Material in this collection comes from the collection of M.E. "Gene" Tharp, who was a special agent, an Inspector, and later
an Assistant Superintendent in the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Special Service.
The 1880s saw the westward expansion of railroads. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, like many others, faced an increasing
problem with armed train robbers. Local law enforcement west of the Mississippi was spotty, and could not handle these and
other attacks on railroad property. Railroads responded by setting up special services to police the railroad and protect
property and cargo. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe set up a special service or railway police department for each of Santa Fe's
four operating divisions. These departments, which operated separately, were charged with the protection of Santa Fe patrons
and their possessions, and the safe-guarding of Santa Fe facilities and premises. Each division special service department
had special agents. Officers rode the trains, policed freight yards, depots, shops and other facilities, and conducted various
investigations into train robberies and other crimes. These officers sometimes went undercover, infiltrating various labor
organizations that were considered subversive. A favorite target was the Industrial Workers of the World, or "Wobblies."
Hoboes and bums were also closely watched by railroad police.
In addition to co-operating with local, state and federal law enforcement, the Santa Fe Special Service Department worked
closely with the protective section of the Association of American Railroads and special services of other railroads.
During World War I and immediately thereafter a reorganization of railroad police took place and now rail security forces
function as municipal police do, with patrolmen reporting to captains, and the captains reporting to chiefs of police, who
report to the Superintendent of Property Protection. Common crimes include trespassing, vandalism, public intoxication, breaking
and entering, burglary, and arson.
M.E. "Gene" Tharp was a member of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Special Services Department from the 1920s to the
1970s. In the 1960s, he was an Inspector of the Special Services Department. On July 1, 1970, Tharp was promoted to Assistant
Superintendent, Better Freight Handling and Special Service.
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manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Capital District Collections Manager. Permission for publication is given
on behalf of the CSRM as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright
holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.