• Hobo camps

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

Moderators: MEC407, NHN503

  by NRGeep
Where were they in New England? Any remnants anywhere?
  by CarterB
Yup, most of downtown Hartford CT
  by Ken W2KB
NRGeep wrote:Where were they in New England? Any remnants anywhere?
I suppose that those whom were previously termed hobos are not called homeless, and here and there some may camp on or near railroad property. That said, I don't believe that the older hobo camps had any infrastructure when in use, hence nothing that could constitute a remnant other than the land as such.
  by Noel Weaver
While not in New England this one was on the New Haven just east of the bridge at Pelham Bay on the west side of the tracks. No buildings here but it was a big hangout.
Noel Weaver
  by Plate C
Interesting question/subject, what is your interest?

Without going into hobo history, it is basically an underground movement that would frown on people disclosing things like camp locations. Certainly they are not what they used to be, but not a thing of the past either. If you're pursuing remnants of hobos past, like the old coded symbols they would leave, you're more likely to find that on the West Coast where some do exist. I don't think I've ever seen the older writing lasting anywhere else. There are active camps across the country, and many others that are used by someone passing through, they just clean it up before leaving so the area looks old/undisturbed.
  by NRGeep
I recently read 'One More Train to Ride The Underground World of Modern American Hoboes' by Cliff Williams (OATS) 2003
Indeed it appears there is still a roving community of those folks mostly in western states. Interesting insights into this restless, mostly hard working, misunderstood sub culture.
Last edited by MEC407 on Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total. Reason: unnecessary quoting
  by Plate C
A buddy gave me that book a few years ago, think I still have it. I've stumbled upon numerous camps over time. Even without camps, there are signs in many places of hobos passing through. The West Coast, yes, and I saw a lot in the Midwest, mainly younger people trying to get from A to B. Plenty of decent people, but of course also random eccentrics and a few bad eggs. Really, if the train goes there, someone has probably caught it.
Separate but related, you might enjoy a documentary called Who Is Bozo Texino by Bill Daniels. It's an examination of the monikers found on railcars left by hobos and the men of the railroad.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgSRiJjmnYY" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by Otto Vondrak
NRGeep wrote:Where were they in New England? Any remnants anywhere?
New England is a pretty big place, don't you agree?

Remnants? Of what, exactly? What are you imagining a "hobo camp" is?

  by NRGeep
I don't "imagine" any particular hobo camp or as they used to say hobo jungle.
Since I posted that question, I have learned the hobos who would have traveled through the New England states (and elsewhere) in general prided themselves in leaving nothing behind and would burn their trash or bury it, hence, any evidence of their transitory existence is gone or buried.
Last edited by MEC407 on Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:11 pm, edited 1 time in total. Reason: unnecessary quoting
  by Plate C
Not quite gone/buried. You cleaned up your trash and such and kept the area clean, so leave no trace in that sense. But you can find other stuff, usually rocks arranged for a fire, maybe a grill top. Sometimes a bare mattress that people have attempted to maintain. I've come across many monikers too indicating that people had been there. Not unusual to find a piece of furniture like a chair or bench, sometimes constructed from brush or trees, and often decorated by who has passed through.

When I was in the Midwest there were some common locations that people caught the train or got off, and near these areas were well decorated with an assortment of monikers and odd nic-nacs that people left.

On the West Coast there is an old water tower that survives with old hobo markings in it, believe it's in CA.
  by Komarovsky
Nothing left now, but there was a hobo camp at the old Penn Central yard south of Battleship Cove. I found out about it while reviewing the environmental forms that were filed as part of the development process that converted the yard into condos/a marina at an old job. There were several shacks above the water on the periphery of the yard that were at the time occupied by hobos/transients and according to the report had continuously occupied for some time(report was from the late 80s IIRC). Interestingly enough, Penn Central didn't know who owned the shacks and they technically weren't on their property since they were over the tidal flats.

From what I understand the pilings that the shacks were on are still visible at low tide, but other than that the entire area has been redeveloped.
  by theseaandalifesaver
New England isn't as patient and understanding when it comes to the homeless as other places. One of the biggest culture shocks I experienced moving from Boston to Seattle is the amount of tents that just exist all over the city without the harassment of police. That would definitely never be allowed in Boston.

With that being said, It's safe to say that if anyone is camping out by some tracks, they're most likely hopping a freight train. And more power to 'em!
  by greenwichlirr
Johnny Cash used to make sure the term 'hobo' wasn't confused with the word 'bum'. Hobo's would be the guys hoping freights to go and look for work. Bums were just looking for handouts and a free ride.

The hit version of SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN was recorded during a RIDE THIS TRAIN segment on hobos featured on his TV show, with a beautiful introduction that most people who know the hit have never heard because it wasn't included on the actual record. The background visuals were shot in/around Shelbyville, TN, with one or two quick track-walking shots to be seen:

https://youtu.be/Y_Xqyx-Yy7U" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by MEC407
Two of the most prominent ones in Portland were at Yard 8 between the river's edge and the tracks, and next to the Mountain Sub at the site of what is now Mercy Hospital's Fore River campus. Both are gone now. The one at Yard 8 was still an active camp until two years ago when the trees and brush were removed to make way for the new Portland Yacht Services boatyard. A local magazined called The Bollard interviewed one of the last inhabitants of the camp. It's a fascinating read.
  by BandA
In the late 80s it looked like some homeless people living or occupying area west & south of the Waltham station. Not much B&M freight for hobos, unless they were fare paying MBTA customers.