View over the Chiltern Hills

The Great Train Robbery – History Made On Our Doorstep

No doubt you’ve heard of the Great Train Robbery, one of the most daring and impressive heists in history. It happened just outside Leighton Buzzard, making our little town part of an event known all over the world. After almost 60 years, the events of the Great Train Robbery still resonate today. Here’s what happened just a few miles south of Linslade back in 1963.

Robbing the overnight train

The robbers didn’t target just any train. They knew that the “travelling post office” (essentially a train-borne post office) always carried cash between London and Glasgow overnight. After careful planning and several tip-offs, they identified the right time to strike. After a busy Bank Holiday weekend, they knew that the train would be carrying much more cash than usual. They were right; instead of the usual £300,000, it was carrying over £2.5 million. That’s about £50 million in today’s money, split between 16 gang members.

Stopping the train at Bridego Bridge

How do you rob a train travelling at high speed? You need the services of a trackside technician, which is exactly what the gang had. Their expert tampered with the line signals, alerting the train driver to a blockage ahead and making them bring the train to a halt just by Bridego Bridge just before it passed through Leighton Linslade. The gang boarded the train, overpowered the staff, and unloaded the cash from the train’s “High Value Packages” car. Due to a twist of fate, the security features usually present on this car were absent, making it easy for the gang to steal millions of pounds of cash in a feverish half hour of activity.

Escaping to Leatherslade Farm

With two and a half tonnes of cash, the robbers made their escape to their hideout an hour’s drive away. This is where they famously played Monopoly (with real money), and bided their time until the police search passed. However, the police came across their hideout much sooner than expected, leading the robbers to leave in a hurry. The gang member who was tasked with burning down their hideout to destroy evidence failed to do so. The police still struggled to track down gang members until an informant gave up their names in return for lenient sentencing on an unrelated crime.

The Great Train Robbery today

Partly driven by the success of a semi-realistic film, Robbery, this heist still looms large in the collective memory. It’s remarkable that such an important and significant robbery occurred just a short distance away from our town. Bridego Bridge is only a short walk south of Leighton Linslade; you’ve probably passed it several times without even realising! Why not pay it a visit, and learn a little more about this fascinating heist?