Riding the Rails

In the Globe and Mail this week, there is an article on ‘Yuppie Hobos” – young people who ride the rails illegally for the fun of it.

I have no comment on this new trend, but it did remind me of two things.  First – the wonderful book “Autobiography of a Supertramp” by William Henry Davies.   Published in 1908, it provides  a fascinating insight into vagrant life at the turn of the last century in America and Britain.  I recommend it.

The second thing is this story my father told me:

In the 30’s, my father and his mother were members of a fundamentalist Christian church in Victoria.  Several other families in the congregation were also originally from Saskatchewan – part of a wave that came out to BC after WWI and the Depression. 

My father, who was in his late teens, was friends with some young men in the church who were a few years older.  Every year, these young men would leave Victoria, ride the rails back to  the family farm in Saskatchewan and help bring in the harvest.  When the work was done, they would then jump trains and make their way back to Victoria.

One year, when his friends returned, my father asked them how the journey had gone.   They told him it went well.   In Alberta, they had managed to get on a train which was shipping military vehicles to Vancouver.   His friends had traveled all the way through the Rockies and BC seated in a military jeep.


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