“THE DAY THE GOOD GUYS WON”

— THE ROBBERY AT BAXTER’S CURVE — 

Two men stood in the shadows and watched a Southern Pacific train pull into Dryden, Texas, to take on water. When it stopped, they slipped aboard the locomotive and drew their guns. 

ROBBERY AT BAXTER'S CURVE

At around midnight, March 13, 1912, Ben Kilpatrick and Ole Hobek forced the engineer of Train #9 to proceed to an iron bridge east of Baxter’s Curve near Sanderson, and stop the train. Waiting in the brush were two horses that belonged to the outlaws.

Kilpatrick and Holbeck met behind bars at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.

Kilpatrick, known as “The Tall Texan,” received an early release in 1911 after serving ten of a 15-year sentence for train robbery. He once rode with Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.

With Kilpatrick holding the engineer at gunpoint, Hobek made his way to the express car.

Wielding a rifle, Hobek ordered Wells Fargo Express Manager David A. Trousdale and two crewmen to disconnect the cars behind the unit.

He then ordered Trousdale to give him the combination to the safe. Trousdale later told authorities Hobek kept poking him in the back with the rifle barrel throughout the confrontation.

In an effort to gain the gunman’s confidence, the 32-year old Wells Fargo Express manager remarked he wasn’t being paid enough to interfere with a robbery and didn’t care how much loot was stolen.

On the way through one of the cars, they passed a stack of oysters. Trousdale managed to snatch an ice mallet from atop the shipment and hide it in his overcoat. 

Minutes later, when Hobek got distracted and bent down to pick up a package, Trousdale hammered the ice mallet against his head. The impact carried enough force to kill the train robber.  

After taking possession of Hobek’s rifle, the express manager armed the other two crewmen with pistols. They doused lights in the express car and waited for Kilpatrick to show himself.

The veteran train robber thought the plan had gone well so far but wondered what happened to Hobek. He began to worry and then decided to go looking for his partner in crime. 

Waiting in the express car, Trousdale spotted Kilpatrick looking into the express car from the window, took aim, and fired. The bullet shattered the window and struck Kilpatrick in the head, killing him. 

When the train reached Sanderson, at about 5 a.m., the authorities removed the bodies of Kilpatrick and Hobek and put them display in front of the depot. Some folks in town made it a point to stop and have photographs taken with the corpses.

For his heroics, Wells Fargo gave Trousdale $1,000 and an engraved gold watch. The federal government presented him with another $1,000, and the Southern Pacific rewarded him with an additional $500.

Passengers on the train decided to pass the hat and awarded Trousdale another $51.

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