Seward, Territory of Alaska, Gold Railway Robbery of 1926
Territory of Alaska,
Gold Railway Robbery
Late in the Fall of 1926
when the slopes of Mt. Marathon started to pitch
snowflakes by the bushel and sleet by the ton
the city of Seward a white shroud did become
with all folks locked in from September to June
thriving on moose meat and dance fiddle tunes.
It is said in Alaska there are only three months —
all starting with a “J” — and the sun only shunts
from eastern horizon to the sea on the west
rising at ten all golden in dress
then drops like a stone into the sea
with darkness arriving just after three.
At the end of October comes Halloween day
when the children dress up in any odd way
to tramp from their homes as goblins and ghouls
in masking and costumes all meant to fool
to secure from their neighbors candy and gum
while their parents settle in for chitchat and rum.
As the folks of the city slept snug in their beds
with nary a thought of crime in their heads
a plot was unfolding, delicious in scope,
which required some sweat and a smidgeon of hope
to break into the bank and its vault full of cash
and abscond with the loot over the pass.
As Seward was born as a railway town
no buildings had basements set into the ground;
they were modules on flatcars on the webbing of tracks
which had shuttled the structures forward and back
’til the railroad commission established the town
and anchored all buildings firm to the ground.
As June follows May and each Winter a Spring,
summer to Seward incoming cargo did bring,
cargo by barge load as incoming freight
with cross ties by the ton and whiskey in crates,
boxcars of boots and mutton in shank
to be sent northward all the way to Fairbanks.
Year after year the cargo came in
and the profits grew fatter never to thin
so the structures on rail were secured to the earth
with concrete and rebar sunk into the earth.
Lawns covered the rails rusting deep in the ground
and docking for barges appeared in the Sound.
As the city grew richer and so did the banks
transforming their vaults from abandoned planks
to iron and steel with reinforced hinges
and hired armed guards who eschewed binges.
So the burglars abandoned their vault robbery scheme
concentrating on the incoming gold stream.
Everyone knew when the nuggets of gold
would come down the rails with doré whole
from Fairbanks and boomtowns far to the north
where miners were thick as curdling cream. Henceforth
the booty would go ‘cross town in a tank
from the boxcar in the station to the five city banks.
There was only place gold was left on its own,
when no one was watching the gift from the loam.
Between Fairbanks and Seward in a boxcar
the security guards were all kept afar
for one could not steal from a moving freight train
so the thieves began a storming their brains.
The scheme that was hatched was both clever and bold
as such was needed to steal a boxcar of gold.
When the freight train came south from northern depots
it was often stalled by the mountains of snow
which covered the tracks coming over the pass
stalling the train until the storm passed.
On the crest of the pass was a spur line left to rot
which, at one time, lead to a mine long forgot
which, in its day, produced just enough gold
to spur a stampede. Then, like a bunghole
that quickly goes dry, the rush crashed to a halt
when it was revealed the strike had been a salt.
But the rail tracks remained so the cabal had a chance
to switch the gold car before the train could advance
down from the pass covered with snow
to the city of Seward and the banks down below.
The plan was so simple, surprising the four,
was that no one had tried this before.
Thus it came to pass on a blistering day,
when the weather held the gold shipment at bay,
the thieves’ plan went forward without a hitch
and the boxcar of gold was for another car switched
and the train less the gold was Seward-bound
the thieves went for the cache while singing a song.
Clearly well known in every small town,
truth and rumor together rebound
from church pew to work site and store to saloon
from the earliest rising to the rise of the moon
and no one is immune from gossip or hoax,
be they well-heeled, religious or broke.
When the thieves broke the lock on the purloined boxcar
to secure personal wealth in both nugget and bar
they were flummoxed and startled by what was inside;
from one wall to the other and well up all the sides
was a mountain of black rock stacked tall like a shoal
and was immediately identified as a shipment of coal.
It was never revealed how the bankers did know
the boxcar of gold would be stopped by the snow
on the lip of the pass where bandits would snitch
coal instead of gold. So the train pulled a switch
thus leaving the theft as the working of clowns
and the butt of all jokes in old Seward town.