Billy Miner, also known as “The Gentleman Bandit,” was one of the most notorious train robbers in Canadian history. Born in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1842, Miner began his criminal career at an early age, starting with small-time thefts and eventually moving on to more serious crimes.
In 1904, at the age of 62, Miner and his gang successfully robbed the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train near Kamloops, British Columbia. The heist netted them over $10,000 in cash and valuables, making it one of the most lucrative train robberies in Canadian history.
Miner’s criminal exploits and daring escapes from law enforcement made him a legend in his own time. Here’s a closer look at the life and crimes of this notorious train robber.
Early Life and Criminal Career
Born in Kentucky, Miner grew up in a family of modest means. His father was a farmer, and his mother worked as a seamstress. As a young man, Miner worked as a miner and a cowboy, but he soon turned to a life of crime.
In the 1860s, Miner began robbing stagecoaches and banks throughout the American West. He was captured several times and spent time in prison, but he always managed to escape.
In 1884, Miner was finally caught and sentenced to 25 years in prison for robbery. He spent 10 years behind bars before escaping from the San Quentin State Prison in California. He fled to Canada, where he hoped to start a new life.
Train Robbery in Kamloops
In 1904, Miner and his gang targeted a CPR train near Kamloops, British Columbia. They forced the engineer to stop the train, then boarded the locomotive and held the crew at gunpoint.
The gang then broke into the express car and stole over $10,000 in cash and valuables. They made their getaway on horseback, but were pursued by a posse of law enforcement officers.
After a week-long manhunt, Miner and two of his accomplices were captured. They were tried and convicted of robbery, and Miner was sentenced to life in prison.
Escape and Recapture
In 1907, Miner and several other inmates escaped from the New Westminster Penitentiary in British Columbia. They used a makeshift ladder to climb over the prison walls and fled into the surrounding woods.
Miner and his accomplices managed to evade capture for several months, during which time they continued to rob banks and stagecoaches. They were eventually captured in Oregon and extradited back to Canada.
Final Years and Death
Miner was sent to the BC Penitentiary in New Westminster, where he spent the rest of his life. He became something of a celebrity among the inmates, who admired his daring exploits and his charming demeanor.
In 1911, Miner made one final attempt to escape from prison. He and several other inmates dug a tunnel beneath the prison walls, but their plan was discovered before they could make their escape.
Miner died in prison in 1913, at the age of 71. Despite his many crimes, he was remembered as a folk hero and a larger-than-life figure in Canadian history.
Billy Miner’s life and crimes have been the subject of numerous books, films, and TV shows. He is remembered as a daring outlaw who lived by his own code of honor, and who managed to stay one step ahead of the law for much of his life.
Despite his criminal activities, Miner was also known for his charm and wit, and for his ability to win over even his enemies with his charisma. He remains one of the most colorful and intriguing figures in the history of the American West and Canada.