Extract 1 from WIP No.1

Have you never been tempted by the thought? You are waiting for your connection as a goods train approaches, slowing almost to a halt as it rumbles into the station. The wagons roll past you. They’re tantalisingly close. It would be so easy just to jump. ‘Rail-hopping’, it’s called in the USA. An entire itinerant lifestyle grew up around it in the depression era, riding for free across those great open spaces between one obscure industrial town and another, watching the world pass before you through the open doors of a freight car. Rolling through the empty countryside at a constant 35 mph, not slowing even to allow the exchange of drivers, past endless fields of cotton or wheat, taking a day or more to reach the next settlement of any size. Amerika. Manned cabooses, once to be found bringing up the rear of every freight train have been phased out as an economy measure. Hence, there is no guard to deter rail-hoppers from climbing aboard. Railroad police are few in number, and besides, they’re not really interested, turning a blind eye to a few ‘drunken hobos’. They have more pressing business to attend to – missing persons, grand larceny, illegal aliens… Or so I imagine.

Could this be you, then? Could you leave behind the tedium of your day-to-day existence, the troubles that keep you from sleeping at night? It would be so easy just to jump… It’s a dangerous game, though. Fractures and lost limbs are common, fatalities not unknown. In any case, rail-hopping is under threat. Freight cars are being displaced by container wagons. These days, more often than not, you find yourself shut outside in all weathers. In this regard, then, you are no different from any other vagrant. And leaping onto container wagons is yet more dangerous still. The camaraderie of the rails is being eroded. The fraternity has begun to fade away.

crossing - Copy

It would be so easy just to jump…

All text and image © PSR 2013

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