A Train to Alcatraz: A Contemporary Legend

So they’d convicted Al Capone for tax evasion in Chicago and sent him to prison in the Midwest, uhh Atlanta, I think. When they transferred him to Alcatraz, y’know maximum security – no one gets outta there, and they say his gang was planning to break him out during transit when he was coming through Tiburon on the uhh traintracks– you know the bike train used to be traintracks.

 So the exact route for ‘is move to Alcatraz was… top secret. What they did was made it sound like he was going by either armored truck, maybe by train to San Francisco… But they, uhh, they secretly put him on this train car and chained him to the floor – I mean, they chained him to the floor.

And so the train come into the train depot downtown, where Café Acri is now, and they used cranes to lift the entire car onto a ferry, a uhh uh uh, barge with Al Capone chained to it and then barged him to Alcatraz and completely avoided San Francisco.

This is story I’ve heard numerous times. My dad (aka Paul) has a knack for saying the same thing over and over, paraphrasing himself, retelling stories. My dad mainly tells this story whenever he’s showing someone from out of the area around Tiburon. I may have heard it before, but I still love this story. I remember one day we were walking along the bike trail, the former train tracks, and we worked out that my Great Grandfather almost certainly watched from the porch as the heavily guarded train car passed by his, now our, house.

Interestingly enough, the legend turns out to be true. Around 40 inmates were being moved from an Atlanta prison to “The Rock,” also known as Alcatraz. The warden discovered a plot to free Al Capone in route because an escape from Alcatraz was reportedly impossible. Capone was transported with extra security and, seeing the biggest weakness in security would be the trek through San Francisco, opted to go through Tiburon instead. Al Capone’s train car was placed on a barge and towed via tugboat directly to Alcatraz. There were apparently guards at the Tiburon ferry terminal and in small boats to make sure no other boats came close to the barge.

For more information on this legend, see the following articles from local newspapers like Mercury News and the MarinIJ.