In Memory of J.B. Milano

Hopping a Freight Train

It was the summer of 1956 when John Milano and I met Travis Long a newcomer to our neighborhood. The Longs had moved to Charlotte from Gastonia when Mr. Long got promoted to a new job on the railroad. He got a green pickup truck with Southern Rail Road sign painted on the doors. I don't what his job was, but he worked at odd hours when they had a problem with one of their trains. Travis told us he rode with his dad sometime when he would go out at night to fix the trains. We ask him if he ever rode the train? Travis said, a few times. He and his dad would get on one of the cars and his dad would release the brake and the car would coast down the rails to where his dad would work on one of the cars. John ask him how a train car could move without an engine to pull it? Travis said; gravity and slight grade and the car would go as far the grade dropped. Ever hopped a freight train Travis? I always wanted to, but it wouldn't be fun just by myself. John said; well Joe and I will go with you. I spoke up and ask how we are gonna get back home after the ride? Travis said; we could ride our bikes over to a siding and find a gondola car and put our bikes in it release the brake and ride as far a gravity would let us and then get our bikes out a ride back home. It was decided the next Saturday we would take a ride.

Saturday came and three of us met and headed out following Travis, he knew his way around the rail lines. After about an hour we arrived at a siding some where off York Rd. on little use section of track that once was used for hauling workers who made ammo shells for the Army during WW2. Sure enough there were a lot cars just sitting rusting away. Travis picked a gondola car at the end of a line of cars. He tighten the brake on the car behind our car and pulled a lever that released our car. After freeing our car we hauled up our bicycles and put them in the car. We got in and Travis reached over and turned a big wheel and the car slowly started moving. We picked up speed and rode the car until we got near a switch and Travis turn the wheel backwards until we stopped. We got the bicycles out and rode back and rode another car back down until it slammed into our first car. Travis said; we best leave that surely someone heard the noise when our two cars slammed together. We made tracks and got out of there and found a spot to sit an watch. Sure enough a green chevy pickup with Southern Railroad wrote on door come riding up. The man got out and saw our two cars sitting all by them selves. He scratched his head and walked around them looking back up the line from where they started. He checked brakes and rode up to the other cars. That being said; we eased futher back in the trees until he left and we headed home.