Riding the Rails - Making the film

“I was inspired by the book, Boy and Girl Tramps of America written by Thomas Minehan in 1934. Minehan disguised himself as a hobo and interviewed teenaged freight travellers during the Great Depression.

“After reading the book, I wrote letters to the editors of forty major publications, including Modern Maturity, in search of teenagers who left their homes and road the rails in the ’30’s. When I started receiving over 100 letters a day, I knew I had struck a nerve. I could see that this was an enormous task and asked Lexy Lovell to join the project. Together we read nearly 3,000 letters. The stories were powerful and heart-wrenching.

“In the letters, the survivors wrote that they left their homes for adventure. They left for jobs that didn't exist. They left to relieve the burden on their families. In 1932, approximately 250,000 teenaged children were on the road.

“After sifting through the letters and choosing twenty interview subjects, we hit the road, travelling 13,000 miles across the United States in seven weeks. We even hopped freights up and down California with one old-timer who still rides the rails.”

—Michael Uys,  The American History Project

Sam Henriques and Neil Riha shooting a scene from the film.

Michael Uys, Neil Riha, Lexy Lovell, and Sam Henriques on location in the train yard.

Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell train hopping with Guitar Whitey.ly.

Neil Riha, Lexy Lovell, Sam Henriques, and Michael Uys interviewing Peggy De Hart

Sam Henriques and Lexy Lovell on a freight train along the Pacific coast with Guitar Whitey.

Guitar Whitey still rode the rails after all these years.

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