The five greatest train robberies in history

Here are five other train robberies in history which were noted for their ingenuity.

Published: 10th August 2016 08:57 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th August 2016 08:57 PM   |  A+A-


Tuesday’s train robbery in which Rs 5.78 crore was stolen off a consignment of currency notes worth Rs 342 crore was unprecedented in India, but there have been equally ingenious heists in other parts of the world, some of them so talked about that the stories were told through the silver screen.

Here are five other train robberies in history which were noted for their ingenuity.

Iowa Train Robbery, 1873

It was not the first train robbery in the world, but the infamous Jesse James and his gang shocked America and established his reputation as a ‘celebrity’ criminal with the Iowa train robbery.

James and gang loosened a part of the track on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway line nearing Adair station, where the route curves. They tied a rope to the rail and slid it under the parallel rail, waiting to dislodge it as the train approached, in a bid to make the train skid to a stop. The train driver, however, saw the rope ahead and tried to stop the train, unsuccessfully, crashing into a ditch on the side. The engine crushed the driver to almost instant death and seriously injured the fireman, while the passenger coaches fell on their side. The robbers boarded the train, going straight for a safe belonging to the US Express Company, and then relieved the stunned passengers of their money and valuables, for good measure. They are believed to have made off with nearly $3,000, equivalent about $60,000 today.

The Great Train Robbery of 1963

Regarded as the biggest train robbery of all time, 15 thieves stole $7 million from a Royal Mail train, inspiring a movie to be made in 2013 (not to be confused with other films, one in 1903 and another directed by Michael Crichton in 1979 of the same name). The thieves managed to rig a false red signal near a section called Sears crossing and when the train stopped, they went in wearing masks, attacked the engine driver and uncoupled most of the cars. They forced the driver to move the remaining cars to a pre-planned location and formed a human chain to quickly remove 120 bags out of the train to waiting vehicles.

The robbers hid in a nearby farmhouse for days and celebrated by playing monopoly with the stolen cash. Later they divided the money and went their way. Twelve of the gang members were later arrested.

The Gold Robbery, 1855

This was one of the quietest robberies committed and nobody was attacked. In fact, no one even realised it had happened, for a long time. Thieves had quietly replaced gold bullion worth around 12,000 British pounds being transported by train, with lead bars.

In collaboration with the station master and train guard, the masterminds of the robbery had obtained copies of the keys to safe in which the gold was kept. They boarded the train as passengers, carrying the lead as luggage. At some point, during the journey between England and France, they replaced the gold with the lead weights and locked the safe back.

Kakori Conspiracy, 1925

This one is familiar to Indians as it is considered an important part of our freedom struggle and widely mentioned in school textbooks.

Members of the Hindustan Republican Association, led by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan, looted a British train at Kakori near Lucknow. Ten armed revolutionaries hijacked the train and made it stop. They then used a hammer to break open a British safe filled with money and escaped.

The Biggest in US, 1924

The robbery by a band of four brothers called the "Newton Boys" pulled off the biggest heist in American history and escaped with $3 million in cash, jewellery and bonds. They were tipped off by a postal inspector about cash being transported on a mail train in Roundout, just outside Chicago. They threw teargas bombs of formaldehyde and left the armed clerks struggling for air. The thieves escaped with sacks full of money in speeding cars.


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