hour or more away from Roseville. I didn't want to lay off sick again because that would have been my third time for the half and I'd lose my guarantee. If I stayed up against it I was guaranteed a certain amount every two weeks and if I went over that in earnings then I'd get paid the higher of the two. I'd lose it all and just make what I earned if I laid off again.

    Well then my call comes in, it's Gene. She's a real gruff sounding lady out of Omaha. She said I was on duty to dog catch a dead train out in Suisun and bring it back to Roseville, my conductor was Jared Farmer. I told Gene alright and I hung up. Gene wouldn't have any idea I was on a train hitching a ride, I was off doing weird shit here in my off time. I called my buddy in Roseville and said "where's the ride for this crew? I need to get to Roseville now! I'm on duty!" He said "I'm called on duty to deadhead to your train and dog catch it back to here, you guys are taking our van back." I said that's perfect what time did you go on duty and how close are you guys now?

    He said I'm on duty in 30 minutes... Well that wasn't gonna work for me considering I needed to get moving soon if I would ever stand a chance at making it on time. I remembered it was Jared Farmer I was called on duty with, he and I were in conductors class together and he just stayed a conductor when I went to engine service. Well Jared lived in Marysville or near there as far as I knew so I gave him a call. He answered and I asked if he had left to work yet. He said he was walking out the door now. I said how much out of the way would it be if you stopped at Berg siding to pick me up? He said that was less than 5 minutes and on his way, it was like clockwork everything fell into place. He then asked what the fuck I was doing there, I said I'm on a train and it's a long story I'll tell ya on our ride to work. He came through, swooped me up and we rode to Roseville and went out to suisun to dog catch that train, brought it back to Roseville in less than 3 hours total on duty and I was done for the day.

    Jared got a kick out of the story, in fact any worker I've shared it with has been open minded and some even saying they'd love to do the same thing someday. So I started frequenting that little jungle in Roseville after that experience. I'd go down there and clean up some, I'd draw maps of all the main lines and how they all intersected at Hagin, Binney, etc. Which ways they all went, alternate routes like how Dunsmuir trains can depart from east or west out of Roseville. I drew the routes out and left them there along with recent train lists, sometimes and bottles of water when I thought to bring em.

    Two days after returning I met Corey, Ian, and Sophie in that same jungle. I walked down there and they gave me that same nervous look as the others, I broke the tension when I said "you're Corey, Ian, and Sophie right?" they just looked at me confused, didn't know to lie or say yes. I told them where I had just been and who I had been with and they had a great laugh, we fell right in together the same way I did with the other six in their band days before. We drank, ate, and I
    got them on their train north as well.. Their train was a main line crew change there at Atkinson. I walked them to their boxcar and I hopped in with them and said I'd ride it till the wye and then hop off. I rode it some ways just to get it back in my blood and hopped off and walked back to my car.

    About a week later I got a call from Barnabus. He said "we're in Roseville again, at the market near the jungle and we've got something we'd like to give you" I raced down there and met my
    friends, they had found some guy up at that mutant fest who was able to record their music and put it on a CD for them. They designed artwork for the cover and in the special thanks list, the first person they mentioned was "Jason the engineer" I got a big kick out of that. They gave me a copy of their CD called "Where's Corey" and I listened to that CD on every locomotive I was running for probably 4 months straight. All the conductors heard it, and they were probably sick
    of it as much as I played it. It took my mind off the work and put me back in one of those boxcars behind myself. I kept in touch with those 6 and I kept on going down to that jungle when I was back in town.

    I met some good people down there, Matt Derrick, Widerstand, Derrick (Doobie D?), hundreds really. It'd take another couple hours to name em all and I'll spare you that. I met a legend down there as well. He went by the name Gonzo, he was an old timer with a heart of gold. He lived in that jungle for a few months and I'd visit often. Him and Croatian Mike, Jimmy, they all home bummed that jungle for a while. Gonzo has since taken his last westbound, rest in peace brother. When he was still alive and living in that jungle I was down there one day talking with him and some others and he turned to a guy standing behind him, and then back to me and said "you know that guy there? He's a conductor over there for UP as well" I looked over at the guy, I had seen him once before in the Oakland yard office when he was a student brakeman, mouthing off to a conductor. He was a punk kid with a pretty well known moniker and history of hopping freight, he'd went and got a job with UP. I was absorbed in the Berkeley punk scene in the late 80's~early 90's, 924 Gilman Street was a second home to me. I was a rail worker who had a newly formed passion to assist riders arriving in Roseville, and an interest to ride more myself. We were meant to be friends just by circumstances.

