THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART IV

As I got used to my hiding spot and the uneasiness of being in the middle of a marsh on a pitch black moonless night became an afterthought, I stretched out and relaxed a bit. The bugs and mosquitoes weren’t too bad, especially considering I was surrounded by water on both sides.

I was actually almost comfortable, at least, on the scale of what’s comfortable at midnight or so in the middle of a marsh next to a railroad bridge laying on mostly ballast that slants fairly steeply to the water.  The good news about my situation was that it was a mile back to the bridge I started from and probably a mile into the yard, so nobody was going to accidentally happen on to me.  Plus, I was in a much better spot because the trains were stopping right along here, Continue reading THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART IV

THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART V

Freight trains are incredibly loud, at least, while riding on or in freight cars. I’ve occasionally wondered how anything gets where it’s going in one piece after all the banging and clanging that goes on. I’ve come to realize that it depends significantly on what type of car you are riding and whether you are on the mainline or a poorly maintained branch line.  Mainlines and intermodal cars tend to be relatively smooth, but still ear numbingly loud.

I knew ahead of time that grainers and other bulk unit trains like  coal, potash, sand or rock trains tend to be the lowest priority. Even though this particular train was headed to Portland, it was soon apparent that it wasn’t high priority. We sided out several times to wait on hot shot freights. You now you’re low priority when you side out and get passed from behind!

Sided out along the Mississippi waiting for another train.

Continue reading THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART V

THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART VI

Even though this hop is not off to the start I had envisioned, it was pretty enjoyable. As the late Spring sun got higher in the sky it began warming up quite nicely. It took much of my chill away, and I just relaxed and watched the Mississippi go by through the trees.

A tow boat is visible through the trees as we continue north.

We rolled past locks and dams, a tow boat pushing barges and a variety of small towns and industrial plants along the right-of-way. The tracks run next to a highway and at times the cars weren’t going that much faster than we were. I was afraid I’d be seen, yet I knew most people never bother looking at the rear porch of grain cars rolling by on a train. From the train it’s like you’re watching people through their picture window at home, If they simply look out, they’ll see you, as far as I know, none did.

Continue reading THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART VI

THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART VII

I beat it across the four lane highway to a park on the other side. People are automatically suspicious of you when you’re wearing a pack and wandering around the city. Since this was a park, and more or less on the very edge of St. Paul, I at least looked like maybe I had a legit reason for being there.

It wasn’t ten minutes after ordering it that an Uber driver picked me up. He was on older gentleman, a retired truck driver, just making some extra cash for something to do. We traded a few truck driving stories, he was more of a line haul local type driver, I had been over the road for a few years at one point.

Continue reading THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART VII

THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART VIII

If you’ve never ridden a long distance intercity passenger train, like Amtrak for example, you owe it to yourself to try it sometime. In this part of Wisconsin, the Empire Builder is the daily Amtrak train that cuts through the state on its way back and forth between Seattle and Chicago.

I’ve never ridden a train outside of the US, and I hear that our trains don’t match up to those in Europe, but I have no complaints about Amtrak. The ride is so smooth and quiet you feel like you’re floating along through the countryside, especially when you ride on the top deck of a Superliner car. The comfort level of the train far exceeds that of airplanes. The leg room is amazing and you can recline without giving a thought about smashing person behind you.

My ride to La Crosse from Columbus, WI

Continue reading THE SUMMER OF TRAIN HOPPING! PART VIII