A Queens man who's infamous for repeatedly stealing subway trains and buses is the subject of a new documentary 'Off the Rails' that premieres Thursday. NY1 transit reporter Jose Martinez filed the following report:
For 35 years Darius McCollum's fixation with trains and buses has played out in public. Like last November, when he was charged with stealing a Greyhound bus.
Now a new documentary, 'Off the Rails,' is exploring the astonishing story of the notorious transit impostor.
McCollum, who was raised in Queens, claims to have stolen hundreds of trains and buses, usually staying on route and on schedule, without getting caught. He's been arrested 32 times for his various transit capers, and has spent half his adult life behind bars.
"I'm known as the 'Train in the Neck,'" McCollum says in the documentary. "To some people, I'm known as a train nut. People tell me that I'm crazy, but maybe they mean it, he's crazy because he's different."
Filmmaker Adam Irving began working on the documentary three years ago, hoping to understand McCollum's obsession.
"Once I did more research about Darius and looked deeper into his story that I realized there was more to him than this crazy person who takes the trains, but actually a really tragic story," Irving told NY1.
In the documentary, McCollum says he was bullied as a young boy but found relief in the subways. "That was like my safe haven, my sanctuary," he says.
The documentary details how McCollum connected with transit workers who, improbably, taught him to operate buses and trains.
"I was issued a full uniform at that age of 12 years old," McCollum says. "I felt like if I was actually part of the team."
Irving blames the criminal, mental health and educational systems for not recognizing McCollum's problems, including an undiagnosed case of Asperger's Syndrome.
"Prison does not work as a deterrent for Darius," Irving says. "The justice system needs to try something other than incarceration."
McCollum may be the subject of a feature film starring Julia Roberts as his attorney. The MTA says it's looking at keeping him from cashing in on that through the state's 'Son of Sam law,' which forbids criminals from profiting through books and movies about their crimes.
McCollum is being held on Rikers Island on his latest charge, so he won't be able to attend the world premiere of "Off the Rails" at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C., on Thursday.
For more information on the documentary,go to offtherailsmovie.com