Jim Thornhill lived as an honest rancher. He was never accused of doing anything illegal, yet it is likely most people knew he often assisted Curry. He even took care of the property that had formerly been the Curry ranch.
A saloon at Great Falls, Montana, had been the agreed meeting place for the Wild Bunch. Sundance Kid arrived with a friend named Camilo Hanks. After some outlaw-style rest and relaxation, the four of them rode back to Hideaway Coulee.
Butch Cassidy was in Saint Paul, Minnesota, keeping an eye on westbound trains leaving the Great Northern home office. He spent time in saloons and other gathering places listening for talk of shipments which included large sums of money.
Driving the dusty county road from the highway to the ghost town of Wagner.
Ben Kilpatrick was not known in the area, so he was used to run after supplies when needed. Near the end of June, he went to Chinook and waited for word from Cassidy. When the word came, he headed back to Hideaway Coulee to deliver it. The train with the loot was scheduled to arrive in Malta on the afternoon of July 3.
The Sundance Kid and Kid Curry rode to Malta and lazed around the stable waiting for the train to arrive. Hanks and Kilpatrick rode to the bridge at Exeter Creek and set up the ambush. Cassidy was a passenger on the train from Saint Paul to Malta.
Lone Writer left the town of Landusky and drove toward Malta on the highway for a few miles before turning north on a dusty county road. The path he took skirted around the Little Rocky Mountains in the same manner the outlaws would have chosen on the way to Exeter Creek. He was immediately rewarded with a view of an eagle sitting on a fence post. Before he could get the camera out of its bag, the eagle rose from its perch and soared gracefully away toward the mountains.
There was also a large number of antelope and even some ducks on the small ponds. One deer watched Lone Writer from a hilltop in the distance. The road was relatively flat but gently rolling in places.
The only town along the way was Wagner. It sits beside the railroad track and was the train's first stop after the robbery. Wagner is mostly a ghost town with a few buildings that appear to be inhabited.
The robbery took place at the Exeter Creek Bridge. That track is a very busy place these
From Wagner, a gravel road runs alongside the railroad track to Exeter Creek. It connects to the paved highway where a historic marker tells the story of the train robbery. The tracks are now used frequently by freight trains and occasionally by Amtrak. From Exeter Creek, Lone Writer took the paved highway about 4 miles to the town of Malta for dinner.
Lone Writer spent some time in the museum at Malta. It is very well arranged and has an entire room dedicated to the outlaws, including info about the robbery and the hideout at Hideaway Coulee. It has copies of many of the conflicting stories concerning who was involved in the robbery and about what was taken. Any time spent in that museum is time well spent for anyone interested in the outlaws' activities.
On the day of the robbery, the Sundance Kid boarded the train as a passenger and casually nodded to Cassidy as he passed by. The nod was simply acknowledgement that everything was going as planned.
Kid Curry crawled on board the tinder car behind the engineer. As soon as the train began to move, he dropped down behind the engineer with gun in hand. From that point on, the outlaws had control of the train.
The train stopped at the Exeter Creek Bridge. Cassidy and Sundance kept the passengers quiet in the train while Curry used dynamite to blast open the safe in the baggage car. The robbery was over in a matter of minutes, and the outlaws rode away in a cloud of dust. They would hide out in Hideaway Coulee and on Grand Island until lawmen gave up trying to find them. From there, they would split up and head off in different directions, carrying a little more money than they came with... but that's another story.
Larry E. Heck has been writing backcountry adventure stories since 1985. If you have an idea for a historic backcountry trail that you think Larry should consider, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (303) 910-7647. Those who are interested in driving the Outlaw Trail as featured in this series, can do so best by purchasing DeLorme's TopoUSA 6.0 mapping software for use on a laptop computer. The exact track used in the preceding account can be purchased from Lone Writer and loaded into TopoUSA. By using a GPS, the exact track can be followed. Visit www.lone-writer.com for more details.
Cow Island Ferry crossing. It won't do any good to wait here. The ferry has not been here
Two Calf Creek Trail to the Kipp Recreation Area.
The town of Landusky still has a few original buildings standing.