Freight train, courtesy Library of Congress, Great Depression era, color photo

 

Errol Lincoln Uys

a writer's website

Hunger, waiting for handout, Great Depression era, courtesy Library of Congress image

 

Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression, cover

 

published by

ROUTLEDGE

29 West 35th St

New York, NY 10001

Riding the Rails

 

What Life Was Like

During the Great Depression

How Young Americans

Survived the Hard Times

of the Great Depression

 

Our National Parks and the

CCC — They Saved a

Lost Generation

of America's Youth

Hobo Letters

About the Writer

Interview

Reviews

Links

Brazil

 

Riding the Rails DVD cover
DVD  

 

 

A

GREAT DEPRESSION

BOOKSHELF

Recommended Reading

 

 

Boxcar kid jumps a freight, Great Depression era

 

Click the Picture

Hop Aboard an Online Exhibition

Listen to oral histories of teenage hoboes from the Great Depression

 

Did a member of your family ride the rails during the Great Depression?

 

You are invited to view the archives of 3,000 letters, photographs and books now housed in the National Heritage Museum at Lexington, Massachusetts.

 

Do you have letters, photographs or other memorabilia of the boxcar boys and girls? Consider donating them to the National Heritage Museum's unique

collection. Let future generations know of the pluck and courage of the daring young men and women who rode the rails during those hardest of times.

 

NATIONAL HERITAGE MUSEUM

33 Marrett Road/Rte. 2A

Lexington, MA 02421

Monday-Saturday, 10 AM - 5 PM

Sunday, noon-5 PM

Free admission. Free parking.

Handicapped accessible

781/861-6559

TTY: 781/274-8539

 

National Heritage Museum official web site

 

 

 

TRAINS IN MOTION PICTURES

A Special Exhibition at the

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

May 16 through December 31, 2009

"From the first flickering shadows to contemporary Hollywood blockbusters, the exhibition shines the spotlight on trains and railroads brought to life via the big screen."

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

PA Route 741

Strasburg, PA 17579

717-687-8628

"We thought it was the magic carpet...
the click of the rails...romance."

 

"The end of the rainbow was always 
somewhere else and it kept us moving."

 

"Most of all I remember the loneliness. 
More than once I cried. I felt so sad, 
so utterly alone.
"

 

 

During the Great Depression, more than a quarter of a million teenagers left their homes and hopped freight trains looking for work or adventure. This is their story.

I first became interested in the boxcar boys and girls when I read Boy and Girl Tramps of America by Thomas Minehan, who rode the rails with the young nomads in summer 1932. I suggested to my son, Michael, a film maker, that the subject would make a powerful documentary. The suggestion led to the award-winning PBS "American Experience" film, Riding the Rails, made by Michael and his wife, Lexy Lovell. 

In the book, I draw on 3,000 letters from former boxcar boys and girls sent to the documentary makers. I had access to 40 hours of filmed interviews with 20 men and women chosen as potential candidates for the film. 

Many letters are handwritten, as from old friends sharing honest-to-God stories. Time and again, I held a letter in my hand and felt a connection to a lonely boy or girl standing beside the tracks 60 years ago. It left me with a deep sense of the inner strength and faith of ordinary Americans and their belief in this land.

Studs Terkel has said that the story of the boxcar boys and girls is "one of the vital, terribly neglected sagas of the Thirties. With today's homeless kids, it is a contemporary story of overwhelming importance."

The lessons learned by this "forgotten" generation of America's children who rode the rails in search of a better life are a powerful reminder of what might turn up around the next curve. They are an inspiration to all who share a nostalgia for the road and the freedoms sought there.

 

 

 

 

REVIEWS

 


THE BOSTON GLOBE
"Riding the Rails" is a riveting document of hope and  hardship during one of this nation's bleakest eras. For all  that has been written about the Depression, the travails  of those under the age of 18 have been sorely  underrepresented. Gripping and well-researched, this  book by Errol Lincoln Uys is a companion piece to the  award-winning 1997 documentary of the same name.  With more than 500 interviews and stunning archival  photographs by Walker Evans, Gordon Parks and  Dorothea Lange, Uys so thoroughly recreates the  wretched conditions the boxcar boys and girls endured  that the reader can all but hear the cadence of the  trains on the tracks and the lonesome wail at every  whistle stop."

THE LIBRARY JOURNAL
This is an elegantly presented and quietly moving  collection of firsthand reminiscences, capturing a unique  moment in American history. Uys, a veteran writer and  editor, is the author of the historical novel Brazil.  Enthusiastically  recommended for all public libraries. 
AMAZON.COM

Whether you're a "gaycat" (novice rider) or a "dingbat"  (seasoned hobo), Riding the Rails is entertaining and  inspiring, recapturing a time when the country was  "dying by inches." -- Sunny Delaney, History Editor

 

KANSAS CITY STAR

A remarkable story

SACRAMENTO BEE

One of the most poignant memories of the wandering youth of the Great Depression

DENVER POST

As gripping as it is well researched...

 

TULSA WORLD

Riding the Rails sets out to tell about a few of the 250,000 teenagers who hopped freights and lived the hobo life in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash...paints a brisk, colorful, fast-paced portrait of lean times and high hopes.

Boxcar kids, Great Depression era

 

BUY NOW ON AMAZON


 

Print Edition Kindle Edition DVD

 

 


 

A WALK WITH THE GHOSTS OF

THE  DEVIL'S  RAILROAD

IN BRAZIL

by

Errol Lincoln Uys

GO TO THE STORY

 

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