Anyone ever hop a freight when they were young? That means you illegally sneak into or jump onto a train to get a free ride. More common during the Great Depression and earlier, although there is somewhat of a resurgence these days in the crustpunk scene. Here's a 17-year-old Ernest Hemingway hopping a freight in 1916:
Anyway, ideally I guess you just walk into an open car and sit down. Worst-case scenario, everything was locked up, and you had to ride on top of the truss rods (or just one rod?) that were underneath the train, on a board if you were lucky. This is referenced in the traditional folk song Ballad of Casey Jones, (not the Grateful Dead song Casey Jones, that's another song also based on famed railroad engineer Casey Jones). Mississippi John Hurt did a good version of it, here:
Note the section at 3:05. The lyrics go like this:
The "blinds" were difficult-to-see parts of the train. I think he meant either the front platforms of a baggage car, ("blind" because baggage was piled up high inside) or maybe the baggage cars next to the tender ("blind" because there was no end door, so the conductor couldn't walk through the train to access them). Here's a guy riding the blinds:Casey said before he died
Fix the blinds so the bums can't ride
If they ride, let 'em ride the rod
Trust their lives in the hand of God
I guess the conductor would do something to "fix" the blinds to prevent hoboes from riding on them, in which case the hoboes were forced to "ride the rods", like this:
Train "goodbye scene" filming rig - GIF
Richard Feynman explains: What keeps a train on the track?
Rotary train car coal dumping - GIF and video
Train hits truck on tracks - video
Fixing buckled train track - GIF
wartime railway and train sabotage techniques
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