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Cracked Ass

Critical Mass: Death of the Freight Scene

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I doubt that the people I most want to reach with this thread care much about history or the way events converge to create change. Graffiti itself to many who do it is a reckless, rampaging "fuck you" to anyone watching or listening, so the idea of using foresight and intelligence to make life easier for yourself or others is a foreign one. Despite this, I'm going to throw my thoughts out there for people to chew on. This isn't a sermon, just something to think about.

Make no mistake, these are the good old days of freight graffiti, the years everyone in the game will remember most fondly: for their chillness, the names, the styles, the feeling of being part of the next big wave of rolling canvases since the suppression of the NYC subways. Did anyone doing trains in 1980 suspect they had less than ten years till the scene died down to almost nothing?

What did it take to kill the New York subways? A bunch of factors converged. A couple of mayors harping on "quality of life" issues. Public ignorance of how the scene worked was a bigger factor than anybody gives it credit for, in my opinion. The public made no distinction between piecers with a vision, like Dondi, and gangs whose thing was busting out subway windows and fucking with passengers. They were all lumped together as one big "bad element", and dealt with by people with that mentality.

What will it take to kill the freight scene? "Critical mass", a bunch of factors converging, some of them seemingly unrelated. First of all, it will take years, although I think we have less of those than everyone else thinks. Also, it will be a death by degrees - it's not that there will be a day when nothing will run, it will just be harder to get over, and harder to find a spot where you have time to do more than small stuff.

Everything plays a role in achieving critical mass. Painting over numbers on freights. Bombing engines. Leaving cans for workers to trip over. Increased general security after 9/11, especially regarding chemical/hazmat shipments and bulletins to workers to be alert for suspicious persons. Innovations in trespasser detection technology, and a drop in price in this equipment, such that yards get much harder to work with. Continuing capitalist philosophy that property is worth more than people ensures the hiring of more security personnel and the building of more fences, lights, cameras, etc. at layups as well as yards. Pissed off railfans forming watch groups in league with the railroad companies themselves, for a more "community policing" approach to dealing with writers, burglars, and random vandals and trespassers (who, again, are often lumped together as all the same in the eyes of the property owners). Independent companies offering fast turnaround and low cost on buffing/restamping painted cars (this is already happening).

The swing vote will be railroad workers when it comes to the life or death of the scene. They are the guys most likely to discover writers or their spots, and they have the power to let it slide or report it and put heat on the spot and the scene. Being nice to workers (in ways that count) is the number one thing any writer can do to delay critical mass. That means staying off the numbers, not painting engines or other RR equipment besides the freight cars, and disposing of your empty cans elsewhere. The empty cans issue is not a "don't litter" thing - it's a safety issue. Workers have to run alongside moving trains and throw a lever to uncouple cars, or mount and dismount moving trains, and they don't need to be landing on round, slippery cans.

Every small thing you do that you hear freight heads advising against contributes a little bit toward critical mass. I hear all kinds of excuses. "Well yards out here are already burnt so why not hit engines." You might not notice a difference in security in your area. But you are having your effect. Workers, railfans, management, internet toys are all paying attention. If one worker gets killed tripping over a paint can and falling under a train, that one incident will do a lot of damage, create a lot of anger. If enough company logos on engines disappear beneath pieces, railfans will start banding together with RRs to police spots better. Toys come on the Net and see stupid behavior and copy it, heating up more and more spots from the city to the cuts. They might also pay too little attention to yard/train safety and get killed trying to paint, which could spark some reporter doing a "spotlight" story on kids and freight painting that gets play. (I'm still waiting for a movie or book to drop which blows up the scene by portraying it fictionally.) All of this shit contributes to critical mass.

I think some heads secretly want the scene to be much harder in a few years, so they can enjoy their "back in the day" king status, like the subway kings can now. Others, like me, would rather spread the word about how to make it last longer. I'm not one to tell people what to do without offering logical reasons - "you shouldn't hit engines or go over numbers" - I'd rather make people aware of the consequences, and let them make their own decisions. I know I'll do what I can to delay critical mass. I hope others can see their own role and make an informed decision about how to handle their spots and situations.

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Guest Graff Jesus

yeah all good info. too bad the "scene" where i live is already 90% of the way to the armageddon you describe. i'm just waiting for the day everyone has to deal with the shit we do out west. hahahah. lets see how many of you "freight heads" do shit then.

