Riding the Rails
Contributor

When I was in Minneapolis to speak at ModernWell, I rode the Blue Line train and was mesmerized by the giant, bellows-looking contraption that I sat near.

A bit of research informed me that they are accordion diaphragms, and their purpose is to ensure passenger safety between railway cars. 

Much like a giant playing the accordion (think Jack in the Beanstalk), the membranes gracefully push together and pull apart as the train rocks, sways, and rounds corners.

Further research revealed that back in the day (the early 1900s), the spaces between the cars on a freight train were often occupied by migrant workers or vagrants—many people referred to them as hobos—who were “riding the rails.” Tucking into these in-between spaces kept them out of sight from the police and train crew, but thousands of people were maimed or killed by this dangerous practice. 

Where was your best-ever hiding place?

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