Riding the Rails Film Title Graphic
Screenings and Distribution Image of men in a box car Irresistible... astonishing... splendid... documentary filmmaking at its most engaging
 - Los Angeles Times

Exhilarating, heart-wrenching
 - New York Post

Unforgettable... a winning documentary
 - Hollywood Reporter

 - Associated Press

...moving ...beautiful ...poignant
 - Newsday

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Riding the Rails
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making of Riding the Rails
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Riding the Rails - Credits
the Rails - Credits


Latest Work

PBS Broadcast!
American Experience
Monday, May 24th, 2010 9pm





In its extraordinarily tender account of the lives of teenage freight-train riders, 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. Through painstaking research and with tremendous sensitivity, the filmmakers relay the experiences and painful recollections of these now-elderly survivors of the rails. After sifting through three thousand letters in response to their call for memoirs from the former teenagers, Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell have compiled a deserving tribute to the memories and experiences of their unforgettable subjects.

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. Seamlessly interweaving archival footage, personal photographs, and interviews, 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 adolescence and devastating rite of passage. What evolves is a heartbreaking portrait of transformation and loss in a land of bankrupt promises and vacant opportunities.

As we learn about the astonishing post-Depression fates of the now-eighty-year-old survivors, Riding the Rails illuminates the irrevocable repercussions of one very bitter chapter in American history. Striking in its detail and depth of emotion, Riding the Rails is that rare documentary that will inform, dazzle, and move its audience to tears.

— Rebecca Yeldham
Sundance Film Festival Programmer

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Winner 18 Major Awards Including:
Directors Guild of America - Best Documentary
Los Angeles Film Critics - Best Documentary

The American History Project / Out of the Blue Productions, Inc.
472 1st Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Tel: 718-369-7013
Fax: 718-369-7016

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An unforgettable companion volume
 to the award-winning documentary



By Errol Lincoln Uys      

  The reader can all but hear the cadence of the trains on the tracks and the lonesome wail at every stop” – Chicago Tribune

“A riveting document of hope and hardship” – Boston Globe

“Elegantly presented and quietly moving account of first-hand reminiscences. Enthusiastically recommended” – Library Journal

Illustrated with fifty rare archival photos and drawing primarily on letters and oral histories of three thousand men and women who hopped freight trains, Riding the Rails brings to life a neglected saga of America in the 1930s. Self-reliance, compassion, frugality and a love of freedom and country are at the heart of the lessons these teens learned. At journey’s end, the resiliency of these survivors is a testament to the indomitable strength of the human spirit.

Errol Lincoln Uys is a renowned writer and editor. He was the editor-in-chief for Reader’s Digest  in South Africa, and collaborated with James A. Michener on his South African novel, The Covenant. Uys is the author of the international best-seller, Brazil (Silver Spring Books.)

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Print Edition Kindle Edition DVD

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Screenings & Distribution   Clips   Reviews   Making the Film   Stories   Credits  
Riding the Rails

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