The near-death experience of an Edmonton man who caught a ride on a train near Wetaskiwin, Alta., last week shows he was "obviously not a train-hopper," says a man whose passion is grabbing illegal rides on the rails.
"Most train-hoppers wouldn't get on a train without knowing what was going to happen and where it was going to go," Shawn Kazda of Ottawa told CBC News on Tuesday.
Around 3:45 a.m. on Friday, a 29-year-old man who hopped a train for a few blocks was instead carried 100 kilometres in –24 C temperatures between two rail cars. He recovered in hospital from hypothermia and has been charged by Canadian Pacific Railway.
"Skydiving's actually a lot more dangerous than train-hopping," Kazda said. "But people do it because they get a rush from it. I think for me, I've been fascinated by trains since I was a kid ... it's only a natural progression to want to ride them."
There are perhaps 100 "hard-core" train-hoppers in Canada, said Kazda, and they are careful about what they're doing.
Research key to hopping trains
"You know, 90 per cent of hopping trains is actually research, and most train-hoppers spend most of their time researching logistics, not only in places where trains stop, but also where they go," he said.
Under Alberta law, trespassing on rail property is subject to a maximum $2,000 fine for a first offence. For a second offence, the fine can climb to $5,000.
"A healthy dose of common sense is what's required here," said Mike Lovecchio, a spokesperson with CP Rail.
"We work with schools, especially with students, to help them to understand that approaching the tracks is risky behaviour. And trespassing on the tracks and certainly leaping on a train is both … illegal and extremely risk behaviour."
4 deaths in Alberta
Last year, Alberta had seven accidents and four deaths related to trespassing on railway property, according to Transport Canada.
What got Kazda hooked was watching trains as a child with his father.
"He always used to talk about us going train-hopping out West, you know, kind of living that great hobo lifestyle. I think that maybe was what triggered it."
Kazda said he knows the rail companies are keeping an eye on him. But he doesn't intend to stop. He's even thinking of bringing his 68-year-old father along.
"I think next summer I'm going to actually take him train-hopping. I think in order to go full circle, I almost have to get him out there."