Yep. The railroads wielded enough political pressure to get some territories to make train robbery a crime worthy of the noose.
An epidemic of train robberies led the New Mexico Territorial Legislature to make train robbery a capital offense in 1887. Arizona followed suit in 1889.
Even so, juries were reluctant to sentence an outlaw to hang if no one had been killed. In New Mexico, only one man, “Black Jack” Tom Ketchum, was legally strung up, in 1901, for sticking up a train near Folsom two years earlier.
In Arizona, a jury ordered only one train robber to be taken care of by the hangman. Frans Oscar Toren helped hold up the Southern Pacific Express at Maricopa on October 1, 1894. He never got his short drop, as his sentence was later commuted.
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org