The tramps in the photo above were the first I ever shared a ride with. I was coming down from Wishram in the early 70's and met up with a group waiting at the bridge over the Columbia River. Few tramps carried packs then — most of the ones I met were fruit tramps who carried suitcases and bedrolls, and mostly stayed in missions. I hung out most of the way down to Bend talking with the guy in the light colored jacket, who told me as much as I needed to know about hopping freights. The two guys riding with him were pretty quiet and seemed to be nursing hangovers. Counting the guy I was riding with there were 5 of us in that boxcar, but common tramp courtesy allowed us all to huddle up in the only ride on the train on a cold winter's day.
My partner during the trip was the guy above, wearing my coat and my hat. I'd met him in Vancouver traveling streamlined and he said that he needed to get out of the cold and get back to California. Seeing that it was indeed cold and he really didn't have any gear, I loaned him my big coat and hat, assuming that I would get them back once we got to warmer climes. As luck would have it, when we checked into the Mission in Klamath Falls for the night, they ran a check on everybody staying there that night and discovered that he had a warrant out on him, so the city cops came in at 4:00 am and took him to jail. Since he was wearing my clothes, even though I tried to give the cops my hard luck story about loaning them to him, I couldn't get them back, so it was another trip to the Salvation Army to re-outfit myself before I caught out.
I met the guy above in Stockton one summer when I was on my way to Roseville. He was traveling streamlined, too, and we were going to ride the empty bulkhead flat that we're sitting on. Even though it was in July he had a sweatshirt on and kept putting first one hand and then the other inside the sweatshirt to keep them warm. I tried to tell him that riding on that car at night even in the summer could get cold, but he didn't speak any English and I didn't speak any Spanish, so we just enjoyed the day together until the train pulled out, when he ducked around the bulkhead and settled in for the ride. I never saw him when we stopped in Roseville or Dunsmuir...
I met the fellows pictured above and below either in Klamath or Roseville — I can't remember which, but they were definitely "not from around these parts". They had such heavy Southern accents that I really couldn't understand enough of the words they were saying to put together any kind of subject or topic they were bringing up. I just got by with facial expressions and the occasional "Wow", or "Oh, really?", interspersed with a "No shit!" here and there. Judging from what my end of the conversation must have sounded like, they probably thought that I was as loony as I thought they were...
The picture [above] of the tramp crossing the bridge was the result of careful planning and skillful execution, believe it or not. I grabbed the front end of a grainer as an eastbound wound its way around the depot in Sacramento. The train was going pretty fast and I thought that I'd just "get on" anything I could and later switch cars when the train stopped for a crew change in Roseville. Since it was a hot day and I knew that I'd be on the sunny end of the car all the way up the Valley if I rode the back end, I stayed where I was and made myself comfortable.
As we approached the bridge over the American River I looked ahead and saw this guy walking along next to the other track, so I propped my camera on my knee, manually focussed for 10 or 12 feet away, and just as we passed him, I clicked the shutter without even turning my head toward him, because I didn't want to make it obvious that I was taking his picture. Judging from his expression, I don't think he even saw me go by.
I took the photo above just below the Tehachapi Loop. My train had stopped in a siding to let an uphill hotshot go by when I saw a piggyback with two tramps pass me, then another with two more, and finally the third car in a row with a rider on it, as I grabbed his picture while he slept.
I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with these two guys just before Christmas at the lower end of SP's Oakland freightyard. This is where the SP tracks going south from Oakland cross the UP tracks going east. Strangely enough, we were all going to the same place — Southern California to spend the holidays with family and friends. I was originally planning to take SP down the Coast Line, but since those guys got there first I knew I'd have to hope for more than one ride on the train if we were all going to catch it.
I did have an alternative, because if I didn't take the SP line I could always get a UP train to Stockton, then catch SP there and go down the Valley. It ended up that after waiting in that spot almost all day, an SP train came by first, but, as I feared, only one rideable car on it, so I waved goodbye to my friends and several hours later, after I'd seen all and done all there was to see and do at that spot, I caught a UP train to Stockton and continued my trip.
I spent a very unpleasant several hours with the guys in the picture above. It wasn't because they were especially unpleasant themselves, which they weren't, but because four guys on a grainer is way too many people, no matter how friendly they are... and it was raining.
