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Today is a day that a classic was born.  October 6 will stand out as a day that defined a tradition in Westerns of all types, whether read, heard, or viewed.  You see, on this day in 1866 the Reno Brothers Gang made criminal history in Seymour, Indiana when they successfully robbed a moving train for the first time.

It was an inspired idea at the time.  Others had robbed trains at the depots, but to take a train out in the open prairies, a long way from the closest law enforcement was criminal genius at the time.  They managed to net around $16,000 in that robbery.  A paltry sum until you realize it is over $200,000 dollars when adjusted to modern inflation.

Times were not kind to the Reno gang.  By 1878 all ten members of the gang had been arrested, most with the help of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency.  None lasted long in custody, however.  A hooded mob of vigilantes stormed trains and even a federal prison to drag the men out for lynching.  It is believed, in fact, that Frank Reno and Charlie Anderson may be the only two federal detainees ever murdered in custody prior to trial.  Their deaths actually caused the passage of new rules regarding the responsibilities of all parties involved in the transport of federal prisoners.

But, despite their violent lives and their ignoble ends, the gang did manage to contribute something to American culture that day in 1866.  The train robbery became a staple of Western pop culture from pulp novels to modern films.  These tales have entertained thousands of Western fans for decades since that first robbery.

There was even a sci-fi version in the “Firefly” episode “The Train Job.

So, here’s to those scoundrels, The Reno Gang!  Making it cool to steal from a rushing locomotive since 1866.


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