After winning in Las Vegas, I lost big time on the tracks!

Las Vegas freight trainThis is a Union Pacific coal train passing through Las Vegas, Nevada.

I had been hopping freight trains in Southern California for about two weeks until I had gotten tired of the same old things, and I chose then to ride up to Salt Lake City for a while.

I caught-out of Los Angeles and rode north on the Union Pacific Railroad to the first crew-change at Yermo, California just eight miles north of Barstow.   Yermo is most likely the worse methamphetamine infested area of California, and this area is rightly called the “High Dessert” for this reason.

After I had made it out of the huge switching yards there, I walked to the small corner store and called Dial-A-Ride for a lift back south into Barstow.    “Dial-A-Ride” is a small city bus service in the area to where you can call them and they will drive out to pick you up.   Once I got off the bus in Barstow, I walked to the homeless shelter mission there and asked if I could take a hot shower since it had been roughly a full week having gone without!   I was treated pretty good here and also was given a couple days worth of canned food.   After camping for two days in Barstow, I was ready to ride again.

After making my way back to Yermo on Dial-A-Ride, I caught-out again on the UP Railroad.  I rode all the way into downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, hopped off my train and walked to the Greyhound Bus station in order to lock my backpack inside a locker so I could comfortably walk down on Fremont Avenue without being bothered by the city police.  All I had to my name as far as cash was $9.00.  I went up to the teller at the Cajun Casino and had her give me $9.00 worth of quarters.  I walked right up to a KENO gaming machine and plopped in four quarters at a time.  I was picking five numbers in hopes that the machine would pick my five.  It finally happened about $3.00 into my game!  I hit all five number bubbles that I had marked!  I won $202.50!  Wow!  I have never won anything in my life and now I had nearly 20 times more money than I came to Vegas with.  I thought that I had better spend one night at a cheap motel, now that I had a bit of money on me. So I grabbed my gear from the Greyhound lockers and walked east of Fremont Avenue down to where the scumbag motels are. Crack, meth, and anything that you can imagine, you can get in Las Vegas!  The cheap priced motel was what I was looking for.  I finally found one that had vacancy. I bought a one night stay there and slept pretty good.

The next day I walked down to an overpass that traverses the train tracks and walked down underneath then sat waiting on my next train north.  After several trains had come and had gone, still no ridable cars had passed.  I sat in somewhat sorrow when just then, at nearing 6 PM, a Double-Stack train pulled up to do its crew-change!  “Double-Stacks” are freight trains that haul these 48 foot long containers that are loaded with anything from car parts to candy canes!  They are stacked one atop the other.  These are priority trains.  This means they have priority over less important trains, so they can really make great time if you are riding on these.  So I loaded my backpack and bedroll onto it then pulled myself up onto a railcar and sat down on top of my gear while waiting to leave.

Finally after about two hours, we started pulling north.   We hadn’t gone far when we again stopped in a siding about seven miles north of town.   I thought that perhaps we were waiting on another train to pass us inside the siding, but this was not the case, and I was soon to find out why we had stopped.  

It had just about gotten dark outside.  We again started moving.  I looked toward the front of the train, up toward the locomotive units and noticed right away that a railroad police officer had climbed up the ladder on a signal pole and was shining his flashlight on the train containers.  What was going on, I thought.  It was now too late for me to have bailed off, so I just sat back down on my pack and waited to get seen and busted. I did!   He ordered the engineer to stop his train, and he took his gun out and pointed it at me then screamed, “Get off the train right now mother fucker”!  “Let me see your hands right now mother fucker, or I’ll blow your God damned head off”!  I did exactly what he said.  I jumped off while still holding my hands in the air.  He hand cuffed me then slammed me to the gravel, then placed ankle cuffs on me.   I said, “All this for trespassing”?    He then said, “Trespassing my mother fucking ass”!  “You are going to prison for federal railroad burglary”!  I said, “Burglary”?!  What do you mean burglary”?  

What had happened is that somebody/someones had got on the train and broke into 21 different containers and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In order for him to make his report look good to his superiors, he had to nail someone for the crime, and what no better person than someone riding on the train already.  I was then taken to the Clark County jailhouse and booked on Federal Burglary, Trespassing, and impeding the movement of a railroad train.  My bail was set at $50,000!

I kept trying to tell him to take fingerprints!  I also told him that he would not, by any means, try to pin this on me!  I pissed him off when I added that he wasn’t a good enough cop to catch the real thieves, and that he was such a terrible railroad cop that he could only catch a hobo instead of catching the real culprits. Of course this didn’t help me out any by making him steaming mad.  He knew that I wasn’t the one who did the burglaries. 

21 containers supposedly had been broken into and all I had on me besides my gear was a .49 cent P-38 can opener and I was supposed to have used this for a burglary tool.  I could hardly open up a can of “Soon to be farting” brand beans with this can opener, let alone a thick cast iron shank seal!

This was a Friday evening when I was arrested, so I wasn’t taken to court until the following Monday morning, and even then, this would only be my arraignment and not the time to plea guilty or not guilty.   After the lady judge called my name to stand up, she said, “Time Served”.  She said that there was absolutely no evidence of me being involved in this crime, thus my charges were all dropped! 

After getting my street clothes back, I walked to the Greyhound bus station once again and bought myself a bus ticket up the line and out of stinking Clark County!  I got off the bus in Saint George, Utah about four hours later, then hitch-hiked about 30 miles west to Milford, Utah crew-change.  I finally hopped out on another freight train that took me on up to Salt Lake City, Utah, then points east.

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:
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