RIDING THE RAILS

VOICES FROM THE BOXCAR DOOR 

A sampling of stories from the film based on interviews with 500 men and women who hopped freights in the Great Depression
“We got off the train and on the outskirts of town the first building was a diner. And we saw the proprietor standing in the doorway. When we got to where he was standing he called over to us and said, ‘I’ve been watching you walk up that road and you have a hungry walk about you.’ I think the fact that I was young softened the hearts of many people
“I wanted to stay home and fight the poverty with the family, but my father told me I had to leave. It hurt very badly, but he meant I had to go. But I didn’t have it in my mind to leave until he told me, ‘Go fend for yourself. I cannot afford to have you around any longer.’”
—Clarence Lee

“If you see the movie, Wild Boys of the Road, some movie like that showin’ kids travelling on trains, well that put the idea in your head: well, I could do that too. I wouldn’t mind doing that. I'm not going get my leg cut off like that kid did in the movie.”

“As much as the romance might have been there, it was never as good as Richard Halliburton made it out to be. It was never that romantic or that adventurous. It wasn't worth the pain and the suffering. I wouldn’t do it again now for $100 a day, I probably wouldn't even do it for $200. $500 - you might talk to me.”


Napa, Idaho, August 3,  "Dearest Mom, Just a line to let you know I’m OK. The police picked up Irene and I last night and put us in a cell. We sure made use of the cots. I hope they turn us loose soon so that we can go again. This is the third time they’ve picked us up. They all think we are runaways. Fooled eh what? Love and kisses, Peggy"

“It isn’t an exaggeration to say that my trip on the road in 1936
changed my life and the way I view the world I live in. I had a
quick and fast education about how hard life was for millions of
homeless and destitute people. I kept asking myself questions. “Is
it like this all over?” “Why does it have to be this way when the
goddamn guys on Wall Street have millions of dollars?”
Riding the Rails - Companion book - Buy now on Amazon

COMPANION BOOK

RIDING THE RAILS: TEENAGERS ON THE MOVE DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION

By Errol Lincoln Uys

“The reader can all but hear the cadence of the trains on the tracks and the lonesome wail at every stop.” – Chicago Tribune

“A riveting document of hope and hardship.” – Boston Globe

“Elegantly presented and quietly moving account of first-hand reminiscences. Enthusiastically recommended.” – Library Journal

Illustrated with fifty rare archival photos and drawing primarily on letters and oral histories of three thousand men and women who hopped freight trains, Riding the Rails brings to life a neglected saga of America in the 1930s. Self-reliance, compassion, frugality and a love of freedom and country are at the heart of the lessons these teens learned. At journey’s end, the resiliency of these survivors is a testament to the indomitable strength of the human spirit.

Errol Lincoln Uys is a renowned writer and editor. He was the editor-in-chief for Reader’s Digest in South Africa, and collaborated with James A. Michener on his South African novel, The Covenant. Uys is the author of the international best-seller, Brazil


AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: RIDING THE RAILS DVD

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