Darius McCollum – Wikipedia

Darius McCollum

Born 28 March 1965 Edit this on Wikidata (age 58)
Brooklyn Edit this on Wikidata

Darius McCollum (born March 28, 1965[1]) is an American man primarily known for posing as a New York City Subway motorman, bus driver, and subway trains operator due to his fixation with trains and public transport. McCollum is a New York City resident with a long arrest record for crimes related to the transit system operated by the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). He has been fascinated with buses and trains since his childhood and is autistic.


Since an early age, McCollum has been interested in trains, frequently riding the New York City Subway. His fixation with trains led McCollum to continuously impersonate MTA employees or employees of a related entity, which led to multiple arrests. McCollum has been rejected for employment by MTA on numerous occasions, although he is reported to have more knowledge on the trains, schedules, procedures and rail operations than any current employee.[2]

A prison psychiatrist who did an evaluation diagnosed him with Asperger syndrome.[3] McCollum is said to have memorized the New York City Subway map by age 8.[4]

Notable arrests[edit]

According to McCollum’s mother, his interest with the New York City Subway system started since youth, when motormen permitted him to drive trains.[5] McCollum was first arrested in 1980,[6] at age 15, when he drove an E subway train with passengers for six stops.[5] While imprisoned at Rikers Island, he wrote to the New York City Department of Correction and asked if he could drive one of their buses.[5] By the mid-1990s, McCollum “had become a minor cult figure”, particularly after the MTA posted thousands of wanted posters in trains and stations so that riders could report sightings. Occasionally, McCollum would appear as transit employees named “Morning” or “Manning”, who riders invariably experienced as friendly and helpful.[7]

By 2000, McCollum had been jailed 19 times for transit-related crimes. In 2000 he pleaded guilty to charges of forgery and burglary for signing out a train according to proper MTA procedure to perform customary duties (extinguishing track fires, supervising maintenance), and then signing it back in. He was sentenced to a minimum of 2+12 to 5 years in prison.[8]

In 2005, McCollum was apprehended at a Long Island Rail Road yard with the keys to an M-7 railcar in his pocket. They had been given to him by other MTA employees who had given him their shifts, but he pleaded guilty to attempting to steal a locomotive and was sentenced to three years in prison.[9] Although he was released from Sing Sing in 2006, he was reimprisoned for breaking parole after he was found in possession of railroad property.[10]

On June 13, 2008, McCollum, 43, was arrested again. He was wearing a hardhat and carrying a knapsack, flashlight and gloves with an MTA logo. He was dressed in the blue T-shirt and work pants typically worn by track workers and was arrested as he tried to enter a restricted area of a midtown station.[11][12] McCollum was charged with criminal impersonation, criminal trespass and possession of burglary tools—a hammer and screwdriver tucked in his backpack. These “burglary tools” are also the typical repair equipment that all MTA maintenance workers carry.[11][12] When his mother was interviewed over the telephone, she said, “Any time Darius wears anything remotely resembling the transit uniform, he gets arrested.”[11][12]

McCollum was released from the Downstate Correctional Facility on July 3, 2007—nine months after his arrest for violating parole by returning to the city from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.[11][12] He was arrested at Penn Station on October 5, 2008, for impersonating a Long Island Rail Road employee and answering passengers’ questions.[13]

On August 31, 2010, McCollum was arrested for the 27th time and charged with grand larceny and possession of stolen property in connection with the theft of a private bus from a Trailways of New York terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey.[14] According to police, McCollum allegedly boarded the bus at approximately 6:30 a.m. that morning and discovered the keys left in the ignition. McCollum is accused of then commandeering the bus, with the theft reportedly going unnoticed for two hours as McCollum drove around John F. Kennedy International Airport and Jamaica, Queens. McCollum was taken into custody without incident. Police stated McCollum is “very smart, he’s not a dumb guy” and that he was a “gentleman” during arrest and processing.[14][15]

At the time of his arrest, he had spent 18 years—more than a third of his life—in jail for transit-related offenses.[15][5] In 2013, McCollum pleaded guilty to stealing the Trailways bus. On December 24 2013, McCollum was released on parole and was to voluntarily enter cognitive behavioral therapy.[16] The terms of the parole, which lasted until August 24, 2015, required that he does not operate a motor vehicle.[5]

On November 11, 2015, McCollum was arrested for stealing a Greyhound bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. He drove the GPS-equipped bus for approximately 2 hours until his arrest at approximately 4 p.m. in Gowanus, Brooklyn. According to The New York Times, McCollum stated that he would hijack a plane after his arrest.[17]

Although his parents, who moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, believed McCollum should have left New York to avoid his addiction with trains,[18] parole conditions have until recently repeatedly restricted McCollum to remain in New York City.[19] Suggestions from his parents and autism advocates that the MTA find a way to hire McCollum in some capacity, in the manner of Frank Abagnale, are rejected by transit officials, who fear legal liability.[18]

In January 2018, McCollum took a plea bargain in which he agreed to go to a psychiatric institution for an “indefinite” period of time.[20]

In October 2018, a judge ruled that McCollum was dangerously becoming mentally ill, and was sentenced to the Rochester Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, a prison facility for the most dangerous imprisoned criminals.[21]

