My train ride into the Appalacian winter storm!

This is a “Marc” public transit train.  I rode from King Street to downtown Washington DC. Also to get out to where the CSX yards are.

I just got out of jail in Thomasville, Georgia where I had spent 16 days in custody for Railroad Trespassing.  I had gotten caught sleeping inside an old caboose that sat down in the switching yards.  I could not post $250.00 bail, so I had to sit in jail until my court date! 

After getting released from myiron bar hotel, I hopped a freight train out of Thomasville and rode to Waycross, Georgia.  After arriving, I built myself a campfire then walked into town.  I was so hungry!  Once inside the Piggly Wiggly, I come across hot dogs that were on sale.  Wow!  Fifty cents for a package of hot dogs?  Must have been a really old cow, chicken and pig?  Getting back to camp was a bit harder than getting to the store.  As I was just about back on railroad property when a large cup of ice water had been thrown out of a vehicle window on me!  I was soaking wet from my neck to my belt.  Usually that only happened to me when I took my backpack, inviting something like this.  (I only had a small plastic grocery bag).  It was a carload of kids that had nothing better to do I guess. 

After scarfing down eight hot dogs and putting out me fire, I hopped on another train that had pulled out of the yards just as I put my fire out.  I made my way northward through Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  From Rocky Mount, I stayed on my train, being that I still had a pretty full stomach and plenty of water as well.  The next morning I rolled into Washington DC.  I didn’t want to end up in the huge switching yards there, so I bailed off on the mainline once we slowed down enough that I could safely do so.  Washington DC has their own metro-rail system for public transportation needs.  This system is the “Marc Transit”. 

I had hopped off my boxcar near the King Street depot and boarded the Marc and rode it into downtown DC.  I had never in my life seen so many homeless people as here in DC!  Everywhere that I look there were homeless walking around even asking me for spare-change!  I boarded back on the Marc and rode to the end of their line in the township of Frederic, Maryland.

Once off the Marc rail transit train, I walked not too far to a small railroad switching yard owned by the CSX Railroad Company and caught out on a westbound freight train that was headed for Chicago.  The next morning I had made it into the town of Cumberland, Maryland.  There was a huge CSX switching yard here.  I bailed off my train then scampered off the property as quickly as I could, then made my way to a Radio Shak electronics store.  I wanted a new weather radio.  I had gotten my NOAA weather radio stolen from my property items while I was in jail in Georgia a couple of days before and never could prove that one of the property keepers there at the jail had taken it home, being that it was such a nice unit.  For an on sale price of $29.99 I treated myself to a new radio here, then walked to the library to read until it was dark enough to sneak back into the railroad yards to find an empty boxcar to sleep inside.

This was the middle of December and the weather had, so far, been unseasonably warm for Appalachia.  Temperatures were running in the mid-50′s for daytime highs.  I had just bought a new sleeping bag about four weeks before, but it was a lighter brand and was not rated for temps lower than 40 degrees.  I needed to keep an ear out for the very latest cold weather reports so I could prepare for it by getting a thicker bed roll, after all, I sure didn’t want to be caught out in the frost-filled night having this skinny bed roll by itself!

After it had gotten dark, I left the library and walked cautiously back into the switching yard.  I had always had problems with the bulls in this Cumberland yard. I found an empty boxcar and hopped up into it.  I laid out my sleeping gear and turned on my new weather radio.   It must have been the high mountains around the area and being inside the steel boxcar because I could not get any reception at all on the radio.  Finally I fell to sleep about 2 AM.

Boom, bang, bang, boom, eeeeeerk!  My boxcar started moving around at 5 AM.  When I got inside the boxcar the night before, I thought that for sure I would not be going anywhere during the night because the air hoses on each end of my boxcar had not been sewn up.  What happened was, yard workers had sewn the set of cars up that my boxcar was on during the pre-dawn hours while I slept.  I could have gotten off if I had been rolled up and packed away, but since my bed roll and most of my clothing was lying out on the boxcar floor, it would have taken me ten minutes to pack it all away.  I sat inside the boxcar and rode out of the yards onto the mainline.   What pure luck!  Away I rolled westbound.

Cumberland, MD CSX freight trainThis is a “CSX” freight train heading into the switching yards in Cumberland, MD.

After daybreak, the sky looked thick and dark with heavy wet clouds in all directions.  A winter storm was on its way!  As we slowly crawled up higher and higher into the Appalachian Mountains the temperature was falling rapidly along with freezing precipitation.  It was a slow climb up into he mountains too.  By the time I had gotten to the highest point along this route, snow was falling heavier than I had ever seen anywhere in 49 states before!  Snow was so deep that it was as high as the bottom of the boxcar on the outside to each side of the train!  The railroad snow plows had been working this route most of the day so it was as if I were rolling inside a giant crack in the Earth, having nearly five feet of snow on each side of my boxcar.  Snow had been blowing into my boxcar all morning, so there was not one square inch of the floor that was not covered with at least six inches of the white stuff! 

After cresting the highest point on the route, we started heading back down the west side of the Appalachians and into warmer climate.  Things started thawing and getting soaking wet.  By the time I was out of the mountains, the snow had mostly all melted inside my boxcar leaving everything wet and dripping.

After walking back and forth the entire trip inside the boxcar in order to stay warm, we rolled into the town of Conway, Pennsylvania, for our second crew change since my journey started in Cumberland, Maryland.  What had happened is, we had taken the north branch route out of Connellsville, PA during the night, thus taking me into the Conway Yards.  I then bailed off here and found a laundry mat and dried my gear out and this time I made sure I listened to the weather report completely, this way I would know what type weather to expect for my next train ride that would take me on into Chicago land.

 

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About hoboshoestring

I'm a professional hobo of nearly 25 years. This blog is a collection of my most memorable freight train trips; most with photos. First things first, a hobo is someone who rides freight trains and is not a homeless bum on the city streets. I've been hopping freight trains for transportation since 1989. I've ridden over 340,000 miles of steel rails in 49 US states, eight provinces in Canada and 14 states in Mexico. I ride all rail lines in North America. I have hundreds of hobo trip photos that can be viewed by clicking my "Photostream" at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30715417@N04/
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3 Responses to My train ride into the Appalacian winter storm!

  1. Hi Shoestring. Fran suggested that I reach out to you. My name is Molly Sebastian and I am a Casting and Development Producer working with Zodiak Media (http://www.zodiakmedia.com). Zodiak is the world’s third largest television production company.

    We are currently working on a development project focused on Modern Day Hoboes/Train Riders. We are interested in this as a possible series but we are still in the early research stages of figuring out if this is feasible.

    I would love to be in touch with you to provide you with more information and to see if you might be interested in participating in this project.

    If you are interested in talking, please email your number or feel free to call me directly 646-747-7908.

    Thank you,
    Molly

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