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Guest Good Morning Captain

Shiaat nigga! I live in a city where some of the first freight trains were painted and the yards around here are so littered with cans I can hardly walk around without tripping. Over 10 years of litter and its really starting to pile up. Im not exaggerting either, you backwoods kids would shit yourselves if you saw the places where we paint, and the first thing most out of towners that come through say is "look at all the cans". Where im at you cant just roll up in the car your mommy brought you, pop the trunk and think your gonna paint some trains. "Critical Mass" as you call it is reality here, especially after the beefed up security since 9/11. I understand that shit on the west coast is hectic, but theres plenty of places on the east coast like my city for instance that are no walk in the park. Do they use dogs where you live?

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Guest Graff Jesus
Originally posted by Good Morning Captain

Shiaat nigga! I live in a city where some of the first freight trains were painted and the yards around here are so littered with cans I can hardly walk around without tripping. Over 10 years of litter and its really starting to pile up. Im not exaggerting either, you backwoods kids would shit yourselves if you saw the places where we paint, and the first thing most out of towners that come through say is "look at all the cans". Where im at you cant just roll up in the car your mommy brought you, pop the trunk and think your gonna paint some trains. "Critical Mass" as you call it is reality here, especially after the beefed up security since 9/11. I understand that shit on the west coast is hectic, but theres plenty of places on the east coast like my city for instance that are no walk in the park. Do they use dogs where you live?

 

luckilly not in my new spot, but other yards i was doing 3 years ago or so did. do you have a rail police station on site at your yard....? it's no fun ducking from bulls and workers on mopeds/golf carts.

 

about the cans too...if you're really concerned go around one weekend in the day and just pick up all the cans you find in trash bags. i did that once.

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good read...i agree with pretty much everything you said....and im pissed at the assholes in my town who litter their paint in the yards....i swear, if any person heats out my spot, there will be some serious ass beating going on...not just by me, but by other dedicated writers who come to my spot to paint and play by the rules...id be super pissed....so read up kiddos......

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maybe one day they won't run. but i seriously doubt it will be impossible to hit them. look at the nyc subways. people are still hitting them, and i would think the possible security on a underground tunnel could potentially be much more than the out in the open. i believe there will always be diehard freight writers who even if there stuff doesn't run(which it would have to run for a certian amount of time), they will paint trains. and also another thing about the subways and them still being hit. graffiti on the subways is viewed as much more of a problem than on freights because the people have to ride the subways. and how many thousands(millions?) of miles track do freight trains run on, compared to the subways. plus i believe that there will always be spots way out in the country that will have little to no security. because it just isn't feasible to put security on them unless they were hit regularly. if people are able to sneak bombs and guns onto planes with the security we have now i think people will always be able to paint freights. the only thing i could see happening is some satalite technology shit or something that would alert the police. but then i think that i see kids playing on trains regularly so how would it be able to tell the difference. i'm rambling.

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good info...

 

i already do everything you suggested, but many other don't. read up people, this is foresight.

 

and remember, hindsight is always 20/20.

(my dad used to always say that)

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i hope it never dies. i keep a tight watch over here. i do my share, people here know it too. fuck they didnt even know i was painting their spot for about 6 months till i told them i was. lets hope it lasts.

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Guest mopius

im very sure that the people that need to apply this to their fr8 painting routine will not see it...very displeasing indeed

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you know, sometimes I feel like I'm missing out not being out on either coast, or in a big vibrant scene. But when it comes to stuff like this I'm very lucky to be out in bumpkin land. In 10 years, you MIGHT see most of our spots nearing what some of you have today....and thats a big if. We still have a major yard where you could run off the street in to the middle of the "bowl" of the hump yard with nothing to stop you...no fences...no nothing (you'd get picked up by the railroad cops or crushed by a car...but still). As the local idiots squander what they have, and continue to blow spots (putting a date on the freight, then bombing trailers on the street next to the spot) things will gradually tighten...but I doubt we will ever see the kind of shit that the major US cities have to deal with. For that I'm glad....

 

that was not meant however, to negate what cracked is saying...I agree with him for the most part.

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ok, and what can we do? go to the neighbor city with some trash bags and start doing some clean up work? i'm all for it, sign me up.

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im moving to canada ese...sounds like a nice area youre in....

i enjoy the town im in right now, alot more chill than the city i used to live in, but like you said, there are assholes who hit trailers and buildings around the yard and leaving theyre cans everywhere and hitting every single car in the yard in a single night with hollows....thats the stuff that pisses me off....all i have to say is that the ignorant kids here are lucky that csx doesnt care much about this yard at all, otherwise there would be so much heat here itd be ridiculus...the local cops are already catching on, shining spotlights into the yard at night and shit....

