Rail cars that hoboes ride.


Boxcars are my favorite rides on freight trains.  Boxcars haul almost anything and everything.  From frozen orange juice to bagged concrete; the boxcar hauls it all.

Inside my boxcar from Kansas City  Me, inside the doorway of my boxcar when the outside temperature was 10 degrees below zero!

Boxcar in Shreveport KCS Yards This is the boxcar I rode from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Kansas City, Missouri.

Getting my boxcar open Me here trying to open my boxcar door a bit more before hopping up inside.  (Shreveport, Louisiana).

boxcar rides This boxcar rode fairly good.  I rode inside here from Clinton, Iowa, to Peoria, Illinois.  (Notice my seat inside)?  I was able to load this chair inside when we stopped to let another train pass.  Some boxcar “hunt” really bad on the tracks.  Hunting is caused by empty cars that sway back and forth on the tracks;  jarring you in every way!   By riding in an insulated boxcar, you lessen the chance of hunting because these boxcars are heavier, thus the hunting is not as bad.

Boxcar ride in Louisiana Me, inside my boxcar riding in Texas.


Car carriers can be ridden if you know what you are doing.  When these rail cars are loaded with new vehicles, they are locked with thick shank-seals, thus getting inside these rail cars is next to impossible, but can be done.  Once you’re inside, each vehicle has its key in the ignition.  It makes for a great ride with the stereo and the heat or air conditioning blasting!  Mostly though, I only ride when these rail cars are empty.  They make for a really nice ride being that they are difficult to get into, thus the bull never thinks there will be anybody inside and avoids checking!

Auto rack car carrier trains This here is an auto-rack rail car, also.  Each end of this rail car has two large doors that swing open if you can make the right make-shift chuck-&-key to get in, that is!

Car carrier trains/rail cars This also is an “Auto-Rack” train.

Inside the  This is what it looks like to ride inside an empty “auto-rack” rail car!  (There are no vehicles loaded inside this rail car, so I had all this room to walk about).

 "Chuck-and-key" by you. (Homemade Chuck-&-key).  This is a railroad plate with spike poked through the square hole in the plate.  Now, you take the square spike and place it into the square hole of the car carrier door and turn counter clockwise and voila, your auto-rack door opens, then you can load up inside and ride in style!


Coilcar in Texas. This is a “coil car” I rode behind from Beaumont, Texas, to Shreveport, Louisiana, while riding “KCS”.   Kansas City Southern a.k.a. KCS, now hauls many coil cars to Kansas City and points north from old Mexico, thus you can determine the direction of your train when you’re in Shreveport’s Caddo Yards in Louisiana.

Coil cars are used to transport rolls of steel.  Various types of wire also are hauled in roll-form with the coil car.  The steel rolls are manufactured mostly for the automobile industries.

DSCF0015 by boxcar66 This coil car is hauling steel rolls, as are the uncovered coil cars in front.

Coil cars are made weather-proof, since steel becomes quickly vulnerable to oxidation, once it leaves from where it’s manufactured.

DSCF0011 by boxcar66 This is an open-ended, or uncovered coil car. 

These rolls are unprotected here. Certain steel manufacturers requirements are less stringent, since the steel will be recast again, depending on the product being manufactured.


The below link is of a train hauling nothing but “coil cars”!

(Please enjoy)!



Cabooses were used on trains back in the days when siding and yard switches were turned by hand.  For instance, if the train pulled out onto the mainline from a spur track or a siding; the trainman in the caboose would get off and switch the track back to the original alignment from the rear of the train, thus avoiding having to back the train up to where the switch could be turned by an engineer or brakeman on the head end.  Now that computer operated switching exists out on the mainline, trains no longer need a caboose.  Trains now have what’s called an “EOT” on the very last rail car of the train.  “EOT” stands for End Of Train device, and most railroad employees call it this.  Hoboes call the end of train device a “Fred”.  The Freddy stands for, Federal Rear End Device, or “Flashing Rear End Device.  Either way, it’s a rectangular shaped box-like device that hooks to the trains air hose and reads the trains air pressure that is used to operate the brakes.  If the air pressure drops for any reason, the device will send an emergency alert signal to the train crew in the lead locomotive unit, then the matter is investigated.

