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Railroaders' Nostalgia > A terrible way to die.


Date: 12/24/21 12:06
A terrible way to die.
Author: eminence_grise

Some time in the spring of 1978, a young man was hopping freights across Canada, with the CN his railroad of choice. He was also writing a journal of his adventure. He had reached Kamloops Junction BC, about a day away from his destination of Vancouver BC.  He had learned to avoid detection by getting off freight trains as they slowed for a crew change, and to walk to the other end of the yard and to hop on a freight train as it departed.

He was waiting to hop a freight at the west end of the CN yard at Kamloops Junction. He noted that a freight had finished switching and was doubling a cut of boxcars onto the train and that a couple of the boxcars had open doors. He hopped into one of the boxcars and hid in a dark corner of the car. He heard the carmen checking the cars, but they were only interested in the running gear (trucks, couplings and brake rigging.) He heard some conversation between the carmen "We should close the doors", which they did. He was trapped inside, but assumed the train would arrive in Vancouver in 24 hours and he would be released then.

The train he hopped was the Kamloops Junction to Kelowna nightly freight which travelled over the CN and CP tracks to that Okanagan city. However, the boxcars added to the head end of that freight were not destined for Kelowna.  They were destined for long term storage at Kalamalka siding, a remote siding located far from any houses along Kalamalka Lake south of Vernon BC. This siding was used to store cars because the current traffic levels did not need Kalamalka as a meeting point. CN and CP freights received a train order saying "Siding Kalamalka blocked with cars" for the two or three months the cars were stored there.

Twice a day, the two railways operated freight trains southbound in the morning and northbound in the evening, and passed by Kalamalka siding at track speed. Likewise, track patrols went by from time to time, but never stopped.

Whenever activity was heard outside, the hobo would hammer on the car sides hoping to be heard, but never was.  He tried in vain to pull up the floor board of the boxcar. After about two weeks, he passed away. However his body was not discovered for three months. There had been enough light through a crack in the door for him to keep writing his journal for a few days.

In those days, I was working as a trainman on CP's nightly Revelstoke to Kelowna freight. Every other day, I would pass by Kalamalka siding, including those days while the hobo was still trapped in the boxcar, he would have been pounding on the boxcar in an attempt to be heard, but we never heard him passing by at track speed with engine windows shut.

We only discovered his fate after his body was discovered months later.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/24/21 16:25 by eminence_grise.



Date: 12/24/21 22:05
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: roustabout

Willamette & Pacific's Albany yard was visited by police a long time ago.  It seems that some hobos - kids from Portland - hopped a freight in a boxcar.  Same sort of deal, the door got closed and they were stuck inside.  One or more had a cell phone, though, and made some calls for help.  They were eventually found and released although I don't know whether they were arrested or just sent on their way.  I was working a different job so heard the story second hand.  The yard job was always interesting.  



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/24/21 22:07 by roustabout.



Date: 12/27/21 09:44
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: trainjunkie

The modern version of this is containers. I had an open container door the other day in my train and I got up high enough on the end of the well car to see inside. All the palletized freight was on the far end of a 53-foot box and it didn't look like it had been disturbed. But before I closed the door I called out, "Anyone in here? I'm closing the door." Silence, so I closed it. But you always hope there isn't somebody hiding in there like an idiot allowing themselves to get trapped.



Date: 12/27/21 10:39
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: engineerinvirginia

trainjunkie Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The modern version of this is containers. I had an
> open container door the other day in my train and
> I got up high enough on the end of the well car to
> see inside. All the palletized freight was on the
> far end of a 53-foot box and it didn't look like
> it had been disturbed. But before I closed the
> door I called out, "Anyone in here? I'm closing
> the door." Silence, so I closed it. But you always
> hope there isn't somebody hiding in there like an
> idiot allowing themselves to get trapped.

That's a risk and that is why on my road we are NOT permitted to close boxcar doors....If pulling from an industry we get them to do it....but if we are picking it up in a yard....it stays open. There's also the potential for injury on our part...it ain't easy moving them heavy doors from the ground and we don't use special "tools" which end up being more trouble than they are worth. 



Date: 12/27/21 22:05
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: wabash2800

I always assumed a box car door could be opened from the inside. I was wrong. The late Freeman Hubbard had a story about a dog (named trixie?) that got stuck in a box car. After many days, she was finally discovered and survived.

Victor



Date: 12/28/21 08:07
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: Railbaron

Seasoned riders would use a piece of wood to block the door open so it wouldn't shut accidentally.
 



Date: 12/28/21 16:52
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: Sp1110

Why doesn’t the FRA mandate that boxcars can be opened from the inside? They mandate that boxcars must be retired after 50 years.



Date: 12/28/21 18:08
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: PHall

Sp1110 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Why doesn’t the FRA mandate that boxcars can be
> opened from the inside? They mandate that boxcars
> must be retired after 50 years.

Why would anybody be riding inside a boxcar?



