I met a man outside of our cafe in South Deerfield named Rapid T. He was unshaven and carrying a box of crushed Miller Lite cans. He had a bicycle with a pair of boots dangling over the handlebars. He told me that he was called a Rail Fan, and that he hops freight trains to get around all over the country.
There are many more people than you would think who get around this way, he said. They hop into freight trains and live the lives of the old time hobos, never settling down and living meagerly but totally on the road. One CBS TV show estimated that there are at least 1000 fulltime hobos riding rails across the US today.
Rapid T bummed a cup of coffee from me and told me about his life on the rails. He plans to travel to Greenfield today and get some free dental work done at a clinic he heard about at the Northampton shelter. He’ll ride his bike up there, look at the East Deerfield train yard and to find out where he will be leaving from when he takes another train.
He used to stay in hostels but now said they are hard to find. He told me about the life of a freight train rider…the secret is the grain car. “There is a little room you can get to from the outside, it’s a great place to sleep and you can fit your bike in there.”
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