He had a nickel in his pocket when he saw the nicely dressed passengers through the windows.
Robbing the train could get him some needed funds, and so in February 1916, at age 25, Bill Carlisle concealed his face under a white bandana and boarded the Portland Rose as it left Green River.
But there was something different about Carlisle.
He robbed only the men and gave money back to one guy so he’d have enough to buy breakfast. When a woman attempted to take his gun, he bowed. He gave change to the porter, “to make up for his lost tips,” according to the online encyclopedia WyoHistory.org.
Some men pillaged and stole for outlaw notoriety. Not Carlisle.
“I don’t think he really was intending to be a criminal,” said Wyoming author Lori Van Pelt, who wrote the encyclopedia entry and researched Carlisle for her book “Dreamers and Schemers: Profiles from Carbon County, Wyoming’s Past.”
“I think he just kind of did it on a whim and kept doing it.”
Perhaps he robbed just to see if he could get away with it, Van Pelt said. For a while, he did.
Carlisle robbed three trains 1916. Union Pacific Railroad offered $6,500 for the “White Masked Bandit’s” capture, but even law enforcement failed to find him.
Other men were jailed for Carlisle’s robberies, and Carlisle wrote the Denver Post to say he’d rob again near Laramie, proving he was the bandit and that the others were innocent. He sent a stolen watch chain with the letter, and when he robbed the train in April, he left the watch piece with a train guard to prove who he was.
Carbon County Sheriff Rubie Rivera soon caught Carlisle. Rivera is said to have called him “more like a kid showing off” than an intent criminal.
Although his life sentence was reduced in 1919, Carlisle escaped from the State Penitentiary in a packing box leaving the prison shirt factory.
Carlisle robbed again, was imprisoned again and befriended a Catholic priest, the Rev. Gerard Schellinger. Carlisle repented, and when he was released in 1936, Carlisle ate his first dinner with Schellinger, whom he considered his best friend.
Carlisle married, ran a café in Laramie and published an autobiography in 1946, which he dedicated in part to Schellinger. He died in 1964 at age 74.
In Wyoming’s outlaw history, “I think he’s different because he was probably the most polite,” Van Pelt said.