For 3 young stowaways, train trip turns into an adventure
Published: Friday, January 6, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 10:47 p.m.
Three boys from southeastern Alachua County got more of an adventure than they probably anticipated when they jumped on a stopped train Wednesday evening and found themselves hours later in Sumter County.
Relatives discovered the two 13-year-olds and a 12-year-old missing at about 4 p.m., the Alachua County Sheriff's Office reported.
But family members quickly decided they knew what had happened when they discovered a train had stopped near a relative's home where the boys had been playing in the Lochloosa area.
"They're Dennis the Menaces. I can tell you that," said the 12-year-old's mother, who did not want her name used.
The trio got on the CSX freight train without employees realizing there were stowaways on board, she said.
"The train took off, and they were on there."
Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Keith Faulk said the boys made it all the way down to Bushnell, about 66 miles south of home.
The boy's mother thanked officers both in Alachua and Sumter counties for searching for and helping locate the three.
About 80 people, she also said, searched along railroad tracks in the Lochloosa area Wednesday night, thinking the three might still be nearby. Others drove to Citra, south of the Alachua-Marion county line, hoping the train might have stopped there and the boys would have gotten off.
But it was a CSX employee, the woman said, who saved the day.
The company was contacted, the boy's mother said. A female employee found that two trains had been traveling through the Lochloosa area at the time when the boys disappeared. Not sure which the three could be on, she got both to stop.
"If it wasn't for her, they could have ended up in Miami," the 12-year-old's mother said.
The boys apparently were able to leave the train once it stopped in Sumter County, the mother said. They didn't go to train personnel, but did call an officer.
About 9 p.m. family and officers in Alachua County learned the boys were safe.
When she was asked why the boys got on the train, the mother said she wasn't sure.
"We were just crying and upset. All we wanted to do was find them," she said.
Faulk said he didn't believe the boys' intentions were to run away, but it became too dangerous for them to get off the train once it picked up speed.
Relatives drove south to pick up the young adventurers and didn't get home until about 1 a.m. Thursday.
After getting home, the woman said her son was "embarrassed" about what had happened.
Meg Scheu, a CSX spokeswoman said, "I'm really glad the kids are OK."
But, she stressed, railroad tracks aren't safe places for anyone to wander along and kids shouldn't play near them or on trains that sometimes slow or stop on tracks.
What price her son will pay for his unexpected trip is still unclear to his mother.
"I'm looking up military schools all day," she said.
Then she added, about the boys, "They don't come with instructions."
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@ gvillesun.com.
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