A Robbery so Brazen, This Could Have Been the Wild West, Not Outside of Atlanta

Train in the Distance
A train in the distance appears in Louisville, Ky., in this circa 2002 photo. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

The southbound Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway train from Nashville, Tenn., pulled into Vinings at 7 p.m. on January 16, 1914.

It was rather odd given the fact this was one of the quieter stations on the line.

A well-dressed man boarded the boarded the train — 105 years ago today — and made his way to the parlor car, where nine men and two women occupied the car’s 12 seats.

Wielding a revolver, the man told the passengers, “Just a minute, gentlemen. Kindly give me all the money you have and be quick,” according to a report in The Atlanta Constitution.

His presence prompted the train’s porter to run through the train alerting other passengers of the robbery. C.C. Heard, a local lawman who happened to be on the train at the time, confronted the robber on the coach’s rear platform.

The two exchanged gunfire, and someone on board the train pulled the emergency brake.

The robber laughed and dropped from the rear platform, making off with about $280. The train’s porter jumped from the back of the train and fired three shots in the direction of the robber, but the perp did not return fire.

“Passengers and trainmen said the robber wore a mask and were uncertain whether they could identify him,” The New York Times reported in its Jan. 19, 1914, edition.

Authorities later arrested the man — initially identified in media reports as James Nolan and possibly from Des Moines, Iowa — near where he fell from the train, apparently walking toward Atlanta. Police believed the man disembarked from the Rome Express in Bolton, Ga., at 5:30 p.m., then walked to Vinings, according to a January 18, 1914, report in The Atlanta Constitution.

Reports shortly after the robbery indicate another man or possibly several men might have also been involved in the hold-up, but it seems no one else was ever charged.

About Todd DeFeo 339 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and The Travel Trolley.