Date: Sun, 10 Jan 1999
Your web site is interesting and informative. I enjoy the
stories that you print. I understand the magic and attraction
that the railroad has. I understand the "wanderlust"
associated to riding trains, the adventure. I understand this
better than most, because it is my job to understand. I
understand this because I am a Bull.
What I do want to do, is clarify the miss printed image of the
railroad police. I do not want to blow our whistle and tell you
how great our agency is, every agency has its problems. What I
do want to clarify is the miss conception that railroad police
are "rent-a-cops". Railroad police are just as much police
officers as any city, county or state. Every railroad police
officer / special agent is commissioned directly by the
Governor's office of the state in which he or she works in. The
Federal government then empowers the officer / agent with
authority to cross state lines and enforce laws in other
states. Railroad police do not have jurisdictional boundaries,
yes we can enforce law off railroad property and enforce for
violations not associated to railroad. As a rule of thumb we do
not make it a habit of "policing the general public" but in
some circumstances we do.
I think that the main reason for this informational is so your
readers and novice riders understand that when they are
contacted by a railroad police officer / special agent, they
are not dealing with a "security guard". You are right, that
most of the time a warning will be issued. However times are
changing and an increase in enforcement is being mandated. In
most cases trespassing fines average in the neighborhood of
$200 dollars. Yes you can go to jail for riding trains. Yes it
is only a misdemeanor, but a good many heavier charges have
steamed from the smaller ones.
The rails are dangerous. There is a criminal element along the
rails (and I'm not talking about the FTRA). The railroad is
industrial which brings its own form of hazards. Be careful and
expect to be contacted. All contacts are entered into a
National database. The information may and has been used
against a simple trespasser in court. Train riding is fun,
dangerous and can be costly.
On 4 November 1996, Adventuring was chosen as Cool Site of the Day.
But I am twice as proud to tell you that it became the
Controversial Site of the Day a bit later... Cool Site of the
Day got a nasty email about their choice. In their own words:
Adventuring has been selected for our prestigious "Wurst of the
Web" Award. This fully-illuminated, chromium-plated, genuine
accessory Award is guaranteed for a lifetime, doesn't rust or
tarnish, and best of all, none of our awards are animal-tested!
If you'd like to tell/alert/warn the world about this award,
simply include the following html on your page:
Date: Mon, 6 Oct 1997
Subject: hopping trains
My name is Mike BULL. I am a safety manager for a railroad.
If I catch you or anyone trying to hop a train, YOU WILL BE
arrested. You are a disgrace to the railroad fans and to this
country. You are telling people how to kill themselves.
I hope you can sleep at nights.
I'll be watching
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998
From: K C Schmidt
Subject: Train hopping........
As you might imagine, I am also a railroad employee. Since
several articles nationwide about this stupid notion that you
can do as you please despite the consequences, we have caught
and arrested many more Yuppie train riders. In the last month,
I have alerted our Railroad Police to riders spotted on passing
trains. Those two subjects were arrested and charged with
In the state of Iowa, there is a push to severly punish such
miscreants who endanger themselves and others by illeagally
riding trains as you proscribe. With the support of the state
legislature here in Iowa, additional penalities are forthcoming
to further discourage those who refuse to obey the laws.
I find it amusing that you folks (so called-hobo's) think you
can teach others to "safely" hop a train. The reality is that
even the veteran railroad employees know there is no such thing
as a safe ride on freight cars, with slack action, passing
trains, and such, riding cars like that are accidents waiting
In closing, you speak as if what you do will hurt no one. It
sounds like more what I would hear from an alcoholic saying his
drinking hurts no one. I know this e*mail will not stop you,
however I hope after several arrests, you might change your
mind before you get yourself hurt or cause others to get hurt
or killed. Remember this, you advocate an illegal act.
Date Fri, 15 Aug 1997
> Some time ago there was a thread about riding trains. I am
> NOT trying to rekindle that thread as it has probably gone on
> long enough, but for those fool-hardy enough to want to do it,
> here's another reason not to do it: you can be arrested!
> You might be interested in checking out a website with
> train-hopping travelogues. The author just might be your bum!
> He's quite prolific.
The real site is Wes Modes. His tales are scary. What I don't
understand is the seeking of publicity, which is certainly
counterproductive. Why try to recruit others into doing illegal
From: James E Critchley
Subject: Riding Trains
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 97
Please Stay off of Trains, I have been here over forty years
and I have had to pick up a number of you train riders and you
are all dead or totaly maimed. I do not like to go back and
find you in death or suffering.I am the man you hurt when you
get killed by a train or you are injured by a train. The
Engineer is not the boss of any train, The CONDUCTOR is The
Boss and Me as the Conductor has to face the death and injury.
Please give me a break, HELP ME, Please stay away from trains.
From: James E Critchley
Subject: Riding Trains
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 97
I had a run away because a train rider wanted off in Gila Bend,
Arizona.This Train rider closed off our air brakes and almost
killed himself as well as two train crews and the city of Gila
Bend,Az. was put in a real bad condition account the train I
was on contained 25 cars of HZMAT or Hazardous Material. STOP
RIDING TRAINS (FREIGHT TRAINS) You can kill yourselves as well
as numerous Towns People. It may be a game to you but it is my
From: Thomas Lynch Sr
Subject: Your Page is Unacceptable
Date: Sat, 1 Feb 1997
I was saddened to find that anyone would suggest that train
hopping was a sport or anything but dangerous. Although you do
state that riding trains is unsafe; too many will not heed your
advice. Trains and railroads in general are safe only for those
that know and adhere to the safety rules. A trespasser does not
know the rules and should stay off the property. Please center
your efforts away from the rail industry. I am an officer at
the safest railroad in the country, and we take great pride in
being the safest, but still this year we have experienced a
fatal injury to a seasoned worker in a rail yard in GA. STAY
AWAY!!!! PLEASE INFORM OTHERS TO DO SOMETHING OTHER THAN PLAY
ON THE TRAINS OR IN THE RAIL YARDS.
