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Arts & Culture

50 Years Ago, There Was A Great Little Train Robbery In San Antonio

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San Antonio Zoo
Zoo Train, formerly the Brackenridge Eagle

An iconic San Antonio attraction has a darkly quirky event attached to it for all times. It happened in Brackenridge Park, on that little train that 300,000 people, primarily parents and children, ride yearly.

Tim Morrow is President and CEO of the San Antonio Zoo, which operates the train.

"It's a historic miniature train that's been in Brackenridge Park since the 1950s," he said. "It's just a fun experience to be on the train, to hear the train horn going as you go through the park.”   

The train wends its way under the tree canopy of Brackenridge, over creeks and the rolling grassy hills of the Brackenridge Golf Course. One Saturday in July of 1970 though, the experience that families relish turned downright weird.  

"Fifty years ago, next weekend, two robbers stopped the train and began to rob the passengers of their goods — their checkbooks, their jewelry and their money," he said.

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Credit San Antonio Zoo
Zoo Train, formerly the Brackenridge Eagle

Passengers first laughed, thinking it was an Old West re-enactment gag. But when one of the robbers put a gun to the head of a passenger, they figured out it wasn't a joke.

"It was the first time a train robbery had happened in Texas in 47 years, so it had some historical significance to it," Morrow said.

The robbers were soon apprehended and turned out to be Army soldiers stationed at Ft. Sam Houston.

"It was a federal crime to rob a train, so those two gentlemen did their time," he said.

Now, to mark the 50th anniversary of one of the city's weirdest little crimes, those who experienced it in 1970 are invited back. Morrow said he’s looking forward to meeting a certain birthday boy and his two siblings.

“It was his 11th birthday, and now he's going to come down and celebrate his 61st birthday with his siblings," he said.

This time there actually will be train robbery re-enactments.

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Credit San Antonio Zoo
Zoo Train, formerly the Brackenridge Eagle

"They'll have bubble guns that shoot bubbles out into the air," he said.

The public is invited to ride along. Morrow said that passengers will be properly social distanced, and that the open-air cars are cleaned between outings. 

Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.

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