Part 10: A Train Trestle Too Far
Im not sure how blowing shit up is going to make robbing things easier, but lets just shoot everyone before we can find out.
As a side note, these kind of wooden train trestles really existed and are pretty impressive. Except they usually werent filled with walkways and dudes to murder.
Nuggets of Truth
Harvey Logan, a.k.a. Kid Curry, was known as the wildest of the Wild Bunch. He earned that honor because of his cold and merciless behavior. He never hesitated before shooting anyone and would go out of his way to always have his revenge. William Pinkerton, who took charge of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency after the death of his father, wrote this about him. "He has not one single redeeming Feature. He is the only criminal I know of who does not have one single good point."
Before joining the Wild Bunch, he used to ride with the gang of "Black Jack" Ketchum. Ketchum was an infamous criminal hanged in 1901 for attempted train robbery. The rope used in the hanging was too stiff and his head was literally torn from his body. Luckily For those who hung him, Kid Curry left the gang before Black Jack's death.
Kid Curry's life most likely ended sometime in 1904 after he was tracked down near Parachute, Colorado, where he had a hand in robbing the Denver & Rio Grande train. Pursued by a posse, the wounded Kid Curry shot himself in the head to avoid being taken alive. Later it was said that someone else committed suicide while Kid left for South America with Cassidy and Sundance. In any case, he was never seen again and likely not missed.
Robert LeRoy Parker adopted the name Cassidy in honor of his mentor, Mike Cassidy. The nickname "Butch" was earned when he worked as a butcher in Rock Springs, Wyoming. History remembers him not as rancher or a butcher, but rather as the leader of one of the Wild West's most notorious gangs. It was known as the Wild Bunch by some. Others called them The Hole in the Wall Gang. Butch was considered calm and sensible for a man of his profession and because of that, the Wild Bunch boasted the longest streak of successful bank and train robberies in history.
Today Butch Cassidy is always remembered together with his friend and partner, the Sundance Kid. Both were forced to leave the country to take refuge in Bolivia. That is also where they died in 1908. Surrounded in their own house by a band of Bolivian soldiers and officers, one of the two, it's impossible to know who, killed his wounded friend and then committed suicide.
It was never proved beyond any doubt that the two dead Americans were indeed Cassidy and Sundance. One version of the story has Cassidy returning to the United States under a false name to die as late as 1936. One thing is certain though. Both men are now most definitely dead, even as their legend lives on.
The first railroads appeared in the late 1830's in the Eastern U.S. From there the railway industry grew exponentially, exploding with growth between 1850 and 1890. They were much more challenging endeavors than their European counterparts: the lines were longer and the trains were larger. While the Civil War slowed down the expansion, it also proved the strategic value of rail transport. It was a real game changer too. Horse, boat, and wagon were no longer the only available options for moving people and cargo from one place to another - the train created a true revolution.
Naturally, the beginnings were quite humble and the various rail lines were not connected, which meant that passengers had to change trains several times to reach their destination. However, soon after the war, the first transcontinental railroad was built, known at the time as the Union Pacific Railroad or, more commonly, the Overland Route.
The expansion of railroads also caused an increase in a new kind of criminal activity, train robberies. Trains were often used to transport large sums of money and that was an irresistible draw for the outlaws. The fact that trains could be stopped and robbed in any godforsaken place far from civilization made them a ripe target. Among the famous train robbers of the time, Jesse James and the Wild Bunch led by Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid deserve honorable mentions.
What good would a Colt Peacemaker be without that Chinese invention from the 9th century? Black powder provided people with entertainment and the ability to kill for centuries. Without it, Wild Bill could have only used his Colts as clubs. Near the end of the 19th century, however, black powder was replaced with more efficient smokeless powder, and in Germany, the ever-popular TNT was invented. At the same time, one Swedish chemist was working on an even more explosive invention, which was supposed to make the miners' work of blowing up rocks easier and safer.
Alfred Nobel patented his discovery in 1867. Based on nitroglycerin, but much more stable, the new explosive provided a surprisingly user-friendly way of blasting rocks. Sawdust or wood pulp soaked with nitro was formed into sticks covered with paper and then fitted into holes drilled into rocks before detonation. It was soon being used for military purposes, which should surprise no one. After all, even though people love inventions that can build and improve things, they love watching stuff blow up even more.