Sunday, January 23, 2011

When the Golden State Limited Rode into History

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Crimes, Mayhem, and Tragedy on the Rock Island Line
by Robert A. Waters

For more than six decades, from 1902 into the 1960s, the Golden State Limited passenger train ran a regular route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Unlike most dull black locomotives of the day, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific’s Limited was painted bright orange with shiny aluminum siding. She must have incited many a dream of freedom to rural farmers and cowboys across the western United States each time she roared by.

Even though the Limited had a long ride through the history of train lore, it wasn’t without tragedy. In 1908, a west-bound Limited wrecked near Benson, Arizona when a rail broke. Two sleepers and the dining car left the track and several persons were seriously injured. Less than a year later, in the same area, an engineer and fireman were killed when the train again left the rails. This time, an investigation determined that the Limited was going too fast at 30 miles per hour.

Near dawn, on May 15, 1922, the Limited was making its way toward Jaynes, Arizona, just west of Tucson. The following story from the Deming Headlight described what happened:

“Robbers who attempted to hold up the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific's crack train, the Golden State Limited, at a point eight miles west of Tucson on Monday morning, were driven off after one of their number had been killed and another had been wounded by the express messenger, Harry Stewart. The dead man was later identified as Tom Dugat, a goat rancher near Tucson and a hanger-on in the Tucson pool rooms.

“The robbers used a red fuse, a railroad stop signal, to halt the train at an isolated spot, when three of their number, wearing masks, forced the engine crew, at the point of a gun, to drive the mail and express cars, that were uncoupled from the passenger coaches, a short distance down the track, where four other masked men were waiting in an automobile.

“Conductor Madigan stuck his head out of a vestibule between two of the cars to see what had caused the train to stop, when one of the bandits opened fire on him, shattering the glass above his head and showering him with the splinters. Stewart at that moment opened the door of the express car and opened fire on the bandit who was shooting at Madigan, killing him instantly. Stewart then fired at four of the robbers who were approaching the express car, wounding one of them, when the thieves beat a hasty retreat, escaping in the automobiles.

“Posses were immediately put on the trail of the robbers, all of the roads leading into Mexico being watched closely, but late reports indicate that the robbers had made good their escape in the mountains of southern Arizona.”

Authorities learned that two Ford cars had stopped at around midnight before the robbery at a Tucson service station and loaded up tanks with extra gas and oil.

Tom Dugat’s body was identified by his wife and daughter.

Winnie Ruth Judd

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The Golden State Limited had at least one other brush with infamy. In 1931, Winnie Ruth Judd booked a ride from Phoenix to Los Angeles via the well-known passenger train. With the help of a cohort, she placed two heavy trunks in the baggage compartment. Once she arrived at her destination, Judd attempted to claim the trunks. When the baggage handler at Union Station saw that the trunks were dripping an odorous fluid, he called authorities. On opening the trunks, investigators found two dismembered bodies inside. Winnie Ruth Judd was later convicted of the murders of her roommates, Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson. In a sensational sex-drenched trial, Judd was sentenced to hang but was later found to be insane and spent much of the next forty years of her life in an institution.

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