From: D@niel J. M@ki
Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996
For good train maps for free or low cost go to the library and
ask for an aeronautical map of a certain area. they make them
for every state and I've got one of MN, Iowa, and one that
covers North Dakota South Dakota, 1/2 of Iowa, MN, a little of
Nebraska. Anything to help out a hopper.
Hot shot hotshot GO GO GO!
Subject: (no subject)
Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996
Of course I have to say how cool your web sight is, found it in
I have a friend that was homeless and rode old dirtyface for
quite a few years. I had a hankering to do it, but never could
find anyone to do it with. I may try it, thanks to you, I
suppose there are a lot of folk out there now, seems a
different place than Kerouacs day, but on the other hand, it's
still the same. My friend told me to catch trains on curves
because they have slowed down pretty well.
I wonder how many hobos are still out there? How do they feel
about the folks who "opt" for a fringe travel?
Again, super page, apleasure to look through!
From: Sorcerer's Apprentice
Subject: Re: Street Hiking
Date: Tue, 5 Nov 1996
Street hiking was born out of necessity one afternoon on
President's Day. I was on a bus, heading to a mall, trying to
make the most of a day off from school (I go year-round in college).
Now, I live in Phoenix, AZ, a city know for it's
triple-digit temperatures (122+F); not a "dry heat" either (the
humidity around the monsoon season sucks). The bus I was on
that day runs from the northern part of the Valley of the Sun
to very far west (read: quite far from my home).
The bus had no A/C that day, and it was around 100F or so;
humid too. I got too hot and sticky I guess, and fell into a
doze. The next thing I knew, the bus driver was shaking me
awake, at the end of the line.
I realized I had only an expired transfer ticket, and just
enough change to get a small bottle of water at this little
convinence store that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.
With no ATM in sight and no fare, the driver took off in the
direction we'd come from, leaving me for the most part stranded.
On the positive side of things, I had a pair of hiking
boots on (I have about a half-mile walk to the nearest bus stop
from where I live, and have to go through a few areas that the
home developers have left to the coyotes, quail, and cactus, so
good shoes are a benefit.) and I was in fairly good shape (I
eat right and exercise) and I was used to the weather (I've
lived here for 13 years).
I decided the only thing I could do was walk to the
nearest bank to get some cash, maybe even some lunch if I found
a place to eat nearby. I figured it wouldn't take very long. So
I took off, following the map in my Busbook (a guide to the bus
routes) to keep on the right streets.
It was kind of an adventure really. I was sort ofexploring
a part of town I'd never seen before, and it was a challenge
I'd never undertaken, to see how far I could walk before I
found an easier way to get back to civilization.
After awhile, I forgot about catching a bus (I couldn't
seem to make it to the stops before a bus got there and left).
I found a bank at a big grocery store within an hour or so, and
had a bite of lunch and rested my feet and legs. Then I got
I believe I walked 15 miles that day (I'll check on a map,
and let you know the actual distance). I started a little after
noon and I think it took until nearly 6pm in the evening to get
to my side of town, and then a half an hour to get home. I kept
a steady but slow pace to conserve my energy.
These days, I street hike to stay in shape (you never know
when you might miss the last bus home from school or from a
mall or work, etc.). I started street hiking in the evening
(cooler temperatures). I've gone exploring a few times, where
I've found alleyways (during the day) or these kinds of narrow
(and always dry) "canals" that divert rainwater off the street
when it rains, that kind of thing. The longest hikes I've done
since then was to a mall east of my home, and from school to a
The best way to really get started is to start small, plan
ahead, and be prepared. Carry water, a staff or hiking stick if
you like, have good shoes or boots, a hat, maybe a windbreaker
in a belt pouch, and a basic map to guide you around, plus some
money (for extra water or food if you don't take along a lunch)
to stop for a break (This way, you don't have to carry too
much. I mean, in most cities, you can find a convience store or
gas station on every other corner). Above all, be careful and
use your head. Don't try and do too much, and be aware of the
weather conditions where you live.
Subject: Urban adventuring
Date: Mon, 04 Nov 1996
Enjoyed your page very much. My friends and I regularly climb
Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, an ancient, now closed steel
plant that is now a venue for concerts....and a simple slip
through the loosely chained gates for us on an adventuresome
evening. A few hundred stairs later, and the top of the blast
furnace offers a breathtaking view of downtown Birmingham.
Next we descend into the bowels of the massive iron structure,
going deeper and deeper until we reach an underground spring
that flows underneath. We marvel at each pipe and valve, often
bigger than us, knowing that SOMEONE was responsible for every
little one during its heydey.
Cool Site of the Day featured a semi personal Web site
called Adventuring. The site details a lifestyle dedicated to,
among other things, hopping freight cars. Richard was naming
freckle constellations when an e-mail arrived. The e-mail said:
I would like to point out that today's cool site advocates a
highly illegal activity which gets many people killed or maimed
every year. Since I work for a Railroad I am very sensitive to
this topic and think it is unwise for you to promote such a site.
Please remove it ASAP.
And sure enough, the e-mail header listed a pretty big
choo-choo organization. Other than constructive editorial
comments (what's the difference between "illegal" and "highly
illegal"?), we've got no beef with this guy pointing out that
train hopping is real illegal (note the uselessness of our
You can check out Cool Site of the Day's Bad Webmaster!
Bad! pages for the skinny on this stirring controversy.
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Copyright © 1996 Wes Modes
E-mail to: modes_at_thespoon.com