Railroad History & Photos
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, opening the way for the iron horse to transport mail, cargo and people across Midwest prairie and California mountains. When the hammer's final blow struck a golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869, a continent had been linked; life in the wild, isolated west would never be the same.
But while the railroad provided opportunities for settlers, fortune seekers and businesses, it also caught the attention of robbers like Deaf Charley, and Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid who were soon relieving trains and passengers of their wealth. America's first private eye, Allan Pinkerton, was called in and along with his agents, proved an effective force against outlaws.
Eventually, the railroad hired its own police to guard trains, some of them as rough in character as the thieves they arrested. By the turn of the century, they were called "detectives" in the eastern United States and "special agents" in the west, but to the hobos and derelicts riding the rails, they were "yard bulls."
Ruthless gangs and felons have long since replaced yesterday's hobos, and the railroad has incorporated computers in to its system and cabooses out of it. But the age-old struggle between law-breaker and law-enforcer has never changed!