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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Great Train Robery

May 5, 1865 was the date of the first recorded train robbery here in the United States. On a rail line west of Cincinnati what were assumed to be Rebels who continued to fight despite the end of the war, robbed passengers and the mail room and got away with it, never caught.

After that America saw a string of train robberies, mostly in the south and west. While they were no where near as common as the number found in dime novels, illustrated press reports, in movies and on television, there were hundreds of robberies over the next fifteen years, some by storied men like Jessee James or Butch Casidy and the Sundance Kid, but most robbers who have faded in time, and almost all the thieves were eventually brought to often frontier justice.

The glamour and drama of the train robbery is so strong that the first silent film with a complete story was in 1903:  "The Great Train Robbery.", where a robber in Tex-Mex clothing points a gun directly at the camera and the audience.

Less glamorous, but far more common and still around today, is the theft of cargo and even train cars. 

In 1995 thieves stopped trains near the Mexican boarder, blocking the tracks and taking television sets. There are ten or more of these armed robberies each year. Cargo freight taken off trains and trucks, in raid yards or truck stops, exceeds thirty billion dollars in merchandise a year. Disappearing box cars ride trains across the country, said to be transporting drugs and weapons, without a paper trail.

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