"Runaway Train" is a song by American rock band Soul Asylum. It was released in June 1993 as the fourth single from the album, Grave Dancers Union. The song led Soul Asylum to international status, and helped bring their album, Grave Dancers Union to a multi-platinum level. It was the third single off that album and reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100. The track won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1994.
Several versions of the video were made. The video for the United States begins with a fade to a black screen with big, white blocked text reading: "There are over one million youth lost on the streets of America", whereas the UK version begins with "100,000 youth are lost on the streets of Britain". Next shown is a drawing of a girl, and a Dave Pirner voice-over says that the drawing is by a girl who had run away more than 110 times. The scene was often omitted when the video was shown, a common practice when videos had additional footage before or after the song.
After Pirner spoke, the video continued with various shots of the band playing the song, and Dave singing. Three concrete scenes are shown interspersed among the other images of the video. During the first verse, a child is shown witnessing his grandfather beating, and eventually killing, his grandmother, and running from their house in fear. During the second verse, a young teenage girl is pimped as a prostitute, and is initially purchased by the aforementioned abuser. Later, she is dragged into a van by a gang, after which she is picked up by paramedics, having been raped and beaten. During the coda of the song, a baby is snatched from his stroller by an older woman, with his mother running after the kidnapper's car.
Throughout the music video, various images of children running, or appearing with injuries from abuse, are shown. During the choruses, pictures of missing children would appear on the screen. After each picture was shown, their full name would appear in large capital letters on the screen, along with the year they had been "missing since...".
After the video, in an ending also not regularly shown, Pirner says in front of the camera, "If you've seen one of these kids, or you are one of them, please call this number," with the following screen showing a number one could contact. MTV cut this part out because they did not want to have the video confused with being a public service announcement. VH1 shows the UK version in its full length.
There were three original versions of the video in the United States, totaling 36 missing children shown. Depending on what country the video was being broadcast, they would show children from that area who are missing. The version shown in Australia showed a number of young backpacking tourists whose families were looking for them. Several of them turned out to be victims of Ivan Milat, the Backpacker Murderer.
In 2006, guitarist Dan Murphy stated in an interview with Pasadena Weekly that some of the cases featured in the video had ended in tragedy: "Some weren’t the best scenarios. I met a fireman on the East Coast whose daughter was in the end of the video, and he’d been in a bitter custody battle with his wife over her,” Murphy said. “It turned out the girl hadn’t run away, but was killed and buried in her backyard by her mother. Then on tour, another girl told us laughingly ‘You ruined my life’ because she saw herself on the video at her boyfriend’s house and it led her being forced back into a bad home situation.”
The UK version of the video featured Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol, who each went missing in 1991. Their remains were found in 2007 at a house in Margate. Peter Tobin has since been convicted of both murders.
Curtis Huntzinger, who was featured in the US video, was located deceased in 2008. His convicted killer, Stephen Daniel Hash, is currently serving a sentence of 11 years for manslaughter in Folsom State Prison.
The last image in all three U.S. versions of the song is Thomas Dean Gibson, who disappeared from Glendale, Oregon, in 1991 at the age of 2. He is still missing as of 2013, and an age-progressed photo of him at age 19 was released in 2009 by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Also featured in the video, but still missing in 2013 were Byron Page, Wilda Benoit, Christopher Kerze, and Martha Dunn.