EOT deviseThis is the rear end device, or (EOT).  Also known as the Fred, or (Flashing Rear End Device).

Cabooses usually have one or two beds, one restroom, an oil stove/heater and an electrical system provided by an alternator.  The top of the caboose also usually has an area called the Cupola.  The cupola area is where the train being pulled in front of the caboose can be seen from a higher vantage point.  The caboose has an electrical system that gets its electricity from an alternator.  The alternator generates electricity from the cabooses own wheels that are attached to the alternator by belts.  When the caboose is in motion you have electrical current that is being generated, thus you have power for the equipment inside the caboose.  Although cabooses are almost never used anymore, they still may be seen sometimes being pulled on local area runs that require frequent manual switching that can’t be achieved by a computer operated switch.  Cabooses still exist in many rail yards across North America and are terrific for sleeping in and getting in out of the foul weather.  If you are lucky, you may find an unlocked caboose that you can sleep in.  If not, you need to acquire yourself a universal railroad key.   These are a few photos of cabooses that I have rode and slept inside.

Caboose This caboose is now owned by “BNSF” Rail.  A very good view of the cupola here.  (I slept in this caboose the night before I took this photo).  This also is the very same caboose as the one down after the next.

Cupola area of caboose

Cupola area of caboose above.  This caboose is an old “Western Maryland” Railroad caboose.  Hoboes refer to cabooses as “Crummies” also.

 Cabooses This is me in the rear area of the caboose I slept inside about two years ago.

Caboose alternator, belt & wheels This here is the alternator, belts and pulley system where electrical current is generated for the cabooses consumption.

Caboose/cupola This is a caboose without a cupola.  The area in the mid-section of this caboose that bulges outward was used to keep an eye out on the train being pulled ahead of the caboose as like with the cupola.

Cabooses This again is a caboose without a cupola.  This unit is owned by the “CSX” railroad company.  (Chessie Seaboard System Railroad).


Grainer’s are my second favorite rail-car to ride.  They come in several models as well.  This grainer below is what hoboes call a Cadillac grainer.  Reason being is there is a steel lip that rises up all around the floor of the rail car where you ride and thus you are hid a lot better from the all-seeing-eyes!  (Notice the raised edge around the base of this Cadillac grainer below)?

Grainer rides

Grain hopper This was a grain hopper I rode on from Vancouver, BC to Calgary, Alberta Canada.  I’m almost entering the tunnel at the Alberta/BC border.

Grainer rides Here I’m riding on a Cadillac grainer.  (Notice the other train passing me in the siding next to me)?  You have an area that measures roughly eight feet by four feet to ride on.  Also there is enough room where you may roll out your bedroll and sleep comfortably.

Grainer rides I’m riding inside of the end-hole area of a covered hopper here.  You have roughly an area four feet by eight feet to ride here as well, but there are three separate sections where each are only four feet by three feet in length.  Also you are nearly hermetically sealed all around!  This is a tight fit as you can see here!  (Notice the white chemical residue in the other section)?  Also the circular hole you see here is the exact size of the hole you must squeeze through in order to get where I’m at resting here!

Grain hoppers This here also is a grainer rail car.  They can be used to haul anything from feed corn to shingle grit-sand used on roofing shingles!

Grain hoppers This here is what we hoboes call a “Bottomless” grainer.  It has no covered floor to ride on!  Although you can ride this type grainer, you had better stay awake if you want to get to your destination in one piece!

Liberty, Missouri area. This is me next to what we hoboes call a “double barrel shotgun grainer” because of the double holes on each end and its barrel shape.  You have to squeeze into this small hole to my right!  Once inside, you have lots of room to move about while out-of-sight, out-of-mind!

Found carpet! This is me inside the small hole once inside.  You can now see how roomy it is once inside.  (Roughly five foot long by three foot wide and perhaps four foot high interior).

My favorite kind of grainer!!! This is my absolute favorite hopper/grainer to ride!  (C-6 class-style hopper).  These mostly are used to haul plastics from refineries to plastics manufacturers.


