Episode 5: Our First Train Robbery 

By Wes Annac, The Annac Blog

Welcome back! Today is a big day, my friends. We’ve got a job ahead of us: today, we rob our first train and finally get off this god-forsaken mountain. After today, the game really begins. Don’t get me wrong; I love these mountains and they’re fun to return to once you have access to the open world. But this opening chapter is a little long. Whether it’s your first or fifth playthrough, this slow opening can make you feel restless with anticipation. 

Regardless of how long we took to get here; we’re here now, ready to rob a billionaire who most assuredly deserves it. We get to enact our brand of outlaw vengeance on Leviticus Cornwall, a railroad and oil titan in the RDR universe who we will quickly learn is not a nice guy. You’ll find his name everywhere as you gallop through the open world, as he keeps a monopoly over the most lucrative industries driving the growth of civilization. He’s an elite, and he hates outlaws. So, naturally, we’re going to rob his private train car.

In our last episode, we ambushed our rivals who were crashing in the mountains with us (apparently this is a popular tourist destination for outlaw gangs). It was after our ambush – and the O’Driscolls’ ambush of our ambush – that we found their plans to rob Cornwall’s train. After the gang tried to rob a boat, killed a shit-ton of lawmen in an epic gunfight, then scrambled into the mountains before the law could put them all in the dirt for good; robbing a train seems like the perfect move. Who will suspect we would be so careless as to rob a billionaire’s train right after we failed to rob a ferry? 

As usual, Dutch van der Linde has made the right call.

Who the Hell is Leviticus Cornwall?

We are treated to some outside shots of the Colter camp in which we see the snow beginning to melt. The sun is finally shining in Colter. 

We then see the Reverend helping a pain-addled John by injecting him with something (presumably morphine). Arthur comments that the Reverend is introducing John to his “other habit”, implying this guy is addicted to morphine. Not great for a man of faith, or anyone. 

The Reverend’s drug addiction aside; the sunshine is not the only indication things are looking up. The mood among our frozen friends is starting to improve, as we’ve managed to get food, supplies and are well on our way to committing another giant crime, which is good news for everyone (except stuffy ol’ Hosea). 

We see our first interaction between John and Dutch in this mission’s opening scene: John offers to help with the robbery, but Dutch tells him to rest and heal because that scar looks rough. To which he says, 

“I was always ugly, Dutch.”

This is also the first interaction we see between John and his son, Jack. Though the young boy doesn’t say anything to his father, Abigail claims “the boy wanted to see [John]”. You might notice later in the story that Abigail claims Jack wants things she actually wants – meaning she was more likely the one who wanted to see how her partner was doing. It’s almost not worth mentioning, but it points to the dysfunction in their relationship we’ll see more of later. 

Credit: Rockstar Games
Credit: Rockstar Games

After John and Abigail argue (their favorite pastime), it is time to hit the train. The plan is for Bill to ride ahead and prepare the dynamite they will use to blow the tracks. 

Hosea is doubtful the robbery is a good idea, as he thinks they should just leave the mountains now that the snow has thawed. He makes a good point: their plan was to lie low before finding a way to head out west conspicuously, but suddenly, they’re going to rob a train instead. It makes little sense to do something so chaotic when we’re already so wanted, but isn’t that what being an outlaw is all about? It’s best if you don’t think too hard and just fight.

While our gray-haired father figure is thinking realistically about the danger we are putting ourselves in, Dutch is whimsically philosophical as usual. Hosea tells him, 

“I just don’t want any more folks to die, Dutch”. 

To which Dutch says, 

“We are living, Hosea…. Even you!”

He repeats his opinion that we just don’t have any other choice but to rob a train because “we need money”. All our money is stashed in Blackwater, and if we try to go back, the law will have us shot or hanged before we can collect a dime. Since robbery is the only way we can make any money right now, we might as well get back to work.

Hosea looking skeptical about the robbery. Credit: Rockstar Games

On the ride to work, we learn a little more about the industrial titan whose bonds we’re going to steal. Cornwall is a big deal: he’s a corporate elite with a monopoly over most of the resources driving industrial growth. He’s the David Rockefeller of the Red Dead universe; he owns railways, oil companies, has stakes in sugar plantations, and by the end of the story he is buying a stake in a coal mine – presumably to bankrupt it so his oil business can take over.

