Tom Dyson: The Freight Train Hopper


I met Tom originally through his beautiful and spirited girlfriend. They gave me a ride on Tom’s golf cart to the beach. We met this week on the Ave after he reached out to share some ideas for the website. He is a writer, a creative spirit, with eyes seeking the next thrill, and some peace. He had ideas for People Of Delray that he wanted to share to make it better. He loves people and loves the idea. He actually confessed that he wanted to copy it. Coming from him, I saw it as a threat…He has the gene to change the world.

As we passed by a local store, he chatted with a lady he knows, that he met on Match.com. Tom and his girlfriend are in an open relationship. The woman asked about his girlfriend and couldn't stop giggling. "Some people don't understand the concept of an open relationship. I'm figuring it out myself, it's hard, but I just know that we're all free to be who we are and be ourselves. True love is wanting your partner to be happy and letting them be who they are and do as they wish". We sat down at Subculture and started chatting. I heard through mutual friends that he has an interesting story, involving train hopping. With a fresh sounding British accent, he shared: "Ever since I was 6 years old I had a secret love for trains and scenery. My dream was to come to America and jump on freight trains”.

After working for Citi Group in London, he decided to quit everything and do just that! His first train hop was in Toronto, Canada: "It took me at least 3-4 days of walking around with my backpack, planning the first jump. It was thrilling”.

Tom lived on the train for 3-4 days at a time, eating peanut butter bars and drinking rum and water, hopping from train to train. He continued the journey for 2-3 years, with short breaks in Baltimore, where he later worked for Agora, a financial publishing company. He snuck into the USA by wading across the Rio Grande in Texas, got arrested at least 10 times, was picked up by a gay truck driver in Alabama who confessed murdering his wife, he rode "La Bestia" - the "Train of Death" in Mexico, he stowed away on a cargo ship, he’s ridden through downtown Delray on a freight train, and has many more stories which he journaled and shared with his friends via emails. "Hobo living was hard. It's like being homeless. It's very dirty, you need a bed and shower sometimes, but it was liberating and the scenery is amazing". Tom was married for 8.5 years. He’s been divorced for 2 years now, residing in Delray Beach. He has 3 children who he named after his railroad ventures: Dusty (8), Miles (6) and Penny (4). He once took his ex-wife when she was 8 months pregnant and her other pregnant friend with him for one of the hops “I wanted my son to feel the rhythm of the train in his blood”. Comparing life to a train ride he says "I like being on the train not knowing where it’s going. It's all about enjoying the journey, not about the destination”. Tom has a publishing company. He has not published his own journey as of yet, but we're working on convincing him to do it. His idea for the site is to make it more about the people, and dive deeper into their stories: “It’s like creating art, and people are your subject”.

Agreeing with his vision, and recognizing his love for people, Tom is now a writer for People Of Delray and looking for local people and stories, so if you bump into him, feel free to grab him for a chat and share.

Photo by Brook Logue Photography


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