I'd been waiting for a southbound in Dunsmuir for hours in a snowstorm, again before Christmas on a trip down to Southern California to visit my family. After the first few hours a piggyback came by, but I let it go because I didn't want to ride outside in the snow, which seemed like a reasonable excuse at the time. But after another several hours of waiting, my spirits and wine supply were getting low, and fearing that the railroad was going to shut down completely very soon because of the holidays, I vowed to get the next train no matter what.
When a southbound came around the bend and stopped, I noticed one grainer in the middle of a string of gondolas, so I ran up to it and, to my horror, saw that it was already occupied by three other riders. Just as severe depression was about to set in, one of them yelled "Climb Aboard!", and held up a bottle of White Port, my signal that everything was cool, so I climbed up and plopped down on one side to join their little party. I assured them that I wouldn't normally expect to be able to share their car but the "spokesman" explained that they were actually two groups that decided to ride together because of the impending railroad shutdown, and they vowed to pick up anyone they saw on the ride down to Roseville.
Since they were so accommodating I brought out my "spare" bottle of wine and added it to the event, as we followed the river and tried to arrange ourselves so that the people on the outside didn't get too cold, which they did. Near the end of a mercifully quick ride down the Valley, with no stops to meet other trains, we did stop finally at some siding just north of Roseville, where, to our intense dismay, the train broke air, and we watched the engines uncouple and continue on their way, leaving us stranded in what was now a steady rainfall. After another hour or so, with the rain letting up a bit and the wine almost gone, I bid my fellow riders farewell and walked over to the nearby road to hitchhike the remaining six miles to Roseville, which I ended up walking because no one would stop to pick me up.
Arriving in Roseville after a long walk, I no sooner entered the freightyard when the very same train I left a few hours ago pulled in! My friends bailed off as the train pulled around the wye and I made a mental note of any other rides but the grainer I held down from Dunsmuir was the only one. I really needed to re-supply before I went any farther so I hit a 7-11 and a liquor store and found "my" train in the yard. Feeling too tired to wander around looking for another train, I walked up to the shanty and found out that my train was headed to LA and would leave in a few hours, so I made my way back to the grainer I left back along the highway and settled in for the wait, only this time I had the whole car to myself.
An uneventful and dry ride down the Valley got me into Bakersfield the next morning, where I got off while the train did some switching and hung out with the guy above and his two hyperactive dogs. He too was headed to LA but had to pick up some important piece of mail before he left, so he spent a few hours trying to tire his dogs out so they'd be able to sleep on the train once it left. Virtually every piece of debris within a mile of where he was sitting was used at one time or another as something to throw as far as he could and be retrieved by one and sometimes both of his dogs. For the first minute or so it was moderately amusing to watch them tear away and tear back again with some piece of whatever in their mouths, but I grew tired of it far sooner than the man did, and as I got up to head over to my train he called out once again to "Watch this!" as his dogs once again tore off in pursuit of some thrown object. I got far more tired just turning my head back and forth watching the dogs than they did after what must have been several miles of running at top speed on their part. I mused that if one of the dogs actually ever did a real "trick" that involved anything more complex than merely running the man would have had a heart attack. A few seconds later I started laughing out loud about the thought of one (or both) of the dogs coming up to the man, standing up on their hind legs, and muttering something in English...
I don't remember much about the guy and his dog in the photo above, but we spent some time chatting in the Black Butte yard while his train did some switching. I do remember thinking that his dog was possibly the cleanest and most well-mannered dog that I ever met on the rails.
Tall Man, the tramp in the photo above, was on a train that I caught out of Eugene headed down to Klamath and Dunsmuir. I was riding with two other guys and we were all prepared for a long and scenic ride over the Cascades in daylight when our train pulled into a siding about a half hour east of Eugene and broke air, with the engines going past a few minutes later headed back to the yard. I found out much later that there was no room in the freightyard and they brought our train out to the nearest siding to free up a track, but, of course, we didn't know that at the time. We had left Eugene in the morning but ended up spending all day and that night on that siding! The next morning, after spending 24 hours to go about 30 miles, we gave up and hitched back to Eugene, where we caught out that afternoon, and there was a distinct feeling of dread as we again approached the siding where we spent the night, but fortunately we sped past and ended up having a nice ride over the Cacades after all, only a day later. We were privileged however, to be on the receiving end of what must have been Tall Man's version of every tramp story ever told, real or imagined.