Jumping the train

  • Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Fortune favors the Brave. I tell people all the time to Drive Fast Take Chances. You'll regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did.

What happened the other night was a surprise and now the opportunity is gone. I'm sad about it but you can't do everything.

I was driving home and going through the heart of Lane. I came to the railroad track. Lights started flashing and the crossing arms came down to block the crossing. There was a train barely moving coming to the crossing. Lane has two sets of tracks. One set heads to Greeleyville and on the Sumter. The second set is the main line from Charleston to Florence. This train was making the slow curve to head toward Greeleyville. The train appeared to have been stopped and was now just starting to go into the curve. It was barely moving.

The engine passed by with its loud horn warnings. I could see it start into the curve and pull out of sight. Coal car after coal car was behind the engine. It was barely moving. All of a sudden it hit. I had never jumped a train. All these stories swirled through my head about people that had ridden the rails to get around.

I remembered a story about heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey riding the rails. It was an exciting story about the Missouri Mauler and his down and out beginnings. Stories by Jack London featured trains. There was a sort of romance of people jumping on a train and riding to parts unknown and starting over during the dust storm and depression years. It makes for good reading and triggers an exciting response from readers.

Oh, I've ridden a train before. When I was a scout, we rode the train from St. Stephen to Kingstree for a field trip. That was a fun trip but it was 50 years ago. We rode inside the train too.

The train in front of me was still only rolling two miles an hours. I looked at the slowly moving cars and figured that I could grab one of the ladders and jump on the train. I could ride about 10 feet and jump right off. Heck, that train was going so slowly. I could scoot under the train and go out on the other side of the track. There are all kinds of stories about people running through the train yards, slipping under moving trains and escaping the railroad police. This train was moving so slowly; even a big boy like me could do it.

I noticed that there seemed to be another light flashing on the tracks. I could hear another train horn too. A fast moving train speeding to Florence was headed up the track. It tore through the crossing with some loud blasts of its horn. Now the fast moving train was between the slow mover and me. I would have to wait for this train to get out of the way before I could jump my train.

I was thrilled that I was actually going to jump the train. I was going to grab the ladder, ride 10 feet and jump off. Technically, I would have ridden the train like the old timers of yore. I could claim kinship with the real King of the Roads. It would be a story worth telling my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I could probably write a column about it. A Hollywood agent might pick up the rights to the story and do a feature film about my life.

The fast moving train passed and the slow moving train was still there. The only problem was the train had picked up some speed. I would probably have to run a few steps to match the speed of the train and hop on. Then I started thinking about the hop off. I would be moving along and what if I sprained my ankle or something? Then I would be lying on the ground near this moving train. The speed was picking up even more. I thought too long. The train was going about as fast as I could run. I would be off the asphalt of the crossing and on the rocks and ties of the tracks itself. That is a tough surface to walk on much less run on.

What could I do? I was still in the car and now the train was really getting faster. I wanted someone to do a film about my life. If I jumped at this train, I would probably be in a CSX training film about the dangers of messing around with trains. It would probably be titled “Old geezer loses his mind and life messing with a train.”

I didn't even open the car door. The train passed and there I was sitting in Lane with my only chance to ride the rails vanishing around the curve.

I haven't put jumping on the train on any lists. Probably the train trip has passed me by for all time. It was a good thought just the same. Have fun but be careful around railroad crossings and trains. Be sure to Drive Fast and Take Chances too.

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