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Enslaved by the Freedom of the Rails


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Reporting and photography by Clay Duda.

At 20, Trash (pictured) has endured, experienced and seen more of the United States than most will see in their entire lives. He has been riding freight trains around the country for nearly eight years.

Just like everyone, his story is unique, but his tales of foster care, abuse and ultimate freedom are a glimpse into a culture existing on the fringes of society, rarely seen by the general public. Trash and many others like him have no home, yet they call home the hundreds of thousands of miles of railroad that cross the country, the rail cars that bump along the tracks and the expansive yards of gravel and steel found in nearly every American city.

They are the modern vagabonds of today — sometimes abused and abused by the system without anywhere else to go, sometimes there by choice – young, independent and free to ride the freight lines into their own uncertain futures.

It’s like Trash said after eight years on the rails, his hobo days weren’t anywhere close to coming to an end. Then again, it may be hard to figure where you’ll be in five years when you’re still not sure about your next meal.

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