The Modern Day Hobos

Sargeant Matron writes at media underground:

Having been interested in the old-time American hobo lifestyle for some time, it has come as a great surprise and pleasure to find a thriving subculture of modern hobos still riding freight trains across the US. PBS has a superbly evocative film about hobos here.

Indeed, some old-timers are still out there migrating by freight-train to find work but there is a new wave of hobo riding simultaneously. It would appear that the new younger generation of ‘bos’ brings a decidedly ‘punk-attitude’ that simply rides the rails just for the sake of riding the rails – wonderful stuff. This creates an amazing mixture of young punks and old hobos doing the same thing, just for different reasons.

Riding the rails is also referred to as ‘freight-hopping’ or ‘train-hopping’ and there is quite a bit of stuff out there. Railroad Semantics is the website of Aaron Dactyl who publishes his own ‘freight zine’ about his adventures and is well worth a read. Northbank Fred has a very comprehensive website that has loads of hobo stories and links.

There is also a ton of stuff on YouTube and I particularly liked the videos from Wizehop.

Sarah George’s documentary Catching Out is also a good all round study of the modern hobo.


7 Comments on "The Modern Day Hobos"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Apr 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm |

    this only one of the many different drop-out “lifestyles” available
    generally speaking
    I have found drop-outs to be extremely intelligent & resourceful
    on the other hand
    only a small percentage of this documentary’s viewers
    will even consider dropping-out as viable alternative to a life of slavery
    it’s fun to watch, but too scary to do, for most

  2. I had a blast riding the trains from Nawlins to SoCal. Took another trip from Portland planned on going all the way to Philly but got caught in eastern Oregon and although we tried getting back on in ID, East St. Louis and Indianapolis we only had a brief ride from Des Moines to KC and couldn’t ride out of KC. I ride trains to find work and for adventure. I was a crust punk in high school, but I don’t find my self wanting to hang out with those kinda train riders. Some of them are a bit fucked up and proud of it. I tend to keep to my self, usually just talkin others to give and take information. But there are a lot of cool train riders. Just a lot of assholes, too.
    I hope to get back on the trains soon. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to ride them, with surveillance being what it is. You already can’t go to NYC and if yer on the Sunshine Line down around El Paso they got infrared and will throw yer ass out in the middle of the desert.

  3. I really enjoyed this documentary. I am glad they talk about the bad stuff along with the adventure. I’ve never road the rails, but I did float around for quite some time. Thanks for sharing.

  4. steve laph | Apr 8, 2013 at 7:22 am |

    American nomads is another great documentery on the similar subject

  5. Tuna Ghost | Apr 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm |

    the train kids I’ve met have ranged from privileged little shits to decent folks to downright frightening fellows. This one dude was telling me some hilarious stories about fights he’d been in while riding the rails when out of nowhere he just hocks and spits some blood. He was a rarity; most of them seemed like middle class kids looking for non-mainstream adventure.

  6. Looks like some trust-fund young jews just making a movie.

  7. The Wanderer | Sep 8, 2014 at 6:19 am |

    I rode the rail many times. I met old Bo’s jungling out near the tracks, cooking beans, old timers who rode for the fun of it. Or were criminals on the run, drunks and renegades. I first rode the rails after me and my fiancé broke up.
    I had gotten the train fever since and now I am back in society with a home, land and a job. It was an experience when I was younger. The tracks still interest me. And it is more dangerous now than before. But now with infrared, railroad dicks can capture you easier, better to jump on after it leaves the yard and get off before the yard. Carry plenty of water. And if you got money or card you will need it!

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