The Great Train Robbery: How it happened

Just after 3am on 8 August, 1963 the night mail train from Glasgow Central to London Euston was stopped in Buckinghamshire by a gang of thieves. By 3:30am they had escaped with £2.6m in used banknotes - the equivalent of over £40m in today's money.

Fifty years on what quickly became known as The Great Train Robbery still occupies a unique place in the history of British crime. Click on the images to find out how it happened.

INTERACTIVE
  • Train seized

    × The locomotive that was pulling the night mail train

    The train was stopped at a place known as Sears Crossing by tampering with the signals. A glove was placed over the green light to hide it from the driver while the red light was connected to a small battery. When the train stopped at the signal a group of the robbers ran up from the trackside and jumped into the cab of the locomotive.

  • Robbery

    × The damaged door of the train

    The engine and the first two carriages were uncoupled from the rest of the train and driven a short distance down the track to Bridego Bridge. The robbers had to force the train driver, Jack Mills, to move the train as the driver they had bought along could not operate the controls on this type of locomotive.

  • Getaway

    × The getaway vehicles are recovered by the police

    The rest of the gang were waiting by the bridge with a van. An axe and a crowbar were used to break into the door on the back of the rear carriage. The gang had assigned 15 minutes to unload as many mailbags as possible. They then drove along country roads in a van and two Landrovers to a hideout 17 miles (27km) away.

  • Raising the alarm

    × Police inspect the train

    The robbers had cut the cables on the trackside telephones and it wasn't until around 4:30am that one of the Royal Mail employees made it to Cheddington Station to alert the police. It was five days until the gang's hideout was found - abandoned but containing the forensic evidence that would eventually see them convicted.

Some of the recovered money
The men behind the robbery

Fifteen men were convicted for involvement in the robbery, receiving sentences of up 30 years.

One man was cleared of the charges against him.

Two of the men convicted are now not believed to have been involved in planning the robbery.

Meanwhile, the source of the information about the train that led to the robbery, the mysterious 'Ulsterman', has never been revealed.

Find out more about the Great Train Robbers.

Gallery showing images of the gang of robbers

Images: PA Wire/Getty/Thames Valley Police

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