    That guy should remain unnamed as he is still an employee, but I'll call him Tony for now. Tony is around 30 years old now, Italian kid from Chicago. He's fuckin golden that guy is, I swear it. He's a brother, and I'm glad I met him down there that day. He and I kept in touch and one day he called in the fall of 2007 and said "hey, you wanna ride out to Chicago? We'll leave from Richmond and ride the BNSF south and be there in a few days" I agreed and it wasn't long before
    Erin was dropping us off in a field near the intermodal yard in Richmond CA.

    Tony and I drank whiskey in the field and waited for a train. That field had some bugs that seemed to really take to Tony. Eventually we fell asleep under a cut of eucalyptus trees. I was woken by Tony around 4:30 am, rushing me to get packed and get on the train. In a haze I packed quickly and we rushed the train, it was a double stack train and the 48 foot wells had 45 foot cars in them. There was about a foot and a half of room between the container and the end of the car. I jumped in and got real quiet. Tony ran up to the next car and did the same. The train was on the move in seconds flat and we were headed out... Then it happened. The train stopped.

    We started shoving backwards into the yard. I saw that yard and the lights and all the employees and I didn't like the looks of it and I didn't like the thought of going to jail, especially in Richmond of all places. I jumped my ass off that train onto the ballast, took a nasty tumble then scurried back up and banged on Tony's car as it rolled by me, he didn't pop his head over, it passed me by and shoved into the yard. I wasn't sure where he was but I figured he must have jumped off too. I kept calling his cell but no answer. I had lost my gallon of water in that
    stupid maneuver. It was fastened to my pack and when I fell and tumbled on the rock it broke off the clip and fell down the hillside into thick ivy in the night. I had no time to find it and I just laid there frozen as the train backed up until the engines were next to me. I laid stiff in the ivy on the ballast rock and waited. I never saw the conductor get back on the locomotive but the train was pulling ahead after making a small pick-up.

    The train cleared the yard track and was all on the main and came to a stop about a quarter mile ahead from me, all I saw was the tele (fred) on the rear flashing red laughing at me in the bushes for being so foolish. I knew Tony must have stayed on since he was experienced and I had to hustle to the train, that or get stranded in Richmond alone with nothing. I ran my ass off until I got to the rear and it hadn't started moving yet. I could imagine the conductor was being driven to the head end in a van and I had little time to make it to my car again but I knew I could find a spot on the train and make do if I had to. I made it to my car just in time, as I was settling in it started to pull. Tony called my cell and I told him my mistake but confirmed I was back on the train.

    We rode through the night, I slept well and woke up somewhere between Fresno and Bakersfield. Tony and I texted once or twice and that was it till somewhere just short of Barstow. Our train came to a stop in the desert and Tony walked along the side of the 48 ledge back to me and we took to drinking whiskey again. He had drank most of his water so this probably wasn't the best idea because I was out as well and we were in the Mojave desert basically. We rode in that same
    cramped car through Barstow dodging the bulls that yard is notorious for. Some 15 miles east of Barstow they did a crew change and as soon as we stopped we were back on the move. We fell asleep and woke up freezing our asses off in Flagstaff AZ. That was the coldest I've ever been aside from the river in Dunsmuir two years prior.


    We found a 48 further up the train with a larger open well and rode that into Belin. On the way to Belin I began to get very thirsty and all I had were cans of tuna in water. I opened the cans and drank the tuna water which to my surprise tasted better than I was anticipating. Tony wasn't eating meat at the time and as far as I know still doesn't. He went across the platform over the knuckle to the car behind us to escape the funk of my tuna breath and the tuna itself I believe. We yarded in Belin. Hopped of the train in daylight and high-tailed it out of that yard over barbwire through back yards, chased by a dog and yelled at by the property owners. We got more whiskey and ate Mexican food then visited a railroad museum.

