Is there such an expression?

Follow one’s pipe? If not what’s the meaning of the word pipe here?

Probably shortened from “following their pipe dreams”.

Pipe dream = an almost completely unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme.

Another explanation may be that it is referring to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who stole the children from the town by luring them away with his pipe music.

Ah yes, that actually makes more sense within the context.