The Curious Case of Stobe the Hobo

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Devil's Advocate

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Although mentioned a couple times here and there in passing, I don't think there has ever been a thread about James Stobie. I found Stobe to be an interesting mix of inquisitive philosopher, starving artist, and carefree adventurer. Stobe the Hobo's videos alternated between vaguely encouraging and actively disparaging the lost art of freight hopping. At various times he both mocked and praised those who longed to follow in his footsteps. Stobe expressed a fluid combination of sentimental longing and stoic cynicism that often devolved into confusing rants. His videos demonstrated a wealth of operational knowledge but there were also countless instances of extremely poor decision making and blatantly dangerous behavior, some of which he acknowledged and others which he ignored or glossed over. Eventually these gambles caught up with James and he lost his life. I could never quite make up my mind about Stobe. He walked an odd path that seemed to serve as a warning against living too recklessly, but perhaps there was a secondary lesson about the mind numbing pitfalls of conformist maturity. I made this thread because I was curious if other members ever bumped into Stobe's videos, and if so what they thought about him. If you've never seen a Stobe video I've included a playlist below.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLooFWMJbNy6HbqeniUS1wCYG5agvf5vnT

https://www.dailydot.com/upstream/stobe-the-hobo-dath/
 
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SarahZ

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I don't know why I assumed he'd be older.

Thanks for the links. I'll definitely watch some of his videos after work tomorrow. They sound fascinating.
 

BuffaloBoy

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I watched all of Stobie's videos that I could find! I have always had a wanderlust and was fascinated by that guy (RIP). I hitchhiked around the country many times in the early 70's after I got out of the Army and only stopped when I got the call from Conrail. I became a brakeman running Lines West out of Buffalo to Cleveland for the most part and saw quite a few hobos and saw a few of them hurt pretty badly, some fatal. I only lasted on the railroad for 4 years before the many layoffs caused me to look elsewhere for employment. I still had that wanderlust, but never even considered hopping a train after my experiences. Still fascinated about it though and Stobie finally fufilled my fantasy for me.
 

Barb Stout

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Awesome! I am in the habit of random clicking during videos such as these and on the second click, I watched him walk around the tracks in Fargo at exactly the place where I was almost run down by an early morning train when my shoe got caught in the track years ago. I was just about to start taking that shoe off so I could get off the track when it finally came free and I got away. The train wasn't that close, but nevertheless I still remember it with energy some 40 years later.
 

mlanoue

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Yes, I've watched a lot of Stobe's videos over the past year. Usually very informative, kinda sad at times, but always entertaining. I never could figure him out, but I liked his tours of the towns he was stuck in. I'm guessing it's he who plays the piano during those little montage sequences. Talented guy to put these videos together. Each one runs about 22 minutes--as if he were producing a regular TV series.

Another one I enjoyed watching was Brave Dave's Big Fat Freight Hop. That one had me legitimately on the edge of my seat a few times. Great to watch, but this stuff is way too dangerous for people to be doing.
 

drdumont

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I've seen some pros and seen some tyros. Some of the latter have to be classed as the luckiest people on Earth, they've pulled some really dumb stunts and I guess got away with them. But I guess everyone has to learn...
Jim Stobie was entertaining at times, annoying at times, and a mediocre piano player at best. Yes, he played the piano for his productions.
He had lots of knowledge about train movements, but for some reason never took advantage of GPS, solar recharging, or the other tools some of us take for granted. I could have done without his tirades on political issues and such, and disparaging remarks about people's hometowns and lifestyles, but the scenery and all made up for the annoyances.
His Achilles heel, and presumably his ultimate downfall, was alcohol. Doing what he did with a snootfull was a very bad idea. Apparently (sober or not), he didn't hear an approaching Amtrak while on a bridge with little avenue of escape. It appears he tried to lie down in the four foot, but the train snagged his backpack and - well - that was the end.
To me, he appealed to my love of trains, fantasies of adventures, and maybe a little thought of my lost youth. He and the rest of his kind are obviously trespassers, a hindrance to good order and proper railroad operation, but there is that Peter Pan thing...
 
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anumberone

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Interesting! Thanks for the link DA, and enjoyed all the comments. I've been reading Jack Kerouac traveling stories and this guy seams cut from the same mold.
 