    We waited in a field next to the yard in Belin all day until the crews were out of sight and jumped on the train we were watching for hours. That train took us to Clovis NM. This was the yard we were to avoid at all cost. This was the yard that train would pass then stop and shove back into. We stayed on the train hoping it was just a pick up or small set out and what happened next nearly had me shitting my pants. We were flat on our backs in that well and a suburban or large tall vehicle by the sounds of it drove up next to us on the side of the train I could hear it coming, crunching the ballast and stopping briefly at each car, not long enough to get out but long enough to listen and look at least.


    I laid there silent and still looking up at the top ledge of my well exactly where someone would pop their head over if they were looking and I saw a Mirror on a pole with a flashlight affixed to it shine down into our car and pan around and somehow that damn light never once hit on us. It felt like escape from Alcatraz or some shit. Then the mirror and light vanished and the vehicle was on to the next well. We heard the train break air later and we were pretty sure it wasn't going anywhere and we were sitting in the hottest spot along our route, Clovis New Mexico. We had to get the fuck off that train the first chance we got. I threw my pack in my sleeping bag and threw it over my shoulder like a santa sack and we jumped out in the middle of that yard and got into the darkness quickly.

    We walked to some motel drive looking strip and paid for a motel room at some dive and slept till morning. We decided it would be best to hitchhike to Amarillo. I had hitched before and I didn't like walking with my thumb out, I thought it was hopeless. I learned to find the cleanest white cardboard I could find and buy a magnum 44 marker with a 1 inch wide tip and write neatly just my destination and then I took a pen and punched two holes in the top corners where I then hooked two carabiners through it and affixed it to my pack so we could just walk on the highway in the direction we were headed and no matter how filthy we were, that clean legible sign was all it would take for a retired police officer to pick us up within 20 minutes. He said he hated cops and how they treated people and he wanted nothing but to wash his hands of the whole experience. He was a good guy and I hope he's found a career he's better suited for now.

    He dropped us off in Amarillo and we drank all night behind some industrial building near a wye at one end of the yard.


    When it was good and late we walked to the yard and around it to some school that bordered the tracks. We sat there in that soccer field and waited till we saw our train. When it came we made a move for that cyclone fence. My steel toe doc's wouldn't fit in the holes and the fence had dew on it and I kept slipping down. Tony was getting anxious and I could tell he was worried we were gonna miss that train. I finally pushed myself to just get the fuck over the goddamn fence and made it. I don't know what type of car this was other than it was similar to a 48 but had no open well space, the best I could find was a grate platform up top near the brake rigging and I was able to toss my pack under it and slide in as fast as I could.

    I had a sewing needle in my pack that had poked it's tip out and when I slid in my face hit that pack and that needle pierced my cheek. I bled but I remained still until we were well on the move. I lay there in fast winds, 70 MPH no cover and my sleeping bag was packed and I didn't have the room to get in it and stay under that grate even if I wanted to so I had to ride in the wind and hope it ended soon because I wasn't going to sleep that night, no way. I rode that way all the way to Wellington KS. When that train stopped I jumped off and Tony was off it as well, we made for some woods off to the side of the tracks where I laid my sleeping bag open and slept like a baby.


    Wellington is a Mayberry type of town, small and everybody knows each other. We stayed in the woods all day other than a trip for more booze. Another train came in later that day and we made a rush for a 48. When we jumped down in that well, the large unopened bottle of Jameson whiskey came out of Tony's pack and smashed on the hard steel floor. It shattered into pieces and we were left in a puddle of booze, broken glass, and rain.


    Fortunately we had one large bottle of Crown Royal left. I should mention we were both still RxR employees during this ride so the expensive booze was affordable. It was humorous, the thought that there was a conductor and an engineer at the head end of any train we rode not knowing that there was also a conductor and an engineer in the cars they pulled behind them, stowed away just a couple bums now. We had all the certification to legally operate any of those trains, I don't imagine that's happened too many times before.