Leviticus Cornwall. Credit: Rockstar Games/Red Dead Wiki

You don’t maintain such a stranglehold over America’s resources without being cunning and cutthroat, which Cornwall certainly is. This man has clearly never met his match, but that is about to change. 

Present in the robbery: 

  • Arthur
  • Dutch
  • Lenny
  • Javier
  • Charles
  • Bill
  • Micah
Riding out to rob a Cornwall train. Credit: Rockstar Games

The plan is for Charles to keep look out as Bill plants the dynamite we stole from our O’Driscoll pals. When the train approaches, Bill will blow the tracks, forcing the train to stop. Then, Dutch will deal with the driver and conductor; Lenny and Javier will handle the front cars; then Arthur and Micah will make their way to the back of the train, containing Mr. Cornwall’s private car and the bonds they’re after. 

If you’re reading this, I can’t stress enough that you must see this game. I’m writing about it because I love to write and I know someone out there will like reading my thoughts on this digital experience; but neither my nor anyone’s words can encapsulate how gorgeous this game’s graphics are. RDR2 is a phenomenon you just have to see for yourself. 

Credit: Rockstar Games
Credit: Rockstar Games
Credit: Rockstar Games
Credit: Rockstar Games

We get to come down from the mountain a little for the first time, giving us a glimpse of the massive (and massively detailed) open world we will have the pleasure of exploring. 

I’m genuinely excited for the open world portion of this playthrough. I’ve explored the open world many times, but never to the extent I’m planning for this series. Plus, I’ve never written about my adventures in this open world. It sounds corny right now, and to some it will always sound corny because video games are a total waste of time. But some of you will understand when we’re out there, just how immersive and interesting it really is. Some of you already know.

Ahead of the robbery, Dutch hypes up his group of bandits. 

“Look at you boys. See? This is what I call a crew. Micah Bell, Charles Smith; Arthur Morgan; Javier Escuella; and what about young Lenny here? Always the first man on his horse.”

Have I mentioned that this game has a lot of supporting characters? There are plenty of people to get to know in this gang. I won’t say too much because we’re still at the start of the game, but Rockstar did a hell of a job fleshing out each individual gang member; letting us get to know them through missions and through their interactions with Arthur. 

Everyone has their own vibe – their own personality, ideals, and interesting backstories – and none of them get in the way or interfere with the others. These characters are great – even bitch-ass Micah, in his own way. 

Left to right: Charles, Micah, Dutch, Arthur, Javier, LennyCredit: Rockstar Games

Don’t get me wrong; Micah is the worst, and everyone is right to wish he’d been unalived at the start. But he is a well-written antagonist and his actor plays his role excellently. We can hate him while respecting that Rockstar did a great job making us hate him. 

Dutch is ready to rob the hell outta this train. Credit: Rockstar Games

You can tell ol’ Dutch is riding high on dopamine as he and his crew prepare to take on yet another fight. This is one of many times the game will make us question whether Dutch knows what he is doing is wrong and simply doesn’t care, or whether he genuinely knows no other way than to rob, steal and kill. He certainly seems excited for what will undoubtedly be a traumatic event for our victims: Cornwall men simply doing their jobs. 

Micah insists on going back to Blackwater for their money, which seems suspicious given that everyone else is smart enough to know it’s a bad idea. He will never let go of his lust for that Blackwater money, pestering and pushing Dutch who knows that that is one fight they will certainly lose. 

Once we arrive, Arthur heads down the hill to help Bill plant the dynamite. This mission’s gradual build up, with Arthur slowly unspooling the wire to attach to the detonators, has a great payoff (that’s sarcasm – you’ll see) and is the first of many slow lead-ins to the game’s action. 

Connecting the dynamite wire to blow the tracks. Credit: Rockstar Games

After we help set the charge, we head back up the hill to let our brothers know things are about to pop off. We’re then treated to what is supposed to be an epic moment, but instead leaves us all feeling like clowns. As the train chugs by, Bill tries to detonate the explosives but nothing happens. That’s right – we were faked out. Here we thought we were going to start this robbery with a super cool explosion, only for the explosives to fail. We of course blame Bill, despite that the player was the one to connect the wires. 

