TRAIN ROBBERY ON THE BLUE MOUNTAINS LINE

Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, April 8 1930,   what has been described as one of the most daring robberies in the history of Australia took place.   

The  heist  was conceived by Roy Wilkinson, a 24 year old  railway porter. Wilkinson had been  serving as  escort on the mail train from Sydney to Mudgee, which carried the  fortnightly pay roll for country rail workers. He put the idea to Joseph Ryan, a known criminal.  Ryan roped in two other shady characters, Arthur Collins and George Morris,

As it turned out, Wilkinson was not rostered to be an escort on April 8 after all.  He still expected a cut, but in his place were two  innocent railway guards,  Kenneth Allen and Albert Squires.

 

Kenneth Alle, guard in the Mudgee Rail Robbery

The armed Escort, Kenneth Allen

Albert Squires, injured in the Mudgee Rail Robbery

Albert Squires, injured, then summarily dismissed.

When the train stopped at Emu Plains, Ryan and Collins boarded from the opposite side to the platform.  They entered the guards van and  held  up the guards  at gun-point.  Squires dared to  make a move  and was struck on the jaw.  Allen was disarmed and the two men were bound and gagged. The bandits  then wrenched open  the bullion chest, containing  £18,000 in cheques and banknotes.

Emu Plins Railway Station

Emu Plains Railway Station, where the drama began.

Detectives  later set up a re-enactment based on statements from Allen and Squires. The following photos were taken by the Fairfax Press.

Re-enactment of the Mudgee Mail robbery

Were the guards a little too relaxed?

Re-enactment of the Mudgee Mail Robbery

Held at gunpoint while the bullion chest is opened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, George Morris was waiting  ahead in his car beside the line, and flashed a light when the train approached.  On his signal, three  cash boxes were thrown from the guards van as it slowed on the steep climb  just before Glenbrook tunnel.

Glenbrook Tunnel

Glenbrook tunnel.

Ryan and Collins then dropped to ground themselves. The loot was taken to a nearby farm at Jamisontown, owned by Morris.

 

Location map of the Mudgee Train Robbery

X marks the spot…. where the proceeds of the robbery were dropped and the robbers jumped from the train.

The two guards, Allen and Squires, were not implicated in the robbery. However, they were judged guilty of neglect of duty by their superiors and summarily dismissed.  The  tabloid Truth newspaper ran a feature on Squires and his family, which may have helped in having both men reinstated.

Patricia Squires

Collateral damage. Guard Albert Squires was a family man who unfairly lost his job.

While police were still trying to solve the case,  Arthur Collins was involved  in a jewelry heist in Sydney.  Joe Ryan  and George  Morris kept  themselves  busy with  another railway robbery in Canberra. When  Collins  was charged with the jewelry  theft, he did a deal with police.  He informed on  Ryan in relation to both train robberies and received a suspended sentence. He did  pay a heavy price, though. Twenty five stitches were inserted in his head after he  was brutally  beaten by three men. Criminals do not take kindly to those they label  ‘dogs’. Collins received a suspended sentence for the jewel theft and was ordered t0 leave NSW  immediately.

Arthur Collins, train robber

Arthur Collins walked free over the Mudgee train robbery

 

Roy Wilkinson, who had provided the ‘inside oil’ for the job,  was sentenced to three years gaol as  an accessory after the fact. There was a further charge of failing to disclose knowledge of a crime. It was a poor return on the £50 he received as his  cut.

Joe Ryan skipped bail over the Canberra train robbery and  disappeared  overseas for several years.  When he eventually gave himself up  the jury were unable  to reach a verdict.  In a second trial he was found not guilty.  On December  2, 1935 he was also found not guilty over the Mudgee rail robbery.  The   ‘unreliable evidence’ of those who informed against him was a major factor in his acquittal.

Joseph Ryan

Joseph Ryan

Like Collins, the  get-away driver  George Morris did not face trial over  the Mudgee train robbery. He too was given indemnity after  implicating Joe Ryan.   But eventually  his  criminal life  caught up with him.   On March 29 1944, Morris died in a volley of bullets  while sitting  in his car in Argyle Street, Millers Point.   He had unwisely  kept a mysterious appointment after  returning from an evening out at the  Capital Theatre.  It was believed there were two assassins. Six bullets were fired into his head, and six into  his body.

Care in which George Morris died.

A violent end. The car in which Morris died.

The first person police suspected in Morris’ violent death was our old friend Joe Ryan.  In early November he was  arrested  and committed for trial. And then, on November  24;

MURDER CHARGE WITHDRAWN

SYDNEY, Thurs: The Solicitor- General has directed that no bill be filed against Joseph Harold Ryan, who was committed for trial at the Central Criminal Court on a charge of having murdered George Arthur Morris, 43, engineer.  Morris’ body, in which were 12 bullet wounds, was found in his car at Millers point on March 29.

And what was the reason for the ‘No-Bill’?  Well, it turns out that Ryan  was working on the waterfront at the time. And surprise, surprise….a workmate provided a  watertight alibi for the night of the murder.    No-one else was ever arrested over Morris’s death.

AND ON THAT RATHER MURKY NOTE I THINK WE SHOULD LEAVE  THE MUDGEE MAIL TRAIN ROBBERY. IT IS A LITTLE KNOWN  PART OF BLUE MOUNTAINS HISTORY, BUT I  ALWAYS REMEMBER THE  DARING HEIST AS MY TRAIN  HOME TO BLACKHEATH APPROACHES GLENBROOK TUNNEL.

FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A MESSAGE, BUT REMEMBER TO COMPLETE THE ANTI-SPAM SUM BEFORE PRESSING ‘SUBMIT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments
  1. Every bit as dramatic as Ronnie Biggs and the Great Train Robbery!

  2. That’s true. Crime certainly doesn’t pay 🙂

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