Date: 12/28/21 18:17
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: Sp1110

PHall Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sp1110 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Why doesn’t the FRA mandate that boxcars can
> be
> > opened from the inside? They mandate that
> boxcars
> > must be retired after 50 years.
>
> Why would anybody be riding inside a boxcar?

Hobos do it all the time don’t they?



Date: 12/28/21 19:21
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: JasonCNW

>
> Hobos do it all the time don’t they?


Dont trespass on railroad property and then there is no risk. No reason to mandate it anyway. Freight cars are for hauling freight not people.
JC

Posted from Android



Date: 12/28/21 19:33
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: offthebeatentrack

Sp1110 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Why doesn’t the FRA mandate that boxcars can be
> opened from the inside? They mandate that boxcars
> must be retired after 50 years.

While it seems logical for the FRA to do so, the above stories and other related/unmentioned incidents are the exception and not the rule. Spending millions of dollars to install handles on the interiors of boxcar doors is pointless. Imagine hanging fall protection nets beneath every railroad trestle/bridge to prevent the very occasional deaths of trespassers who become trapped in the middle of the bridge in the face of an oncoming train.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 12/29/21 01:00
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: Sp1110

offthebeatentrack Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sp1110 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Why doesn’t the FRA mandate that boxcars can
> be
> > opened from the inside? They mandate that
> boxcars
> > must be retired after 50 years.
>
> While it seems logical for the FRA to do so, the
> above stories and other related/unmentioned
> incidents are the exception and not the rule.
> Spending millions of dollars to install handles on
> the interiors of boxcar doors is pointless.
> Imagine hanging fall protection nets beneath every
> railroad trestle/bridge to prevent the very
> occasional deaths of trespassers who become
> trapped in the middle of the bridge in the face of
> an oncoming train.
>
> Posted from iPhone

Do bridges have room to stand on the side to get out of the way of an oncoming train?



Date: 12/29/21 15:46
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: offthebeatentrack

Sp1110 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> offthebeatentrack Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Sp1110 Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > Why doesn’t the FRA mandate that boxcars
> can
> > be
> > > opened from the inside? They mandate that
> > boxcars
> > > must be retired after 50 years.
> >
> > While it seems logical for the FRA to do so,
> the
> > above stories and other related/unmentioned
> > incidents are the exception and not the rule.
> > Spending millions of dollars to install handles
> on
> > the interiors of boxcar doors is pointless.
> > Imagine hanging fall protection nets beneath
> every
> > railroad trestle/bridge to prevent the very
> > occasional deaths of trespassers who become
> > trapped in the middle of the bridge in the face
> of
> > an oncoming train.
> >
> > Posted from iPhone
>
> Do bridges have room to stand on the side to get
> out of the way of an oncoming train?

I see your point. Not all bridges do. Some do have small platforms placed every 50-100 feet for MOW workers or inspectors to clear the tracks. The same dangers can be said for railroad tunnels. My point is that a handle on the inside of all boxcar doors is impractical and pointless.



Date: 12/30/21 07:03
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: atsfer

I heard similar stories of when reefer cars were still cooled with ice that hobos would get inside the ice compartments at the ends of the cars which had a hatch with a latch on it.   They would get inside and the lid would slam shut and trap them inside where they would die and their remains would not be discovered till the cars were scrapped.



Date: 12/30/21 14:23
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: PHall

atsfer Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I heard similar stories of when reefer cars were
> still cooled with ice that hobos would get inside
> the ice compartments at the ends of the cars which
> had a hatch with a latch on it.   They would get
> inside and the lid would slam shut and trap them
> inside where they would die and their remains
> would not be discovered till the cars were
> scrapped.

Yeah, calling BS on this one. Those ice bunkers were inspected and cleaned fairly frequently.



Date: 12/31/21 17:47
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: Southern-Pacific-fan

My dad was Francis Sherman, 1 of the 2 men that found Bill in the boxcar






Date: 12/31/21 18:48
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: Southern-Pacific-fan

Story follow up, Bill and Shiela lived in the oakridge area the rest of their lives, Staying in the area and raising a family even after the mills closed



Date: 01/12/22 13:32
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: RS11

Hobo Shoestring.  The guy has a following on the tube.  I'm neither for nor against what he is doing.  He came to my attention when he did a video of riding in a boxcar up in Maine on my first railroad.  Bet he won't do that again.  Not that anything happened but the old Maine Central tracks and roadbed has gone to the weeds thanks to Springfield Terminal/Guilford/Pam Am.  Good thing he put a spike in the door track to keep it open. But CSX just bought it.  Who the hell knows now.



Date: 01/12/22 21:28
Re: A terrible way to die.
Author: TheApostleGreen

Southern-Pacific-fan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Story follow up, Bill and Shiela lived in the
> oakridge area the rest of their lives, Staying in
> the area and raising a family even after the mills
> closed

Wow... Findagrave.com says he passed away just a week shy of turning 57.  Far too young.  RIP Bill. 

~Joe P.
Hainesville, IL



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