It was almost one year ago when I first found Stobe the hobo videos on youtube.
I’m not sure what attracted me the most, the excitement of hopping on a train, the cinematography, the piano playing familiar tunes or was it the midnight meanderings and poetic commentary?
I was attracted to it all, and I watched hours more, I re-watched the ones I had already seen. His videos were all wanted to watch and to this day, I probably watch a Stobe video once a day.
All that was because of one man, James Stobie, (AKA, Hobo Stobe, Stobe The Hobo, John Stone, maybe more?).
Having watched hundreds of hours of youtube videos he made, everything about them made me want more. And I often would think, how does this guy do it?
How can he afford to take these long trips, sipping beer and eating fried chicken if he was lucky enough to be in a town that had a liquor store?
Who Was Stobe The Hobo?
Jim was extremely knowledgeable about freight trains, A skill obtained over time.
From my account, he has been riding since 2005, around 10 years give or take. traveling with friends at first, and forming the infamous Kolonels Freight Crew, also known as KFC.
He had the classic hobo persona down, a little jug of wine, and some scraps of food that were tossed out as a bonus while he waits in the darkest hours of the night for the next train out of town.
James Stobie created his now famous youtube channel Hobo Stobe on February 15th, 2012.
It contained 37 episodes, which are around 25 minutes each. Traveling from the pacific northwest as far south as Miami, Florida.
But before his channel, he also made 2 full-length Movies;
- Attack of the Stobe Hobo
- Canada by Cargo Train
Both those films are now on youtube, under Hobo Stobe Archive.
And a posthumous movie compiled from flash drives found at the Northern Command post by, Jefferey James Halvorson.
- Kolonels Freight Crew rides again
Jim was defiantly doing this of his own volition, as quoted from an episode. As far as I could tell, he lived his life like a true hobo, making a few bucks through some donations from his dedicated fan base to keep filming and editing his videos.
A little About James Stobie
Born in Colorado on October 23, 1984, to Mike and Mary Stobie. He grew up and graduated high school in Evergreen, Colorado. He would later attend Colorado State University and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music.
While attending CSU, Jim was an intern for the college radio station.
It was during his junior year of college when he started hopping trains. The tracks ran right by the campus, and that is where he found his passion for an unknown adventure.
Mary, Jim’s mom, would later say this is where Jim got his Bachelor’s degree in hobo studies.
He would take trips with friends, and on one trip in 2007 he met a future member of KFC, “Wing Man”.
In 2010, Stobe joined the United States Coast Guard and was stationed out of Seattle, Wa.
He would serve 3 years, finishing in June 2013.
In 2015, Stobe took off to teach English in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Jim taught for a year documenting and publishing videos on the youtube he created.
It’s safe to say that once he returned from teaching, he started to document his train-hopping journeys full-time.
Becoming A Youtube Star
I’m not sure it was Jim’s intention to become a “youtube” star or influencer. Jim was a filmmaker and a good one he always had a good eye for scenery and interesting topics which most people would have overlooked.
For the time Stobe the Hobo was around, youtube was a great platform for his videos. And over time his audience grew to around 11 thousand subscribers!
Those interested not only helped his channel grow, but it also provided a tiny bit of revenue, enough to keep him on the rails filming.
Stobe also created a patreon, where fans could give a little more and he offered bonus material back.
Those videos were weekly updates of his adventures and plans. He also would allow private access to his DPU (Distributed Power Unit) videos, which he didn’t want to be published, likely to avoid pissing off BNSF and future riders.
To be honest, some of those were my personal favorite episodes.
Stobe had an amazing wit and vocabulary, that intertwined and flowed as if he was reading poetry.
His adventures across the vast land, on a quest for beer and fried chicken took us through lonely pastures and rundown towns. His arch nemesis “the bull” made for some tense moments in the show.
But no matter what, he kept filming.
The editing of his film footage was part of the magic of Hobo Stobe. Most videos come in like a normal TV show at around 22 minutes. He understood filmmaking, he knew what his fans wanted to see and know.
It was good, and interesting and no one else can duplicate what Stobe could do. Stobie could have done just about anything and his fans would be right there with him.
Cue Up The Music
Jim was a talented musician. His dad is a professional drummer and there were always instruments around to play on. At one point in high school, Jim started a Death Metal band with his good friend Will, they were called Cynicism. Jim played drums and turns out he was really good at that too!
His first full-length movie ‘Attack of the Stobe Hobo’ begins and ends with a death metal song by the band Dying Fetus.
Death Metal wasn’t the only music he liked, he was eclectic and liked all kinds.
Is it possible that a rule youtube has for using copyrighted music created this beautiful accident that would now have Stobe playing songs on his piano to be used in the videos?
Episode 1 starts with footage of a train car that says “stobe attack” while in the background you hear Jim playing “Crazy Train” on the piano. It is absolutely beautiful and fitting.
In all of Jims episodes you can hear a song that is purposely placed in that spot, such as “Crazy Train”, you start singing along, “I’m going off the rails on a crazy train”.
Or, in the train from hell episode where Jim is completely ticked off at BNSF, you hear Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. Also in that same episode, you hear an amazing version Jim plays of Pink Floyd’s “Time” because he sat and waited.
He was brilliant and talented that way. His piano-playing skills and choice of songs made his videos entertaining and always interesting.
Releasing 37 episodes and 2 full-length movies, Stobe was likely on his final filming run. He had said he was ready to take a break and was already eyeing up a new adventure, this time in podcasting.