Tramps found riding the rails

by jonathan gneiser for the marshfield news-herald
aug 20, 2003

Vagabonds who hopped the wrong train, ending up in Marshfield rather than Minneapolis, snarled lunch rush traffic in Marshfield for about 30 minutes Tuesday.

A Union Pacific Railroad train stopped to let police remove the 10 men and three women, blocking Central Avenue and forcing drivers to devise detours, after the railroad complained of unauthorized riders in one of its boxcars.

The riders, from various cities in several states and Canada, were taken into custody at 11:42 a.m. Tuesday for trespassing, according to Marshfield police.

The men were from Minnesota, Illinois, California, Oregon and Canada, and were between the ages of 20 and 31. The women were in their 20s and were from Utah, Virginia and Minnesota

They were "catching a ride," said Marshfield Police Chief Joe Stroik.

A man who identified himself as Matt "Vegan Arky" of Minneapolis said he chooses to travel via freight train because he dislikes hitchhiking.

"It's the last red-blooded American adventure," he said.

But a 50-year-old Union Pacific employee had called police, saying he had unwelcome riders and wanted them removed and arrested. One man in the group was wanted by the state of Georgia for a probation violation.

All 13 were cited under city code for trespass, a $102 fine, and released. The man with the probation violation also was released, because the probation hold was non-extraditable.

It was clear that many of the group hadn't showered recently, as their body odor lingered in the police station after they'd left, Stroik said.

More than three hours after their arrest, some of them were waiting to make their next move in front of the police station.

Members of the group gave a reporter their appellation, rather than their legal name.

David "Sleepy" of New Brighton, Minn., said the train had left Superior about seven hours before it stopped in Marshfield.

"We were going to Minneapolis, but got on the wrong train," he said.

Matt "Vegan Arky" jokingly added that they hadn't made a mistake.

"We took the scenic route," he said.

It wasn't the first time they've been caught, said Niko "Shiny Toes" of Santa Cruz, Calif. Others said they were from Rolling Meadows, Ill.,

and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Niko said he once spent a night in a Canadian jail for trespassing on a train.

"I had quite a meal," he said.

Although he also has been arrested previously, Matt "Vegan Arky" said Tuesday's stop in Marshfield was the first time he received a fine.

The $102 fine "will bankrupt most of us," he said.

The group was surprised they were caught while the train was moving.

"Usually they kick you out of the train yard," "Vegan Arky" said. "But it's uncommon to travel with 13 people."

The group included people in their 20s and 30s, but "people riding trains are of all ages," he said.

The Blinking Freddies and the Low Baggers, a band from Whitefish, Mont., was among those arrested, Niko "Shiny Toes" said.

"They've been freight-training it around," he said.

Despite their rugged appearance, Niko said people shouldn't be wary of him and his friends.

"There's a whole lot of fear," Niko "Shiny Toes" said. "We're just nice folks who don't want to pay $150 for a few miles on a Greyhound or pay car insurance."

"We'll probably all try to hitch-hike out," David "Sleepy" said.

While there have been instances of one or two people caught trespassing on a train in Marshfield, this was the first time in at least 15 years that a group this large has been discovered, Stroik said.