Box Car Guy
A couple weeks ago I was either talking with or writing to someone when the topic of hitching freight trains came up. Yes, I’ve hitched a freight train every now and then when I was young and it was something I had to be cured of.
There was a railroad line that ran through my home town, the Erie Lackawanna. It was mostly known as a commuter line that ran from Goshen, New York to Hoboken, New Jersey. Once in Hoboken you needed to get off the train and ride the Path Tubes to down town New York City and there you could catch the subway to where ever.
The Erie Lackawanna at that time had two outside commuter tracks and two inside freight tracks. Just as the commuter side had its schedule, the freight trains had a schedule as well which was only obvious through observation rather than a published time table.
To a kid, walking the tracks to where ever you wanted to go was more fun than walking the road or side walks. You could find some cool stuff on the tracks or just see the unseen sights of town. I’d see the back side of buildings and wild overgrown areas where grouse and rabbits lived. It was where you could see things that were untouched and left alone.
One thing I could count on was that freight trains heading North from my general departure point would always slow down to enter the rail-yard in the town two miles ahead. I could hop the freight by where I lived and travel about a mile and a half to another friends’ house. The train speed was just right for getting on or getting off. I traveled this way on several occasions.
One Saturday morning I got on the slowing train that was heading north. I was coming up to my jump off spot when I felt a bump and the box car that sent me rolling back across the hard oak floor. The damn train was picking up speed. It wasn’t slowing down through the train yard.
I stood in the open door watching the scenery go past at a speed a human wouldn’t survive jumping from. I suddenly realized that I had no idea where I was going to end up and that I had no money to get back home when I did end up somewhere.
I rode the train through Suffern, Ramapo and Sloatsburg. Fortunately for me train slowed enough for me to jump off in Tuxedo Park, New York.
It was a long walk home and I've stayed off the rails ever since.