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well put mr cracked...

i enjoy these "hard rock" city slickers that have to go through such extremes to paint and boast.. i have done it and it sucks..definatly not a braging right... i dont get the "backwoods" type comments that gas on fools who have chill spots like its a bad thing or their fault there not ducking the ghetto bird and running from VS(aka keeping it real)...i would much rather drive two hours to the burbs than deal with the heat...so if that qualifies me as "back woods" and not smart then get trailer hitch and dirtbikes cuz ize be back woods niggah!!!

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Guest Good Morning Captain
Originally posted by IHATEU

i dont get the "backwoods" type comments that gas on fools who have chill spots like its a bad thing or their fault there not ducking the ghetto bird and running from VS(aka keeping it real

 

 

Its quite the opposite. Im jealous. And not all of us "city slickers" have the means to get out to the burbs so we do what we have to do. Dont act like you know.

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i assumed kids knew to respect the lines...ya know if the boxes are not hit then don't hit'em...but when you assume...

 

security has definitely become a problem...workers are a hell of a lot less tolerant and i blame it on 9/11...if kids paint the trains on a workers route that reflects his lack of security in the nations time of HIGH ALERT...it pisses people off cuz carelessness on the workers part means more security is needed for the rails...possibly canning much man power for technology like mr. cracked ass said...the great days of symbiosis are long gone...

 

changes were to be expected...many kids will discover this great untapped resource...many kids will respect it and many will simply exploit it...it's the whole "number one rule...there are no rules" mentality...so be it...

 

you have to roll with the punches...assimilate and accomodate...the rails will be here for many, many more years to come...what worries me is that there is a certain population of kids that will get hurt or killed because they live carelessly...that will really fuck up security...all those concerned parents freakin out...

 

i make it a point to remove cans i find, if possible...you must understand that kids will do whatever they fuckin want...and taking the fall because assholes before you disrespected the lay-up...well that's life...and nobody said it is fair...

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I Agree Wholeheartedly

 

Mr. Cracked and Novagirl are right on the money. I think that Graff Jesus' suggestion that we not only pick up our own trash before we leave a spot, but that we pick up ALL cans and graff-related junk on the ground is an excellent one. As everybody knows (I certainly talk about it enough) I enjoy re-establishing old hobo jungles and building new ones. I am currently maintaining four on a pretty regular basis, here in the Houston area. I carry a big trash bag in my ruck when I'm out trainwatching or hopping, and frequently pick up trash, bottles, beer cans and other non-burnable shit in the area around "my" jungles. I know that not everybody is willing to do this, and I don't really expect other people to do it, but it will help a lot if the more well-known people in a town or 'hood lead by example. If you are a veteran writer in your area, and younger writers look up to you and show you respect, you can greatly influence how they look at graff and the graff scene in general by your behavior. If you condemn throwing trash down as bullshit behavior, they will follow your lead.

When I was a young surfer and skateboarder, way back in the early '60s, it was legal to bring glass containers onto the beach. Drunken redneck assholes used to break their beer bottles on the Galveston seawall, and people walking barefoot were always getting cut. The three major surf/skate clubs in Galveston had a public meeting, and we all agreed that we would NOT ALLOW ANYBODY to bring glass bottles to the beach. After a few fist fights and arguments, the assholes got a clue. If you bring bottles to the beach, you can expect contempt from the girls and direct physical confrontation from the boys. Finally, it got so much public support that the City passed a law--no glass containers anywhere on the beach. Today, nobody remembers that it was the surf kids that got that law passed. Not even the surf kids who are teenagers now know it. I think that's kind of sad.

Graff writers need to recognize and act in their own self interest. Not everybody will do it, but those who have some insight should do so. Keep a Clean Camp, and "Safety First."

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Originally posted by IHATEU

i would much rather drive two hours to the burbs than deal with the heat...so if that qualifies me as "back woods" and not smart then get trailer hitch and dirtbikes cuz ize be back woods niggah!!!

 

no beef, just responding hoping that you do the research on your spots. and curious, why don't you move there if you like it so much?

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this security shit was bound to happen.......the kids who shouldnt be in the yards are the ones who will be getting caught, its only a matter of time before the media has something else to put on HIGH ALERT....

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Its weird. I never really thought of the freight scene in reference to the NY subway scene.. Its a pretty interesting paralell though.. Its pretty creepy to think of everything being on constant lockdown like the NY subways..

scary shit..

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