Barry "Brakeshoe" Schwartz got the bum's rush when he tried to catch a bus from the Los Angeles freight yard to the Hobo Club meeting.
"The buses wouldn't pick us up because we were too dirty," Schwartz explained. So he took a $21 cab ride to the bar where the club meets in Beverly Hills.Schwartz, a video maker from Oakland, represents a new breed of hobo: part-time wanderers with jobs, credit cards and, gasp, automobiles.
The 4,000 members nationwide of the Hobo Club share their freight-car forefathers' grimy fashion and yen for unauthorized rail travel, but little else.
"Hobos are known as people without very much money," said Sheri "Hometown" Doyel, 23, who did her thesis on rail riders while attending the University of California at Los Angeles. "And here we are in Beverly Hills drinking $3 and $4 beers. . . . It's ironic."
Hobo culture is serious anthropological stuff and there is "something very American" about it, Doyel said.
"People think hobo, they think homeless," she said. "It's not the same thing."
The first hobos were said to have been unemployed men who rode the rails seeking work after the Civil War. Hobo lore has it the originals carried hoes for field work, hence the name "hoe boy."
"In the old days, it was need and desperation," said Garth Bishop of Los Angeles, publisher of the Hobo Times newsletter. "Most of the young people now do it for a weekend - for a vacation adventure."
The use of monikers like "Freight Train George" and "Minneapolis Jewel" became part of the subculture. The nicknames, precursors to truckers' citizens-band radio "handles," were intended to obscure a hobo's background. But they have come to describe characteristics of the hobos themselves.
Don't make the mistake of calling them tramps, or worse, bums. Hobos claim they are honest guys and gals who work when they can - not like the petty criminals they call tramps. Bums are, well, bums.
The railroads say some of their ranks are transients - and all of their wanderlust is illegal.
"It's hardly glamorous," said Cathy Westphal, spokeswoman for The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. "Our equipment was not meant for the transport of human beings."