After Arthur calls Dutch “pathetic” for his failed plan, we run with Javier and Lenny down the side of the hill and jump onto the top of the train from the other side. Javier falls off but is unharmed, with Lenny falling and hanging from the side of the car. We pull Lenny up – a cool QuickTime event – and make our way through the train, disposing of the guards and yelling about Bill and Arthur’s failure to set the charge. 

Aaaaaand jump! Credit: Rockstar Games

As we get close to the front of the train, we are suddenly hit with a shovel by the conductor, from whom we are forced to break free before fighting and throwing him off the train. After we get to the front and stop the train, we jump off and are immediately confronted by swathes of Cornwall guards. An epic gunfight ensues, with Arthur and Lenny pew-pewing their way back to Dutch and the rest of the gang.

What happens next is, in my opinion, one of the coolest and most fun parts of the game. With a few hold-outs left in Cornwall’s private car, Dutch tries to persuade them to come out. Of course, it doesn’t work. So instead, we all shoot at the cab wildly before we blow it up with dynamite, forcing out the stowaways. 

Says Dutch, 

“Seems our friends have gone deaf. Wake ‘em up a little!”

*Shooting ensues, then we blow the car*

Premium coffee, made with genuine outlaw-quality gunpowder. Credit: Rockstar Games

This is where we first learn to fire quickly from the hip, which is a pretty cool mechanic. On PlayStation, you do this by rapidly hitting the R2 button. 

We force out the Cornwall employee stowaways and hold them at gunpoint while we rob Cornwall’s bougie private cab. 

Commenting on the luxurious nature of the cab, Lenny says, 

“Look at this place. It’s like a palace”. 

To which Arthur responds, 

“Now I’ve seen everything.” 

Lenny is right; walking into Cornwall’s private car is like walking into a castle. This makes it abundantly clear what kind of rich elite he is – which indicates the gang may have found a really good score. 

Arthur looking sinister in Cornwall’s private train-palace. Credit: Rockstar Games

We find plenty of items to loot and a couple letters addressed to Cornwall. One is from the Leland Oil Development Company regarding exploration of a land they call the Wapiti Indian Reservation up north in Ambarino. They are looking for oil up there on his behalf, and are awaiting his funding for the next phases of the operation. 

This foreshadows a region and plot point that will both be important later on. 

A letter to Cornwall from the Leland Oil Development Company. Credit: Rockstar Games

The second letter is from one Archibald Jameson, who owns the Jameson mining company and a mine in a town called Annesburg. The letter hints at Cornwall’s interest in owning the mine, as Jameson mentions Cornwall’s awareness of rumors of “mismanagement or financial difficulties”. Jameson writes that he would indulge Cornwall in a “business meeting” and give him a tour of the Annesburg mine. 

The letter gives the impression Cornwall wants to buy out the mine so he can take it over; and our pal Archibald is nervous, as he should be. 

Letter to Cornwall from Archibald Jameson of the Jameson Mining & Coal Company. Credit: Rockstar Games

As we search the car, Micah taunts Lenny like the racist fuckhead he is. It’s as if Rockstar felt the need to remind us every so often that Micah is an antagonist by, you know, having him antagonize people – often in sinister ways. 

After looking around some more and stealing some brandy, a cigar and a few other items; we eventually find a lockbox with a stack of valuable bonds. They are precisely what we were looking for, and if we can find someone to buy them, we’ll get paid a pretty penny. 

Now that we’ve found what we came for, the question remains: how do we handle the Cornwall employees from earlier? This is the second major moral choice the game lets us make: unalive all three of them right here in the snow and mud, or load them onto the train, start ‘er up, and send them on their way – traumatized but alive. 

What do we do with the Cornwall employees? Credit: Rockstar Games

I’m not sure how consequential this choice is to the way Arthur’s personality is shaped from here on out. But when we have access to the open world, Arthur is very much shaped by what we do and how we interact with other people. I’ll be maintaining a high-honor playthrough for this series, so we’ll let them go and send the train chugging along. After we get some more loot, of course. 

Three innocent men at the mercy of Arthur Morgan. Credit: Rockstar Games
For this playthrough, Arthur will have a heart. We’re sparing these fellas and sending them on the train to tell tales of their encounter with the Van der Linde gang. Credit: Rockstar Games

After the train takes off, Arthur rides away and we are thrown straight into the next mission. With the bonds in our possession, we’re getting down from this mountain and heading into the wild American east.

See you in Chapter 2!