Gondola cars are open topped rectangular rail cars used to haul various goods.  Most haul scrap metal, but a few others may haul steel beams, metal & concrete culverts, rebar and even the occasional railroad track rails with ties still intact.  You can ride in these gondola rail cars, but they sure are windy to ride!  Trash, fodder and debris blows relentlessly no matter what the speed of the train!  You might as well bring a pair of goggles with you when you plan on riding a gondola!

Gondola pair This is the usual condition of gondolas as they are used and abused to the fullest!  This gondola was once owned by “New York Central” railroad company.

__hr_GON by daeganlife You are riding with a hobo here!

Gondola rail cars This gondola is being used to haul rolls of steel wire.  This steel wire is sometimes loaded in the gondola while it’s still hot!  This makes for a nice, warm ride on a cold winter’s night!


Hot shots are priority trains.  These type trains will get you where you need to go fast!  The bad thing is; you are being watched by the railroad police (bull) all the time.  Riding a hot shot can be done, it just takes hiding good and keeping out of sight so you won’t get caught and thrown off railroad property for trespassing or even worse; thrown in jail!

Railroad bull searching for illegal activity The railroad policeman here is checking seals on container doors making sure no break-ins have occurred.

Each end of the containers have an area where you can ride.  The problem is finding the right rail car that has enough space to get down in and hide.  The T-125-48’ers here are good rides, but finding enough space to ride is hard.  You must ride at night to evade capture on a hot shot, although I have ridden many, many times without any problems during the daylight hours.  It depends a lot where you are also.  If you’re in a high-crime area, it’s likely you’re going to get caught there than out in the middle of the desert.

Hot shots Union Pacific T-125-48 hot shot.

Trailer train hot shot On each end of these stacked containers you can ride down in the rail car itself.


Locomotive units can be ridden as well.  Each unit has its very own electric heating system, airconditioning, refrigerator with bottled water and even a restroom with a toilet much like on a Greyhound bus.  Sometimes the train crew will be nice enough and let you ride inside the cab of the rear, trailing locomotive units.  Most all have a radio so you can hear what is going on around you.  There is enough room that you can roll out your bed roll on the floor of the cab and sleep comfortably.  Also there usually are three to four adjustable seats in the locomotive cab. 

 Me boarding in Alexandria, LA Me climbing aboard a unit in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Trains that transport goods long-haul travel while trailing other locomotives behind one another for added power, thus if you are experiencing cold weather, you can ride in the cab of the locomotive that is in rear trailing position three to four units back from the lead unit, (or how ever many units are trailing behind). 

The SD stands for “Super Diesel”, and the 80MAC is its series make/model. They are roughly 5,350 horse-power.  There are many, many types, makes and models of locomotives throughout the railroad industry.

Locomotive rides This is a photo I took from the nose of a locomotive.  I’m riding a “pusher” locomotive unit here from North Platte, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  (I have the door open while snapping this photo).

Unit ride on KCSMe inside of KCS’s locomotive.


Lumber and flat cars can be rode, but at a price.  Although you can easily board one of these type rail cars, they are right out in the open and in the public eye!

Loaded lumber car These here are flat lumber cars.  If the weather is nice you may ride between each stack of wood, but if the train were to ever suddenly stop in an emergency stop, you could risk life & limb!

Lumber & falts This here is an empty lumber car.  They are used to haul various wood types, lengths & widths.  Dry-wall is sometimes hauled with these as well.

Flats & lumber cars This is a bulkhead flat car.  Used to haul fallen trees to pulp mills and paper mills.  This wood here is in it’s first step in becoming news paper, toilet paper, writing paper, paper towels and may even be shredded to manufacture particle-board.  These type rail cars can be ridden, but are so full of sap that it gets all over your clothing and backpack!

Flats & lumber cars Here we have another flat car.   The bulkheads are high, but this doesn’t help keep wind from blowing your clothes off your back!  They are used to haul beams, culverts, pipe and anything that is too long or large to fit through a boxcar doorway.

Pipe train headed northbound! This is a flatcar hauling pipes that I rode from Beaumont, Texas to DeQuincy, Louisiana.

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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1 Response to Rail cars that hoboes ride.

  1. tnt says:

    I think that is a good life for someone that chooses that life style, it seems you enjoy it very much. I hear you are not feeling well, hope for you all the best, TNT

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