Tunnel 13 in Oregon Has a Dark History, And It’s Calling Your Name

The last great train robbery of the west happened near Ashland, Oregon.

Looking east from the west portal. This is where engineer Bates, fireman Seng, brakeman Johnson and US mail clerk Dougherty were murdered (image courtesy of greatoregonoutdoors)

If you’re looking for an amazing historic place in Oregon to hike and explore, look no further. It’s known as the Siskiyou Station, and the history here is incredible — this is where the last train robbery known in the United States happened.

On a dark and stormy night on October 11, 1923, Twins Ray and Roy D’Autremont were 23 years old when they were joined by their teenage brother, Hugh, in robbing Southern Pacific’s Gold Special train in hopes of collecting the half-million dollars in gold rumored to be on board that day. As the train made it’s way up the Siskiyou Pass, it slowed to enter Tunnel 13 when the brothers hopped on board. They ordered the conductor Sidney Bates to stop the train at gunpoint and attempted to blow the locked door of the mail car with a stick of dynamite.

The old stay house where the railroad workers stayed (image courtesy of greatoregonoutdoors)
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Not knowing how powerful the blast would be, they blew up the whole mail car and the clerk inside with it. They shot and killed three railroad employees who heard the commotion, who were staying in the stay house right next to the tracks. Finally, they blasted the poor conductor right in the head with a shotgun and fled into the woods.

To make matters worse, there was no gold to be found. There was a nationwide manhunt that included the federal government, Oregon National Guard troops, local posses and angry railroad workers. But the brothers laid low, then slipped through the dragnet.

 

It wasn’t until years later in 1927 when the younger brother caught while was serving in the military in the Philippines. Shortly thereafter, the twins were arrested in Ohio.

Forensic research lead to a conviction of the brothers, and Ray DeAutremont was the last of the brothers to be released from prison, on October 27, 1961. He was elderly now of course, and even wrote a book about the robbery.

Looking southwest from the west end of Tunnel 13. This is where the RPO was dynamited and the mail clerk killed. (via Trainboard)

Years later in November of 2003, the tunnel burned and was rebuilt. When exploring here, you can find old bunk and maintenance shacks and a great view of the Colestin Valley at the other side of the tunnel. Due to the poor maintenance of the tracks, the trains are said to move pretty slow. The Siskiyou Summit rail line is said to also be the steepest in use on the West Coast. The rail line was reopened in 2015 and is currently operated by Corp. Railroad.

How to get here

You will find this station in southern Oregon, heading I-5 south out of Ashland. On the west corner of the Mt. Ashland off-ramp, you can park in a gravel area and hike up a hill toward the station. You can then hike through the tunnel which makes for about 2 miles round trip, but do keep in mind this IS considered trespassing and can be extremely dangerous as trains run here regularly. Hit this map here on Google for directions.

 

 

Sources: GreatOregonOutDoors, Tunnel13

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  • Dario Monje

    When
    our first son was born (Feb 21, 1960), my wife’s doctor was Doctor
    Holt. Dr. Holt had been in practice since the horse and buggy days. But,
    her family had gone to him for years, so, he had a part time practice.
    Once he told me that, at the time of that
    train robbery, he was the County Physician. He was called on to
    determine the cause of death for the train’s crewmen who died. He told
    me that the engineer was shot through the head with the bullet going in
    one ear and out the other. I believed him because he was an old
    gentleman and was well known as a great man in this area. Just thought
    that you might find that interesting.