Suppose you hitch a ride in an empty unlocked box car that is a part of a freight train, for example in the continental US. Do railroad companies actually care about that? Do they have people looking for you? If they catch you, what can they do to you?

  • so is this question US Specific? Because I'm sure the results differ in every country that has trains...
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 7, 2012 at 5:18
  • @MarkMayo: That's why I specified the US. That's the country I am most interested in at the moment. Feb 7, 2012 at 5:51
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    yeah, you'd said 'for example', so just wanted to make sure. Will try and do some research for it later on.
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 7, 2012 at 6:28
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    not sure, but at the very least they could get your arrested for trespassing and/or force you to pay the fee and fine for traveling the route without a ticket. "unlawful entry" also comes to mind, breaking and entering, home invasion, would likely depend on the local and state laws involved.
    – jwenting
    Feb 7, 2012 at 6:38
  • You can be arrested and yes it does happen. The changes of being arrested are not that large but real. They probably care more because of liability and railroad cops like to do it. From Klamath Falls Blues: the yardcop … He found us on highway 97 and didn't hesitate to arrest us. We were taken to the county jail and booked for criminal tresspassing.
    – zaph
    Jan 11, 2019 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


Well, let's look at whether it's possible first, to be Blind Baggage in a Box.

You'll want to enter one of the cars that's empty, obviously, otherwise you run into other problems (being accused of tampering or theft). This means you'll want to do so out of sight.

You could do this along the tracks, if you know the train stops at a signal, or in the changing yard - both tricky, and the latter probably trespassing - given you're not allowed off passenger platforms by law.

Train jumping in Russia

Metafilter has a great page on this, but repeats time and again - if you get caught, you're in trouble. Not "we'll kick you off the train" trouble, but we're talking arrests.

Possible charges include:

  • Tickets (fines)

  • Warrants WILL be issued if you don't pay the fines in the county issued

  • wilful trespassing (train tracks and yards are federal property, so you WILL get charged)

  • breaking and entering (although if it's unlocked and open you could probably contests that one in court)

It also amuses me that this society exists...

Another thing to remember, from anecdotal experience. Two friends and myself were on an overnight train from Bucharest, Romania to Istanbul, Turkey. The train was fairly full, and we wandered through looking for more space. We found three empty boxcars at the back. We have NO problem with lack of comfort, but we thought space could be pretty good. It then turned out we'd been allocated two seats each somehow (they seemed to actually have a backpacker class) so gave up on that idea and enjoyed our seats.

Mid-way through the night we stopped in Bulgaria to change engines. We got off, and then realised what could have gone horribly wrong - the boxcars were no longer attached, and had long since gone somewhere else...

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    Also if you do break any laws and you're on a train crossing state lines, you then crossing into the realm of federal law enforcement.
    – Stuart
    Feb 7, 2012 at 12:21
  • Fun experience I must say, Mark...
    – rlab
    Feb 7, 2012 at 12:49
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    Nitpick: I don't think tracks and train yards are actually federal property (i.e. belonging to the federal government) in most cases; rather, they belong to whatever railroad company owns them. But it may well be that trespassing there is a violation of federal law. Jul 25, 2014 at 16:12

This has a more detailed description of the possible trouble you could get into: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freighthopping

This one has some hobo / railroad stories from the author's time on the trains - also has warnings why it's a bad idea: http://www.northbankfred.com/austin.html

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    If you include the most relevant quotes from those sources in your answer and add a conclusion, you'd have a great answer. As it stands, it's little over a link-only answer.
    – SQB
    Jul 14, 2017 at 9:22

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