During the Great Depression American hobos depended on communication through their language and signage for their survival. They disclosed information about violent railroad bulls and towns to each other in the rail yards, where they moved between trains, and jungles, where they lived while on the road. Hobo communications reveal how they built communities and responded to the dangers of their lives.

What is a Hobo?

“                                                                                               A   Caution

If you are tempted to try riding a freight train, don’t. In the words of a Nomad, a veteran rider of fifteen years, ‘Do not do what I do. It’s dangerous, it could get you killed; it’s illegal, you can go to jail. And you’re going to get  addicted to it and possibly destroy whatever chance you could have at a real life.”

(One More Train to Ride,Clifford Williams,2003 )

Two boys waving at a passing train, Unknown Date, Union Pacific Railroad Museum