Barb Stout

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I watched the whole thing yesterday and just loved watching the sections from Milwaukee through Montana, all my old stomping grounds. One of the towns that he filmed, but made no comments on, I'm pretty sure was my hometown, Bismarck ND. One of the buildings that I saw looked like a building that my dad worked in. Then when he went south through Wyoming, I found the impressionistic piano music during the dry rugged desolate landscape section really ironic. I assume, rightly or wrongly, that it was something by Debussy. Can anyone on here "name that tune"?

He was funny, even the political stuff that I don't agree with made me laugh.

But eating out of a dumpster?! I'm still cringing over that a day later.
 

anumberone

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Damn, I'm glad DA liked my like. After watching a couple of hours of this guy traipsing around mostly on gondola cars, I wanted to get back to see what other people thought about it. I could not figure out where this post originated. That being said now that I found it, glad it's Stobe and not me. Nice to see Barb Stout recognized her old "stomping grounds". I have more to watch, I'll be back.
 
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SarahZ

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Then when he went south through Wyoming, I found the impressionistic piano music during the dry rugged desolate landscape section really ironic. I assume, rightly or wrongly, that it was something by Debussy. Can anyone on here "name that tune"?
Do you remember which video it was? (Number/title?)
 

anumberone

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I watched the whole thing yesterday and just loved watching the sections from Milwaukee through Montana, all my old stomping grounds. One of the towns that he filmed, but made no comments on, I'm pretty sure was my hometown, Bismarck ND. One of the buildings that I saw looked like a building that my dad worked in. Then when he went south through Wyoming, I found the impressionistic piano music during the dry rugged desolate landscape section really ironic. I assume, rightly or wrongly, that it was something by Debussy. Can anyone on here "name that tune"?

He was funny, even the political stuff that I don't agree with made me laugh.

But eating out of a dumpster?! I'm still cringing over that a day later.
I didn't hear Clair de lune and that's the only Debussy I know. And yeah, dumpster diving is not too appealing.
 

Barb Stout

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That link takes me to a playlist of all of his videos. Is it 2/3 through the first video?
I viewed the one called Stobe the Hobo in Chronological Order. Oh, wait I guess it was called Attack of the Stobe Hobo, so yes, the first one.
 

Dan O

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I have enjoyed his videos over the past year or so. I watch several in a short period and then come back and watch some others later. He doesn't strike me as what I think of as a hobo, with service in the Coast Guard and a 4 year music degree. His mom, Mary, had quite a life herself and most recently writes syndicated newspaper columns. It sounded like he was about to cut back quite a bit on his train travel in the months before he died. Interesting guy. Too bad he died so young and in what appears to have been a pretty horrific way to go.
 

Dan O

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Trainhoppers just give us railfans a bad name. That's all I can say.
If you watched many of his videos, you may see he didn't have a lot of love for rail fans, afraid that they would call in and report him. I am not that much of a railfan and certainly not a train hopper to know if there is an adversarial relationship or not.
 

flitcraft

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When I was in college, long ago, one of my professors had hopped the rails cross country to get to California during the Depression for a job in the fields. She cut off all her hair and disguised herself successfully as a boy. Still, her stories of the many dangers--including the possibility of being found out as a woman in the hobo jungles--were not at all nostalgic. They were, however, compelling. She did make it out to California, eventually returning back to the East Coast to get a law degree, and even more eventually, after achieving a number of "firsts" as a black woman, left the academy to go to seminary and become the first ordained black female Episcopal priest. Pretty good going for an erstwhile trainhopper...
 

SarahZ

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When I was in college, long ago, one of my professors had hopped the rails cross country to get to California during the Depression for a job in the fields. She cut off all her hair and disguised herself successfully as a boy. Still, her stories of the many dangers--including the possibility of being found out as a woman in the hobo jungles--were not at all nostalgic. They were, however, compelling. She did make it out to California, eventually returning back to the East Coast to get a law degree, and even more eventually, after achieving a number of "firsts" as a black woman, left the academy to go to seminary and become the first ordained black female Episcopal priest. Pretty good going for an erstwhile trainhopper...
Wow. I would read that book.
 