    Tony beat himself up all the way to Kansas City about that damn bottle of Jameson. I think mostly because he preferred it over Crown Royal. When we left Wellington and that bottle shattered, the rain came down hard on us and fast and it didn't let up at all. We rode in the rain all the way to Kansas City. When we pulled up to the beginning of the yard we had had enough, we walked up to the head end and got inside the 3rd engine of the consist. The rain was bad and we had to get dry even if it was risky. We turned on the radio and found the local yard channel. We dried our wet clothes over the side wall heaters and made stock of the crew packs and whatever else we could find. We rode that engine like we owned it. We thought we were set. We rode that engine for all of 20 minutes till it reached the other end of the yard track, the conductor walked back and started tying down the cars and then came up to our engine, turned the valve to cut the air out and then pulled the pin, signaled the engineer to take em ahead and we heard the air break on the cars that were left there, the entire train. No feeling of slack, we were certain that we were now on a light power move headed somewhere.

    That conductor stood 10 feet from us outside on that sill step till they reached the roundhouse track. He hopped off and lined the switch for the diesel shops. He got back on and gave the signal to back em up and we saw the big bay door of the roundhouse shops we were about to be shoved into. We saw enough lights overhead to light up football stadiums, and employees everywhere. We knew we had to get off and fast. We exited as quietly as we could out the back door of that locomotive and headed for the steps. We jumped off at good speed and ran as fast as we could hurdling over sets of tracks headed the first direction our feet landed. They took us to an edge, a cliff so to speak with a sheer drop but it was possible to navigate down and so we did as fast as we could.

    There were boulders as large as us and jagged. I had a heavy pack and it overtook my balance, throwing me down onto those jagged rocks I bashed my shins and bled good but sprung up and kept running down the damn thing anyhow. It ended with a river, a huge river so we had to take that river edge to the end of the yard where we found an overpass that seemed almost out of the yard but not quite. It had a lot of monikers and graffiti so I think we felt it was far enough out that we'd be OK to stop and rest. I'm 100% certain we were spotted and seen by many employees bailing off those engines, I don't know if any of them gave chase or reported us to the bulls. We were never found.

    We slept under that bridge out of the rain till the wind picked up and started blowing it in from both sides like some sick joke. The next day we sat in a park at the opposite end of the yard and watched trains all day. Nothing we could ride and it seemed we'd never get out of Kansas City. Finally we found our train and it was good. We located a 48 which had a short container on the bottom and a long one stacked on top so as to make a covered porch over us. We rode that train
    out of that shit hole yard all the way to Chicago. When we were pulling into Chicago Tony stood up to get his bearings and the exact moment he did there just so happened to be a bull sitting there
    looking in the same direction we were and he laid eyes on Tony instantly. Tony dropped down and said "fuck! We gotta run!" and he jumped up and over onto the ladder and I followed, we bailed off that train at an unsafe speed and hurried down the ballast across a grass field that bordered a large interstate and we ran our asses across that interstate to the other side where we found ways to get away.

    We walked for about 4 miles to the neighborhood of Pilsen in Chicago. There was a wye in that location that was just outside yard limits. In the middle of that wye were cottonwood trees and bushes. We made camp there and found one of the hills had weed growing, fully flowered and purple from the cold nights. I love Cannabis and I smoke the hell out of it but when I was an engineer I was subject to random testing so I just had to let it be. We met Moss in that wye, he was a long time friend of Tony's. He wasn't subject to random testing and he enjoyed the free herb. I didn't like Chicago much but I didn't stay long enough to give it a chance. I met up with Todd and Shaye who I mentioned above, they lived in Chicago now and I stayed on their couch one night and two down at the wye with Moss. Tony stayed at his parents house and after a few days I decided I'd catch a train down to New Orleans by myself.

    When I arrived in New Orleans I called Alynda, who I also mentioned previously. Her and Barnabus met me on Decatur street and we went to Alynda's house on Bergundy in the Bywater. I stayed with her a couple weeks and then I stayed with Barnabus down the street for another few weeks. In that time I spent everything I had on booze. I became a lush and ended up throwing my career away right there.

