A Short Course On How to Ride Freight Trains


Riding freight trains is a uniquely American but risky and underground activity with a long history, subculture and cadence all its own. Like anything worth doing in life, riding freight is fraught with potentially deadly risks, yet offers unbelieveablly vivid and exhilarating rewards. Railriders experience a degree of freedom and inner peace that has almost disappeared in today’s society, and they routinely experience both urban and wilderness sights seldom seen by anyone else.

Against a backdrop of beautiful photography, this presentation provides a short overview of how to safely and successfully ride freight trains. It takes both a strategic and tactical approach on how to play the game successfully: “reading” trains; avoiding capture by authorities; using technology to track and predict railroad operations in real time; carrying appropriate gear; strategies for getting on and off trains; successfully dealing with railroad personnel; dealing with other hobos and tramps; and how to travel far and fast at minimal cost.

Gerry Van Zandt


Gerry Van Zandt lives in Portland and has worked in the analyst relations, press relations, brand management, and marketing fields for nearly 20 years for a variety of companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Intel, SAP and IBM. He is an avid photographer and expert on anything Macintosh. Gerry also is a collector of and world-renowned expert on postwar Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Grinch (Gerry’s hobo name, for his uncanny resemblance to said character) has ridden freight trains since his college days at OSU in Corvallis in the mid-1980s, and has traveled more than 50,000 rail miles to date. Gerry is married, has two school-age children, and lives in a historic home in the Irvington District.