How Common is Train Robbery?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Train robberies are not very common in modern times. In today’s world, an average person is far more likely to be a victim of a mugging, pick pocketing, or burglary than a train robbery. Train robbery crimes were much more common in the 1800s and even in the early-to-mid 1900s than they are now. Like highwaymen, train robbers are more likely to be seen in historical fiction novels and history books than on the daily television news.

A classic mugging on the street is far more likely nowadays than a train robbery.
A classic mugging on the street is far more likely nowadays than a train robbery.

Train robbery was more common in the Old American West than it is today. Train robberies were especially prevalent in what was referred to as Indian Territory during the period that followed the American Civil War. Often, train robbers of this period would switch a train to a different track in order to send it in the direction of the waiting thieves; the thieves would then threaten the train engineer with guns and force him to uncouple passenger cars so they could get the mail car and the car that contained the safe alone for the robbery. In many cases, they were content with robbing a train’s mail car and safe, but they did sometimes rob the passengers as well.

Dynamite was used in one of the most famous U.S. train robberies.
Dynamite was used in one of the most famous U.S. train robberies.

One of the most famous train robberies in US history was the 1899 robbery of the Union Pacific Overland Flyer No. 1 train. Six train robbers managed to make off with loot the train company claimed was worth more than $50,000 US dollars (USD). This robbery occurred when the robbers tricked the engineer into stopping the train and then boarded it. They then used dynamite to blow up a bridge the train went over and more dynamite to gain entry to the train’s mail car, express car, and safe.

The United States was not the only country to deal with train robberies. Another of the most famous robberies occurred in India in 1925. This robbery was planned by members of the Hindustan Republican Association in an effort to raise money for a revolution against Britain. The robbers engineered the stopping of a Northern Railway train and were able to subdue a guard. They then proceeded to steal British Government Treasury money bags, but did not rob the Indian passengers.

Another famous train robbery, dubbed the Great Train Robbery, occurred in England in 1963. To rob this train, bandits rigged a train signal to be red when it should have been green. When the train stopped and one of the crew members disembarked, the bandits boarded the train and managed to steal a large sum of money. These robbers cut area phone lines and used decoy vehicles to mislead any possible witnesses.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

RoyalSpyder

@Chmander - I was once in a train station by myself, and I got pick pocketed. When I was waiting for the train to arrive, someone had pretended to bump into me, claiming it to be an accident. I just shrugged it off like it was nothing. When I had later gotten on the train, I couldn't find my phone. I searched every corner of my purse, until I realized that it was stolen by the guy who "bumped" into me. Unfortunately, I never got it back, but I'm a lot more attentive when at train stations now. They're a dangerous place to be, especially so late at night.

Chmander

I'm not surprised that train robberies aren't very common in this day and age. I've only seen them in cartoons and those old western movies. On the other hand, train stations can still be a very dangerous place, especially if you're alone. It's always good to be on the lookout for people who may try to pickpocket you. They'll always try it at the most inopportune time, and when you least expect it.

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