Sunday, June 6, 2010

FR8s: Graffiti on the Move

My friend John Emerson reminds me that graffiti on freight cars travels all over the country, not just in urban areas. And so it does. Graffiti on fr8s is probably as old as fr8 trains, which isn’t all that old. But the contemporary practice derives from the graffiti that went on subway cars in New York City back in the day. That ended in the early 1990s, I believe, when the officials figured out how to come down hard and successfully on graffiti writers. Since then, most graffiti has gone up walls, both legal and not.

But the mobile art continues on freight cars. Here are a few photos from my collection. All were shot on the Bergen line in Jersey City and in almost all cases the trains were moving, albeit slowly. Let’s start with some characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force:

Here’s a simple throwie (throw-up):

Here’s an elegant tag on a tank car (the curvature seems to discourage piece work):

And simple, but elegant, piece:

This one is a bit different:

It’s a straight-forward statement, rare for such graffiti. Note, however, that shadowed lettering, indicating a writer with some skill. While I took the photo in November of 2008, I assume, but don’t know, the statement was made shortly after 9/11/2001.


  1. Graffiti! Heh. You don't appear to understand gang tags--then like Johnnie Ofayson, suburbanite zen-gangsta, or the phonies of BerubeCo that's to be expected.

    I doubt you'd care for the tags were they to appear on walls in yr 'hood (for one, they signify somethin'.... usually unsavory).

  2. OK, Mr. Expert, school me on gang tags.