Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Len Harris: Sierra Railroad Detective - Echoes From the Past"

"Len Harris: Sierra Railroad Detective - Echoes From the Past" by Gordon Richards, © Sierra Sun, September 25, 2007. (News Article)

"The Central Pacific Railroad, once construction was complete and the trains running, found itself with a unexpected crime problem ... including car robberies, arson, vandalism, assault and battery. They caused several major derailments in the Sierra and burned major bridges and snow sheds. ... To combat this flow of vagrants, hobos and tramps, as they were often called, the Central Pacific hired its own detectives to combat the criminals at their own level. These detectives quickly proved their worth, when in 1869, a gang of unhappy former railroad employees burned more than 8,000 feet of wooden snow sheds between Tunnels 4 and 5, overlooking Donner Lake; set the Cisco bridge on fire, and burned the Truckee roundhouse down. It took a couple of months, but the pioneer detectives solved the cases, and sent the gang to prison. By 1876, the detective corps had learned how to deal with the rolling crime wave. They always had a few men following under cover, town to town, behind the Central Pacific Pay Car. Much of the drinking and crime occurred in those few days after payday, and criminals followed the pay car, preying on the railroad workers. It took a special breed of veteran detective to deal with excesses of the Donner Grade. Veteran railroad detective Len Harris was assigned to the Sierra beat around 1875. ... " [More]

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