First Train Trip

As a lifetime train fan, I was pleased that the university I decided to attend in 2004, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, has a train track running through the east end of the campus. 3 to 6 times a day BNSF freights run on a track that runs from the yard on the north border of town, through the historic downtown, right there in the middle of the street with no median or anything, through the campus and then south through Loveland, Berthoud, Longmont, Boulder and finally terminating in Denver. Not only is catching a moving train extremely easy due to guaranteed low speed and being able to run on the street, but an individual on a bike or skateboard can "skitch" by holding on to the train. That can be fun too, especially if you hold onto the rear unit or last container of an intermodal train going south. By the time the pavement runs out the rear can occasionally reach speeds of 35 mph. As long as I have been there nobody has cared about riders in plain view riding down the street section of track. The entire first year at CSU I would run from my dorm or class building or whatever any time I heard a train, just to go watch it slowly crawl past.

As long as I could remember I had wanted to ride a freight train, as a little kid I was sporadically in Laramie, Wyoming hanging out on the pedestrian bridge and would see places where someone could sit on the freight cars. Of course I was not ever able to do it. The first year at CSU I never seriously considered getting on, being that I was new in the area and of course I didn't know anything about it. At the end of the school year one of my buds and I decided that the next year we were doing it, period. So at the beginning of the fall 2006 we loosely made some plans to take a trip. Unfortunately this other guy was not as committed as I was, so I gave up on going with him for the time being.

I probed for some info on what to do and not to do, the Alley Cat coffee shop on Laurel and Mason seemed like a good start. One chick there told me the standard safety stuff, and one other dude who must have never done it was telling me about the dangerous people on the trains. He was saying that I should always carry some whiskey to offer a hobo so he would not stick me with his jackknife, what a bunch of hogwash. And anybody who really needs to count the wheel lugs moving is retarded, it's not that tough to know if the train is moving too fast.

Anyway, on a boring Friday night in September I left a dumbass house party and biked down to the train track around 10 pm. Lucky for me I didn't have to wait, a horn was sounding at the north end of Mason street right as I got to the track at the north side of campus. After parking the bike I ran up to about Mulberry street and waited til the units passed, and after 30 or so cars I spotted a rust red grainer which looked as good as any other. At this time I had little knowledge of railcars, and so I thought all grainers were the same. There was no way I was going to chicken out but of course I was pretty nervous. At first it appeared to be moving too fast, but with force of will I ran and caught up to the rear right ladder, grabbed it and jumped aboard. The grainer I boarded had no porch, only some struts, but I still felt fairly safe standing there right above the wheel.

The train crossed Laurel street and as my car entered the CSU campus I felt the anticipation of knowing the driver would gun it pretty soon. For the first minute I was almost expecting it to stop, as if I had disturbed something that I should not have. The driver gunned it though and I figured the roof looked like a safe place to hang. I recall feeling euphoric as I sat up there passing the box stores and car dealerships of southern Fort Collins. After Harmony Road the train diverged from CO 287 and headed slightly west into some pastures. Cattle were braying at the train as it passed. I hit the deck while passing through several crossings, as the road immediately to the east of the right of way sloped steeply uphill in several crossings. Sheeple in their cars could have seen me if they looked. The freight crossed a few more roads on the approach to Loveland.

It then began to reduce speed, and the fun part of this trip was over. I uttered some oaths as the train gradually eased under a graffiti laced highway bridge and finally came to a stop right after my grain car passed through a crossing, with several pairs of headlights waiting on each side. None of them were cop cars so I did not bail immediately, but soon I saw a flashlight at the head end and froze. I figured I had been seen, and the crew would be coming to throw me off post haste. I dismounted and walked back through the crossing in front of those cars and towards the rear. The end consisted of 2 empty gondolas, which I considered boarding, but I thought the cops might show up at any moment and got off the right of way and started hiking back to Fort Collins on CO 287. I returned to the train track and hiked 10 miles back.

Any retard should have known they were just cutting come cars there, hence the stop next to a siding and the conductor with a flashlight up front. I am not averse to hiking though so it was not a loss at all to hike back. I kind of wanted to make it to Denver that night but I am sure it would have been a slow trip being that this train was a local and most likely had more stops ahead.

Anyway I had to keep riding after that, it's obviously a lot of fun. I have brought up this topic to a fair amount of people, and the one remarkable thing is how many middle aged men say, "I have always wanted to do that, but I never have". That is SO lame, come on if you are 50 years old, what are you waiting for? It is very disappointing.