Thursday 24 March 2022

The Great Nanton Train Robbery!

Dispatches from Southern Alberta
Dateline:Feb 5th 1907


The What?  Yes, The Great Nanton Train Robbery. 
The CPR line moved coal through the town of Nanton during the winter of 1907.  The problem was the ‘through’.  Nanton was running out of coal, and despite the promises of the CPR to make delivery, the coal cars kept rumbling through the town and further down the line.

That all changed on February 5th, when seven coal cars reached Nanton and the population there decided that they would go no further.  The coal was needed in Nanton, and they would have it.  J.P. Longpre, the CPR Station Agent at Nanton, contacted the district superintendent, who instructed J.P. To arrange for police protection for the train, and to get it moving down the tracks.

As J.P. And the local NWMP were discussing the matter, the train tried to leave the station.  A local resident, Ira Shoop, hopped on the caboose and ran along the box cars, dropping down between them to set the brakes.   Shoop was arrested. (He was later released as the jail had no heat - no coal, remember?)

Again, the train tried to pull out of the station.  This time all the citizens banded together and set the brakes on all the cars.  

J.P., the NWMP officer and train crew retired to a local eatery for lunch and to further discuss the situation.

While they were gone, the citizens remaining on the platform held a meeting chaired by the Baptist Minister (the Presbyterian Minister took the minutes!) and it was agreed that they would go ahead with the ‘robbery’.  The farmers would help themselves to one ton of coal each, and the townies to half a ton.  All agreed that they would pay the CPR $6.00 a ton.

Returning from lunch the train crew, NWMP and JP Longpre watched patiently as the residents lined up alphabetically to receive their coal.  The funds collected were then turned over to the CPR Agent.

A NWMP Inspector investigated and no charges were laid, in that the robbery was conducted in such a proper and honourable way.  It is said that the CPR were not all that pleased with this verdict!

 Check out the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton Alberta for lots more interesting stories!
Victorian Society of Alberta 

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