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A Hobo Dictionary

by Matthew Power

from "Trainhopping: Living on Train Time, Dodging Railway Bulls, Riding Free for 3,600 Miles. A Modern-Day Hobo's Journey Across Canada"


Airedale: A tramp who always travels alone, from the breed of dog.

Bundle Stiff: A hobo who carries a bundle.

Bull: A railroad security guard who patrols the railyards. In the old days, they would normally just evict hobos. Nowadays they are more likely to escort hobos directly to jail.

Catch Out: To hop a freight train.

Flintstone Kids: The latest generation of hobos. More likely to have orange hair, skateboards, and fleece than scraggly beards and long wool coats. Also known as the nose ring nation.

Frisco Circle: When a circle of hobos throw money in a pile and use the money to buy as much communal booze as possible.

Full Timers: Tramps who ride full-time for fun, for work, or for their own personal reasons.

Hobo: From "Hoe Boy" after the itinerant 19th century farm laborers, who trainhopped with their belongings in a bundle tied to a hoe.

Jungle: A hobo camp.

Recriders: Tramps who take short recreational trips.

Stamp Tramps: Tramps who ride between multiple cities, collecting food stamps at each stop. New restrictive food stamp policies have greatly reduced the number of stamp tramps.

Streamlined: Travelling light with little to no baggage or gear. Streamliners are often mistrusted, since other tramps expect them to mooch.

Train Time: The clock tramps live by, characterized by train schedules rather than a 24-hour day.

One final point: Hobos versus tramps. Some say hobos originally traveled to work, and tramps traveled for the sake of travel. Others say a tramp is a hobo west of the Mississippi and a hobo is a tramp east of the Mississippi. Others use the terms interchangeably.