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Riding the Rails (1997)

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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 127 users  
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Riding the Rails offers a visionary perspective on the presumed romanticism of the road and cautionary legacy of the Great Depression. From 'middle class gentility to scrabble-ass poor,' ... See full summary »


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Title: Riding the Rails (1997)

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19 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


Credited cast:
C.R. 'Tiny' Boland
Charley Bull
Rene Champion
Peggy De Hart
John Fawcett
Clarence Lee
Jim Mitchell
Arvel 'Sunshine' Pearson
James San Jule
Bob 'Guitar Whitey' Symmonds
Narrator (voice)


Riding the Rails offers a visionary perspective on the presumed romanticism of the road and cautionary legacy of the Great Depression. From 'middle class gentility to scrabble-ass poor,' the undiscriminating Great Depression forced 4,000,000 Americans away from their homes and onto the tracks in search of food and lodging. Of this number, a disturbing 250,000 of the transients were children. The filmmakers relay the experiences and painful recollections of these now-elderly survivors of the rails. Forced to travel more by economic necessity than the spirit of adventure, the film's subjects dispel romantic myths of a hobo existence and its corresponding veneer of freedom. Riding the Rails recounts the hoboes' trade secrets for survival and accounts of dank miseries, loneliness, imprisonment, death, and dispossession. Sixty years later, the filmmakers transport their subjects back to the tracks, where the surging impact of sound and movement resuscitates memories of a shattered ... Written by Rebecca Yeldham, Sundance Film Festival Programmer

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January 1997 (USA)  »

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hard depression life on the road
23 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Riding the Rails: American Experience is narrated mostly by people who spent their depression days riding the rails looking for work. Most of the film covers teenagers because those are the only ones still alive from those times. The needs, trials, and tribulations were all the same. Where's the next meal coming from and when will things get better. California was turning people away from its borders until the New Deal brought the CCC to help the kids from getting lost in the life of the hobo. A pretty emotional film filled with the hopes and dreams of youth with little to look forward to. Some very political sides to the story as most of the people's lives were so hard they lean more toward social programs. Lets hope we never have another depression. A must watch for those not old enough to hear about the depression or those not taught it in any detail in school.

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