CSXfoamer1997

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If you watched many of his videos, you may see he didn't have a lot of love for rail fans, afraid that they would call in and report him. I am not that much of a railfan and certainly not a train hopper to know if there is an adversarial relationship or not.
You're darn right they would've called him in if they caught him.
 

anumberone

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I watched the whole thing yesterday and just loved watching the sections from Milwaukee through Montana, all my old stomping grounds. One of the towns that he filmed, but made no comments on, I'm pretty sure was my hometown, Bismarck ND. One of the buildings that I saw looked like a building that my dad worked in. Then when he went south through Wyoming, I found the impressionistic piano music during the dry rugged desolate landscape section really ironic. I assume, rightly or wrongly, that it was something by Debussy. Can anyone on here "name that tune"?

He was funny, even the political stuff that I don't agree with made me laugh.

But eating out of a dumpster?! I'm still cringing over that a day later.
Jim Strobie played the piano in all the soundtracks. Link below Jim Strobie playing DeBussey

 
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Devil's Advocate

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I have enjoyed his videos over the past year or so. I watch several in a short period and then come back and watch some others later. He doesn't strike me as what I think of as a hobo, with service in the Coast Guard and a 4 year music degree. His mom, Mary, had quite a life herself and most recently writes syndicated newspaper columns. It sounded like he was about to cut back quite a bit on his train travel in the months before he died. Interesting guy. Too bad he died so young and in what appears to have been a pretty horrific way to go.
I think the traditional hobo stereotype is a dead concept, at least insomuch as it referred to transient laborers passing between odd jobs and seasonal employment. What remains today is more of a "digital nomad" who caters to an audience of vicarious viewers in the hope they'll drop a few micro-transactions in a virtual cup. Although Stobe often complained about boredom and isolation I think he continued hopping because it gave him a way to connect with others and didn't require punctual participation like a conventional job. Stobe said his ultimate goal was creating some sort of online talk show, but the few "interviews" he did seemed kind of sloppy and haphazard. What I think would have made for an interesting story is if another host could have interviewed Stobe instead. There are some curious moments on video where I think an accomplished interviewer could have paused and coaxed some interesting dialog from Stobe.
 

anumberone

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I think the traditional hobo stereotype is a dead concept, at least insomuch as it referred to transient laborers passing between odd jobs and seasonal employment. What remains today is more of a "digital nomad" who caters to an audience of vicarious viewers in the hope they'll drop a few micro-transactions in a virtual cup. Although Stobe often complained about boredom and isolation I think he continued hopping because it gave him a way to connect with others and didn't require punctual participation like a conventional job. Stobe said his ultimate goal was creating some sort of online talk show, but the few "interviews" he did seemed kind of sloppy and haphazard. What I think would have made for an interesting story is if another host could have interviewed Stobe instead. There are some curious moments on video where I think an accomplished interviewer could have paused and coaxed some interesting dialog from Stobe.
Even though strange, the guy was unique and far more talented than you give credit.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Even though strange, the guy was unique and far more talented than you give credit.
I wouldn't have created a thread about Stobe if I didn't think he was interesting and unique. He was talented as well, but in all fairness most of his tracks were covers of other bands, and many of his instrumentals suffered from aggressive gain resulting in harsh and distorted sound. It's possible his talk show dream would have succeeded, but it's hard for me to imagine someone like Stobe being able to manage and run a talk show. It sounded to me like he wanted to interview counterculture folks about controversial subjects for a wider audience, but that's not an easy task and I think it would be difficult for someone like Stobe to keep things on track. For me the primary curiosity was Stobe's own life and how he ended up where he did. I think an established host interviewing Stobe between a few of the more interesting clips could have made some for some great content.
 
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anumberone

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I wouldn't have created a thread about Stobe if I didn't think he was interesting and unique. He was talented as well, but in all fairness most of his tracks were covers of other bands, and many of his instrumentals suffered from aggressive gain resulting in harsh and distorted sound. It's possible his talk show dream would have succeeded, but it's hard for me to imagine someone like Stobe being able to manage and run a talk show. It sounded to me like he wanted to interview counterculture folks about controversial subjects for a wider audience, but that's not an easy task and I think it would be difficult for someone like Stobe to keep things on track. For me the primary curiosity was Stobe's own life and how he ended up where he did. I think an established host interviewing Stobe between a few of the more interesting clips could have made some for some great content.
I didn't say the guy was a complete success.:)
 
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