Hopping freight trains is a common way to ride long distances for free. It is extremely practical to do if you have phone or internet access, because there are numbers and/or websites that will give you the direction that each freight is headed and its estimated time of arrival, based on that freight's identification number.
Freight hopping became a common means of transportation following the American Civil War as the railroads began pushing westward, especially among migrant workers who became known as hobos. It continued to be widely used by the destitute and those unable to afford other transportation, especially during times of widespread economic dislocation such as the Great Depression.
- This article is partly based on work from Wikipedia.