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Train Hopping in the USA

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The idea of hitching free rides on freight trains across America evokes a certain romanticism thanks to the work of Jack London and the songs of Woody Guthrie. In this wonderfully atmospheric programme Peter Bowes discovers the tradition lives on in a land where the car has become king, but behind the evocative imagery lies a melancholy tale of migrant workers and displaced humans.

We meet characters like Tuck, separated from his family through poverty, who has been riding trains for 25 years in what is literally an aimless life as he boards trains with no idea of where they are heading.

It’s a brilliantly put together programme that could almost be described as a sound collage and is given added potency by the haunting music selected by Danny Webb.


Peter Bowes investigates the experiences of modern-day train-hoppers, who regularly jump freight trains to travel across America. In the wake of the September 11 terror attacks in New York, security measures increased for all forms of transport, and the train-hopping demographic shifted more heavily toward illegal immigrants seeking seasonal work and homeless people looking for the romance of adventure.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Peter Bowes
Producer Sara Jane Hall


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