The Romance of the Rails

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The Romance of the Rails

On our trip east to see schools we road some trains.

I didn’t want to fly everywhere, and I also wanted our youngest to have an idea of how close things were. And I will admit it, being from Los Angeles, I love traveling by train and I have not done much of it.

The romance of the rails.

I married a man who’s family built the railroad west of Pittsburgh. So Railroads are in the blood of my family. My dad was a hobo, back when that had an actual meaning and a bit of respect about it.

There are several ideas of where “hobo” came from. Some say it stood for homeward bound. I am not sure but back in the 20’s and 30’s it was a way for people to travel. The migrant farm workers who followed the harvests for work travelled that way. Some railroad guys were ok with them riding in the empty boxcars and some weren’t.

The Romance of the Rails

The above pic is from an article I found here: 

This article tells the history of hobos, tramps and bums and the difference between them.

Dad was told to jump in the middle of the night not knowing if he would land on ground, water or rock. And sometimes he didn’t get caught and sometimes they were ignored. It depended on the route and the hobos shared the information regarding the trains.

Hobo Code

They also used a code on fenceposts of farmhouses along the way. It was a hobo language with the marks meaning anything from ‘good food” to ‘lousy food a place to sleep” to “RUN.”

The Romance of the Rails

When classmates of my oldest began to use the term to describe homeless people I took a minute and explained to them there is a difference between homeless, bums, and hobos. And then I defined them.

Migrant workers were and are an important resource for our farmers. My kid’s doctor grew up in Florida and when the frost sirens went off every one in town (old young rich or poor) went to light the braziers. When my girlfriend and her family lived in South Africa all the kids from the wealthy to the poor helped with the grape harvest—it was a wine region. Everyone helps in a farming community.

I am musing, as you can read, while we travel by rail to New York from Philadelphia.

Amtrak offers a writing residency on their trains…maybe after our youngest is in college I will apply. The yondering gene is strong in our family.

The Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Romance of the Rails

This is the first train I ever road on. My dad took it when he was about 17 I think. He went to Silverton to see about a job in a mine up there. The mine job didn’t pan out but he never forgot the train. If you are in southwestern Colorado it is worth the trip. A stunning ride on a train from the 1800’s on the same route it always took.

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