He is supposed to have regular retention hearings to decide if he is still “dangerously mentally ill”.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

After McCollum used an insanity defense based on Asperger’s, he became a folk hero to people with autism spectrum disorder, especially children, celebrated for his “rebellion against what autistics often call the dreary world of the ‘neurotypicals'”. In spite of his diagnosis from several psychiatrists, during at least two criminal proceedings, this defense was denied as the judge ruled he was “capable of controlling his impulses”.[7]

A Harper’s Magazine article on McCollum by Jeff Tietz was a finalist in profile writing for the 2003 American Society of Magazine Editors awards.[22] At the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe, Paperhat Productions of New York mounted a play by director Jude Domski called Boy Steals Train, based on McCollum’s life and letters McCollum wrote to Domski, and described as “pointing a shaming collective finger at a judiciary that refuses to recognize McCollum’s condition”.[23][24] The play was awarded a Fringe First by The Scotsman[25] and the troupe won a Best Ensemble Acting Award.[26] His story was also made into a BBC radio play, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in August 2005.[27]

McCollum appears in Episode 2 of “The Dark End of The Spectrum”, a two-hour, two-part, radio documentary that aired on CBC’s radio show Ideas on June 2, 2008, and again on July 24 (Part 1) and July 31 (Part 2), 2009.[28]

A documentary film about McCollum, Off the Rails: The Darius McCollum Story, directed by Adam Irving, premiered on April 7, 2016, at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “Darius McCollum”.
  2. ^ Murphy, Wendy B (2002). “Orphan Diseases: New Hope for Rare Medical Conditions”. Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 0-7613-1919-0.
  3. ^ Tietz, Jeff (May 2002). “The boy who loved transit: how the system failed an obsession”. Harper’s Magazine. Gale Group. Archived from the original on September 27, 2003. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  4. ^ “Man Known For Posing As Transit Worker Steals Greyhound Bus: Cops « CBS New York”. cbslocal.com. November 11, 2015. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Donohue, Pete; Moore, Tina (December 25, 2013). “Transit bus thief released from prison after 2010 swipe”. NY Daily News. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  6. ^ “Top 10 Imposters”. Time. May 26, 2009. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Osborne, Lawrence (2002). American Normal: The Hidden World of Asperger Syndrome. Copernicus. p. 3. ISBN 0-387-95307-8.
  8. ^ Murphy, Dean E. (March 31, 2001). “Judge, Clearly Not Amused, Sentences a Subway Impostor”. The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
  9. ^ “Darius McCollum sentencing release”. Queens District Attorney’s Office. April 6, 2005. Archived from the original on June 18, 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
  10. ^ Landry, Bernice (July 31, 2009). “CBC Ideas: The Dark End of The Spectrum, Part II”. CBC. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d “City’s great train robber at it again: Serial subway imposter caught”. Daily News. June 14, 2008. Archived from the original on September 14, 2010. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d “Queens Man Obsessed With Trains Is Arrested Again”. The New York Times. June 15, 2008. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  13. ^ Donohue, Pete (October 6, 2008). “Railroad buff derailed again, 26th bust for man cops say impersonated fed”. New York Daily News. Archived from the original on October 7, 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  14. ^ a b Cartwright, Lachlan (August 31, 2010). “Transit bandit busted for stealing bus, cuffed carrying Koran”. New York Post. Archived from the original on September 5, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2010.
  15. ^ a b Ben Yakas (August 31, 2010). “#1 Subway Superfan Darius McCollum Arrested For Stealing Bus”. Gothamist. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  16. ^ ABC News. “U.S. News – National News”. ABC News. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  17. ^ Rojas, Rick (November 11, 2015). “Repeat Train Thief Steals Bus at Port Authority, Police Say”. The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Haberman, Clyde (April 12, 2005). “Back in Prison, Guilty Mainly of a Fixation”. The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
  19. ^ Knight, Sam (April 18, 2005). “On the wrong track”. The Times. London. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
  20. ^ “Transit bandit agrees to plea deal, will head to psych ward”. New York Post. January 8, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  21. ^ “Transit-Obsessed Queens Man Will Not Be Released Back Into Community”. www.ny1.com. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  22. ^ American Society of Magazine Editors, ed. (2003). “The Boy Who Loved Transit”. The Best American Magazine Writing 2003. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-056775-9.
  23. ^ “Reviews from the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe” Archived July 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine,
  24. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (August 19, 2003). “Edinburgh reports: American dreamers”. London: Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved November 6, 2007.
  25. ^ Eaton, Andrew (August 8, 2003). “Winners in the limelight”. The Scotsman. Edinburgh Festivals. Retrieved November 8, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Weinert, Laura (August 2003). “Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2003, Bravehearts Only”. BackStageWest. Archived from the original on March 25, 2008. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  27. ^ “Radio Choice: Afternoon Play: Boy Steals Train Monday, 2.15pm BBC”. Independent on Sunday. August 14, 2005. Retrieved July 24, 2013 – via FindArticles.
  28. ^ “The Dark End of The Spectrum”. CBC Radio One. Archived from the original on January 27, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  29. ^ Kiah Fields, “‘Off the Rails’ Director Adam Irving Talks Darius McCollum, New York’s Notorious Transit Imposter”. The Source, April 27, 2016.