    Random pics/album taken during this time:


    I decided it was better for me anyway, that job took most of my life away, the hours they'd work us were inhumane. I eventually decided I needed to come back to Fresno and figure out where to start picking up the pieces.

    I haven't worked a full time job since mid fall 2007 when I left for Chicago. I rode to Roseville in a grainer from Fresno to appear at my investigation for AWOL charges.


    They must have gotten word from the employees I had told my stories to because when I walked into that room with the audio recording devices on, the mics on the desks in front of us they asked me right out the gate "How did you get here today Mr... Lupo?" I responded "A train". The manager then asked "What kind of train Mr... Lupo?" I started to answer him I was just going to say an Amtrak and he rudely interrupted me with an even stupider question "you do know the difference between a freight train and a passenger train don't you Mr... Lupo?" I then realized exactly what he was getting at and thought, wait a fucking minute here. I'm being charged with absent without leave not fucking around in boxcars, what is this really about?

    So I asked them pretty much that "Am I being investigated for AWOL or are you doubling up here with additional accusations? I was served a notice that mentioned only AWOL, are you sure this is legal? Do you ask every person that walks through those doors for AWOL charges how they got here and if they know the difference between trains?" They realized it wasn't appropriate to the charges so the manager asked that the tapes be stopped and those segments removed. They ended the trial on the firm instructions "If the arbitrators who listen to these tapes deem you in the wrong and you're terminated, you DO realize you can no longer appear on RxR property or ride freight trains right?" It was a ridiculous question and I didn't feel I owed him an answer. I looked at my union local chairman and asked are we done here? Sounding fed up with the company he said "Yeah, we're done here" I walked out.

    I got on the computer since my login had not been taken from me yet, it would take some weeks for the arbitrators to listen to the hearing so I had access for a while still. I looked up southbound trains and I found my train in the rock pile tracks. I rode a boxcar back to Fresno and I'm still sort of hanging around this shithole today, family anchors me a bit.I never really know how to end this story, I feel like I'm still living it in a sense. I'm basically right here in this story, I have other experiences that I've written about that have taken place since this but they all feel like their own chapters in some way. I guess what I hope to do is someday compile them all together in some manner and hope they all fit in such a way that others will enjoy reading them as an entire book. Until then, safe travels my friends. I hope to meet more of you folks upon future travels, we oughta do something worth writing about, hey.
     

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  2. Kim Chee

    I deleted myself

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    You might consider making writing a career.

    Every rr man who ever dreamed of hitting the rails for real would buy a copy.
     
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  3. Eng JR Lupo RV323

    Eng JR Lupo RV323 Celebrated Poster

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    @7xMichael, cheers. Making a career of writing has definitely crossed my mind before. The conundrum I face is that I write from the experiences I've had and I'm only 40 years old. So I don't know how to proceed exactly. I feel like I'm supposed to experience another 30 years of things to write about before I bind it all together. Even then, it feels more like something I want to share than something I want to sell.

    I definitely enjoy writing, but I'm also very critical of my writing abilities and I'm not sure that I have the skills. I began receiving F's in English in the 5th grade, I am quite sure that I never received better than that through 10th grade when I was kicked out of school for good. My vocabulary is incredibly limited, my formatting is elementary. If I hired an editor, they'd quit.

    I'm not shooting down your suggestion at all, I think I just need to approach it with more effort. I know I don't need a diploma to take some college courses. Maybe I could start there and make it less about obtaining a degree and more so a quest for knowledge. I might even be able to use a lot of this shit I write about to complete assignments. Maybe that's the move, go back to school for a while.
     
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  4. paxbagelhead

    paxbagelhead Hungry for Knowledge

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    couldn't agree more with michael. you should write more stories, at the very least you could print a mini zine out of all of em'
     
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  5. junglegreencleeds

    junglegreencleeds Sir Posts a Lot

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    Self publish short stories on Amazon man. You could definitely write pieces spanning a few months to a year with your detailed style and people would buy it. I wish I had more time to finish reading. I started it, but I am about to leave for work. I look forward to finishing this when I get back. It really makes me want to hop a train and experience what it's like.
     
