Mike Wright jumped a train near his home in western Kentucky, planning to ride a mile or two into town for some candy and soda.
The 17-year-old didn’t get his treats - or anything else to eat - for a week after getting locked inside the insulated produce car.
He was freed Monday after traveling 2,000 miles by a pair of railroad workers who heard him calling for help.
“He’s very lucky,” said Les Stuplich, the yard switchman in Oregon who discovered Wright.
“I don’t think that car was scheduled to be cleaned for a couple more days. I don’t think he would have lasted that long.”
Wright told his rescuers he had jumped aboard a train Aug. 14 as a quick way into the small town of Crofton, Ky. But the train did not stop until it reached Evansville, Ind., 65 miles to the north.
He switched trains and, believing he was on his way back home, fell asleep. He awoke to find someone had closed and latched the car door.
A week later, Stuplich and crew hauler Jackie Dunlap parked their truck beside the boxcar in the Hinkle rail yard near Hermiston, preparing to separate some boxcars from a 30-car string.
That’s when they heard Wright calling for help and freed him.
Stuplich said Wright looked terrible, but was fine except for being dehydrated and hungry.
“He wasn’t walking too straight but he had a big smile on his face,” Dunlap said. “He said, I’ve run away from home a couple times, but I didn’t mean to this time.”’
John Bromley, a Union Pacific Railroad spokesman in Omaha, Neb., estimated the train traveled more than 2,000 miles, through Chicago; Fremont, Neb.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; and Pocatello, Idaho.
He said the refrigeration unit on the insulated car was turned off because it was presumed empty, but the insulation kept it cool enough for Wright to survive.
“We get a number of cases where this ends in death,” he said.