My train ride into the automobile plant. (1 Viewer)


Professional Hobo
Jan 15, 2009
Rolling, empty boxcars to Sioux Falls, South Dakot
This was the summer of 2001. I had now been hopping freight trains for 12 years solid, so getting inside a totally secured Toyota plant should not have been an intended thing right?

I rode out of North Little Rock, Arkansas and made great time in that it only had taken me roughly six hours to make Memphis, Tennessee riding on a junker. As I pulled into the IC&G, (now CN) yards way out of town, I knew that I needed to buy more cold beer before I hopped out on another train, but I was on the south side of Memphis and broke! This would be a hard area to panhandle up enough cash to get what I needed, but it's something that I sure needed to do! It had now been right at ten hours since the last time I consumed any alcohol, so by now I was pretty shaky.

As I bailed off my boxcar right outside the yard-limits, I noticed right away several other homeless people that were already spanging out in front of the "Quik-Mart" store on the corner, so I had to outsmart these worthless homebum/crack heads if I was going to make enough money to get a case of beer! I walked across US Hiway 61 and up to the property of Church's chicken and sat myself, my backpack and bedroll down in front by the door where hungry people went in, and fulfilled people left out through.
This had been a Sunday too, so my good fortune was beefed up a bit being that church people were coming in and out of my reach both vocally and visually.

South side Memphis has always been a Hell-hole for me in that there were drugs, prostitution, burglaries, drug dealers, etc everywhere you looked! This was going to take a bit of chatting if I was going to talk my way into enough spare change to get my ethanol! I hated spanging! I have never been any good at verbally asking people for spare change, so over the years I have devised a way to get the help that I needed by putting a statement that I wanted to get across to people on cardboard and hooking it to my backpack and walking, but this day I was way to sick to walk and there were no sidewalks or shoulders to walk anyway! I looked inside the Church's chicken dumpster and found a flap of cardboard then took out my black credit card and wrote on the front of the cardboard a simple statement that others could see, letting them know I needed a helping hand with any food.
I set my sign right in front of my sleeping bag where persons going in to eat their lunch after getting out of a church could see my sign. I had not been sitting there for long when a young man walked inside, he returned back outside and asked me where I was traveling to. I told him that I was trying to get up to Michigan. He asked me how much cash I had on me. I told him that I had enough cash that I had to try and get food/money with my sign. He then said, "I guess that means you are broke right"? "Yes sir" I said in return. He took out his wallet, reached in and pulled me out a $5.00 bill and handed it to me. I said, "Thank you so very much sir"! "No problem" was his reply as he returned back into the restaurant. Meanwhile I could see the local homebums eyes peering at me through the bushes out across the parking lot.
Right after this had happened, I walked inside and strolled up to the counter and bought a small value-meal with a wing and a leg of chicken then went back outside, sat down and ate. After he saw that I actually in fact did use the money to buy food with, he returned once again to my aide and again took out his wallet, but this time he gave me a $10.00 bill and two one dollar bills! Wow! I now had enough money for the next leg of my trip!

I of course had to wait until the young man that gave me the $17.00 left before I could go to the Quik-Mart across the street to buy my beer. I walked over to this store, placed my pack just inside the doorway and entered into a beer frenzy! I bought a case of cold, delicious "Natural Ice" brand beer, walked back out and packed everything away then made my way back to the former IC&G yards and sat hidden in the weeds under a couple of trees trying to get well before my long walk to the other yards.

There are three large switching yards in Memphis that I catch-out of, depending on what direction I am needing to travel, and being that this trip would require that I catch-out on CSX, I was in a bad spot being that the CSX yard is a loooooong walk from the IC&G yards, but I lucked out with a CSX train that picked up out of the IC&G yards!
Occasionally there will be a CSX train that gets made up in the IC&G yards and heads out east on CSX right-of-way. After this trains locomotives had gotten far enough past me to where the engineers could no longer see me, I hopped up onto an empty covered-hopper and started my trip east. Yee Haw I thought! I lucked out on the beer and food money as well as not having to walk the long walk to my next catch-out!

Riding for nearly seven hours, we pulled into the CSX yards in Nashville. By now it was nearing midnight. To my surprise there was already an "auto-rack" shuttle train waiting for its clearance to head out onto the mainline and head north to Louisville, Kentucky and on further to Cincinnati, Ohio. I thought if I only had enough time to get on this train, that it sure would save me a lot of time on my trip northward!
Taking a rail-plate and placing a rail-spike through the square hole in the plate, you have successfully made a "chuck & key"! Taking the rail-spike, poking it through the square hole in the doorway of the Auto-rack, you turn counter-clockwise opening the door to the auto-rack and hop up inside! All vehicles inside the auto-racks are unlocked and have the keys in the ignitions, so usually if the weather is hot or cold outside, I can turn on the AC or the heater and of course get to listen to music on the car radios! This auto-rack was empty though, but I still had tons of room inside this railcar to move around.
After I had gained access to the auto-rack, I lay out my bedroll to went to sleep for a long nap. I slept the entire way to Cincinnati in style! (I should have gotten off there)! After waking up in Cincinnati I just thought that we would be doing a crew change and then we would be heading on to Cleveland then on up to Detroit, Michigan and then I could just get off here, but this was not the case!

I fell back to sleep thinking I would wake up in Cleveland to where I would get off then catch another freight train on out, but what had actually happened is I was taken right into a car manufacturing plant right outside Dayton, Ohio! I had slept right through the secured area that was fenced in around the entire property without waking up! A worker came through the train opening all the auto-rack doors behind him in order that they could be loaded full of cars/trucks of various makes and models. He seen me and started laughing. He stated that he thought that he had seen it all, but I was one for the records in that I made it into the car plant without being busted by the security teams! He told me that he would be getting off work in about an hour and for me to stay where I was then he would return in his work truck, pick me up and drive me off the property through the security gates.

Finally after about an hour he returned to where I lay ready to get the Hell out of there! I loaded my gear up in the rear bed of his company work truck and we drove right past the security shacks and to McDonald's where he then dropped me off, then gave me a $20.00 bill to eat on!

Did I learn a thing or two during this trip? Yes, I sure did my friend! That is to never ride an empty auto-rack near country where vehicles are made at. End of story, plain and simple!
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Jul 16, 2008
Redding, CA
haha great story shoestring! That's awesome that he was so cool about it all too. And those christians can realy help out if you watch what your doing. I once sold a $5 hemp necklace to a christain girl and she paid me $20 for it saying thats what it was realy worth! thats pretty sweet to me. she also bought us dog food and gave us an extra $10. It was creepy though because it was one of those groups of traveling christians that act like they are getting raped by jesus when they pray to him....


Feb 13, 2009
You are the shit, dude. I've never seen anyone else clever enough to buy food with the first kickdown. Theres ALWAYS another one coming.


I deleted myself
Hahaha i agree with remember username.
good story shoe!


The Captain
Nov 2, 2007
around the USA
Another good one from ol' Shoestring!
I really like your storytelling style, brother.
This was an especially good line:
"...I had to outsmart these worthless homebum/crack heads if I was going to make enough money to get a case of beer!"

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