Train Robberies, a big part of the Old West?

Cassidy Hanton

Hello, my dears!

Today, I want to talk to you about something that seems quite odd when we think of it today, but it used to be a big part of the Old West. 

What is that, you ask?

Train robberies! 

Of course, it isn’t the only thing they’re known about, but for some mysterious reason, train robberies were a recurring theme of the frontier era.

The main reason they happened in the past was because trains were veeery slow, which made it easier. The funny thing is, the bandits back then seemed to be unorganized messes. 

They would go into a train and rely on threatening the expressman to open the safe which kept all the goods (mostly money). That means that if they didn’t open the safe, they would get nothing; nada. So were their efforts worth it?

At first it was harder for them and they ended up in a lot of trouble, but bandits always found a way! With the invention of dynamite, if they happened upon an uncooperative expressman, they would simply break into them. 

So, what happens if the safes didn’t have any interesting goods? Our dear bandits would just steal from the passenger, in hopes that they had something of value. 

Contrary to Hollywood myths; No, very few bandits would jump from horseback onto trains. It’s cool on the big screen, but it doesn’t work well in real life. 

They were very gentlemen-like with it; they’d simply board the train at the right time or wait until the derailing before making their move. 

And now, for the exciting part! Are you ready for the most thrilling robberies that took place?

Jesse James’ Iowa Train Robbery

Jesse James was an infamous criminal, focused mostly on bank robberies but he was the first man to ever rob a moving train.

Jesse and his gang gathered as much information they could of the train schedule, mostly by asking around, and came up with a well-thought out plan. As their target rounded a blind curve, the thieves used a rope to dislodge the track, causing the locomotive to derail and topple into a ditch.

The crash killed numerous people, and most notably the engineer, and injured many passengers. Despite that, they still stole whatever they could

Even though they put so much effort in it, they only found a few thousands dollars; definitely not enough for the deaths they caused!

The Rondout Train Robbery

This is perhaps the most famous and big train robbery in American history! 

The “Newton boys” were a gang of mostly young men who were very eager to commit crimes. They were only 4 boys, but they had managed to rob over 60 banks!

Two of the brothers boarded a train in Chicago. They pulled a gun out on the engineer, threatening to take his life if he didn’t do as they said. Having no other choice, he did as instructed and stopped the train when they reached Illinois, where the rest of the gang awaited.

The thieves threw asphyxiating gas inside the train, through the windows, leaving the guards gasping for air and relief. Seeing their opportunity, they went into action mode. 

The Newton boys stole everything in their way and got away with the shocking amount of 3 million dollars! 

But the story doesn’t end here: One of the brothers was shot several times in an accident and in turn, they had to seek medical attention. Someone recognised them and they were arrested, losing all the money they fought for. 

The Wilcox Train Robbery

Robert LeRoy Parker, or else known as Butch Cassidy (hello!), formed a gang named “The Wild Bunch”. They were, of course, responsible for many railroad crimes, but this ought to be their most memorable one.

They had isolated a part of the railroad, getting ready for their big plan. After the train came to a temporary stop, they jumped inside, and ordered the engineer to cross a bridge. 

As soon as they crossed the bridge, the brothers dynamited it, not allowing any other trains to cross. The thieves instantly ordered the passengers to open the doors and when they refused to do so, they dynamited them down! They stole a total of 3000$ and got away unharmed and richer than before. 

This was it, my dears 🙂

3 of the most exciting robberies of the Old West. Have you ever heard of them before?

I am really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this!

-Written by Cassidy Hanton

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