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Moniker produced by "The Kodak Kidd"

Monikers, also known as Streaks, Tags, or Hobo art is a form of graffiti. Monikers are the names or drawings on the sides of a freight car on freight trains. Monikers are produced with a solid paint stick, industrial crayon, or a lumber crayon. Monikers serve the purpose for a moniker artist to gain fame or recognition, or to share stories with others. Many moniker artists have a unique design they produce, and sometimes write the area they are from, or date that the moniker was produced. Occasionally, a short phrase will accompany monikers. Many of the artists are train hoppers, and railroad workers.


•Since the utilization of trains in the late 1800s, messages were written on boxcars with solid paint sticks used to communicate with people in different locations across North America to warn others about people, or news.

•A Moniker is a one line "tag" on a freight train that was done by hobos or train conductors.
•"Monicus' are the nom-de-rails that hobos accept when thrust upon them by their fellows," Jack London explains in his work, The Road. states that the word moniker was a hobo word of an unknown origin that may be based on the word monk because monks take names with their vows.


•Decades before spray paint, hobos and railroad workers left their marks on freight trains.
•A possible inspiration for monikers was an inspector who worked for the navy who wrote "Kilroy Was Here" and drew the Kilroy character on the ships to say that the ship passed inspection.
•Hobos also used signs to indicate or give directions for things like if a person would give them a meal and a bed for the night or if a person didn't want them to be there.
•Railroad workers picked up on monikers and started using them.


•On December 4, 2015 Subterra Gallery in Chicago, IL held a show called Gone Again which featured 50 moniker artists like Colossus of Roads, Big Dipper, Shitbuck, New York Tomato, Fat Owl, Clamo, Humen, Ghost Owl, Poor Boy, Claw Hammer,, and others. Many of the artists who came to Chicago rode trains to get there.

Moniker Writers Present and Past[edit]

Some contemporary moniker writers include: Retribalize, Whistle Blower, Brakeman, Bookman, Labrona, Deuce 7, Coaltrain, Shitbuck, Texican Gothic, Stackabones, Dixie Rebel, Virginia Zeke, Solo Artist, Freight Bandit, Fat Owl, and many others. Colossus of Roads has been marking trains for over 40 years and continues to do so, well into the artist's seventies.

The classic moniker writers can include names such as Bozo Texino, Coaltrain, Herby, The Rambler, Water Bed Lou, Smokin' Joe, Hollywood, Rum Runner, El Truncon, Matokie Slaughter, Colossus of Roads, Ozone, The Hammer and many many more.


There are many zines that showcase moniker art and interview moniker writers such as Bill Daniels's Mostly True, Faded Glory Magazine, True2Death's zines, Say It Ain't Southern's zines, Boxcar Art Forever zines and more.


  • "Freight Train History". Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  • "Freight Train History". Retrieved 21 October 2013.

•Gastman, Roger and Neelon, Caleb. The History of American Graffiti, 2010.