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  6. thatjournalist

    thatjournalist Celebrated Poster

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    Great stories! Thanks for sharing them with us. :)
     
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  7. roguetrader

    roguetrader Celebrated Poster

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    Hey Jay man don't be down on your writing style - your stories are great to read ; many people seem to agree... Fuck what grades you got in school - your vocabulary and grammar are good enough for more than just us jakey bums to enjoy. My only advice is maybe do a bit of re-reading and editing to make things a bit clearer at times - scribble on brother and death to all lily livered larrikins....
     
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  8. Matt Derrick

    Matt Derrick StP Founder, Admin, and travel addict
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    Hey man, god, how i missed this story! I remember the original post. I think this is an awesome tale, and like others have said, you should write more, and maybe write a book, i also think people would buy it. One thing you might consider is the 'blog to book' method, which is what I am doing right now for the book I'm writing for StP called The Anarchist's Guide to Travel. Basically instead of worrying about not having enough to write about, just write a series of stories, one at a time, and eventually, you'll get to the point where you can peice them all together into a book. When you only have one story to worry about at any particular time, it really eases the pressure off yourself.

    I've just started posting a few of the stories here in our articles section that I'll be putting in the book. I'm putting most of the sections online for free so those that can't afford the book can still have the info. But the book version will be written better and have a few things not included in the online stuff to make it worth it to folks that want to support me by buying the book (the online articles are essentially first drafts).

    And if you want any advice or help on editing or publishing a book via amazon, let me know, I'm going through the same process right now and I'd be more than willing to share.

    lastly, would you mind if i promoted this thread to an article? i feel like it would be more prominent there and it won't get lost under other forum posts so easily :)
     
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  9. Eng JR Lupo RV323

    Eng JR Lupo RV323 Celebrated Poster

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    @Matt Derrick That's exactly the process I think I'm going to take, just basically blog to book it. What I want to manifest is an entire collection of my stories over the years, but I'm not done making those stories. So I figure I'll just keep on living/experiencing things to write about.

    The reason I like them to be online is because we never know when we're gonna get taken out the game early, and if I die I'd like to have some of these stories out there already. If I manage to live into ripe old age, I'll pull everything I've written together and see what I can make of it then.

    I'll get with you in PM about that Amazon advice. I registered a couple days ago and planned on releasing a short story or two just to see how it goes but any advice would be greatly appreciated. Lastly, yes you can absolutely make this an article if you'd like to. I'm glad people enjoy reading it, thank you for providing the perfect venue for me to share this stuff.
     
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  10. cantcureherpes

    cantcureherpes Completely Addicted
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    damn i just realized who yer talking about hahaha.
     
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  11. Skidkidfox

    Skidkidfox Appreciated Participator

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    reading this made me really really happy ::alien::
     
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  12. xpolx

    xpolx Appreciated Participator

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    That totally made my afternoon squirrelled away in the loft with my girlfriend and dog please please write More
     
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  13. WanderLost Radical

    WanderLost Radical Sir Posts a Lot

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    Man, awesome story!! Id hopped some of these routes myself, always great to remember them through your words! Reminds me of my first 2 trips, how nerve wrecked I was everytime the train stopped. Like, what's happening? Are they coming for me? What should I do?
    Being self-taught, I had no one to tell me it was normal and to just chill. I'm only 21, but I'm sure if I look I'll find some some white hair I got from those days ahaha
     
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    angerisagift Sir Posts a Lot

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    great story thx 4 sharing
     
  15. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson is getting to know the place

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    One of the best stories I've read in a while, made me wanna get back out there. Thanks for sharing!!
     
  16. tacopirate

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    Wonderfully written for sure!
     
  17. Coywolf

    Coywolf Sir Drinks-A-Lot
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    Holy shit. This is the best stories I have heard on StP. Not to mention one of the best I've heard in life, period. Sir, you sound like an amazing person, and I would be happy to meet you someday. I thank you for the benevolence you have bestowed upon this world of travel. Please write more. Your potential is endless. Your story gave me entertainment and hope, in this dreary rain-drentched squat in AZ tonight. Cheers.
     
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