The Railroad Regulators 601 – Keeping it Real
Captain Charles Culpepper moseys across a dusty dirt road and into the shade of a canvas tent. He sits in a chipped wooden chair and tips his hat to the young lady sitting before him.
“This is how we shake hands in the Old West,” he says to her, bowing to kiss her bent knuckles. She smiles, blushing.
Captain Culpepper, perhaps better known to his Truckee neighbors as Dennis Cook, has been a Railroad Regulator-601 since 1999 when he and former Truckee mayor Josh Susman formed the gun-toting, costume-wearing Western reenactment group. At that time, Truckee was inviting other reenactment groups from as far away as Southern California to participate in historical events, and Cook figured that Truckee would benefit from having its own posse.
Now, with more than 30 members, the regulators put on such events as Railroad Days and Windows on History, to entertain and educate locals about the rich history of this little mountain town. Apparently, Truckee wasn’t as sleepy in the 1800s as many believe it to be.
Even their name, the Regulators 601, is historic, borrowed from other groups that lived in Truckee near the end of the 19th century.
According to Tarantula Bill, known out of costume as Vince Deveney, during the mid to late 1800s, the railroad that now connects Reno to Auburn ended in Truckee, and beyond that was nothing more than trail. Truckee was a wide-open and rowdy town in those days because anyone arriving on the train would have to stay a while to arrange a ticket out of town via stagecoach or horseback. The original Regulators were a group that maintained the peace in areas of the community that had no law enforcement, and they kept tabs on the comings and goings of the trains and their passengers. Then there were the 601 vigilantes, who made it their purpose to keep old-time Truckee free from riff-raff. They would tar and feather unsavory characters, and run unruly ladies of the night out of town kicking and screaming.
To keep in line with the times, Deveney says its important for this “bunch of old guys playing cowboys” to have their own corruptible politician at hand, namely Susman. “He can’t be bought, but he can be rented damn cheaply,” Deveney jokes.
“We represent the spirit of the Old West, and we want to keep that heritage alive,” Cook said. And to the regulators, that heritage means more than just dates and events, it also means holding true to the Code of the West; being polite to ladies, never swearing, and always addressing people as ma’am and sir. But that doesn’t mean that the Regulators don’t participate in their fair share of gunfights and hangings. In fact, many of the showdowns portrayed by the Regulators are historically accurate, including a signature gunfight that took place between two of Truckee’s original lawmakers, Jim Reed and Jake Peeter, both of which were long ago buried in the Truckee cemetery. The violence might not be real now, but it certainly was then, for, as Cook will tell you, “God created man, but Sam Colt made them equal.
“Being a Regulator is the embodiment of being a Truckee local,” said Brooks Bloomfield, who plays the character of Doc. “There is less respect in today’s Truckee than there was back then,” noting that with all the growth in the community, there needs to be a more honorable solution for the changes. “The Regulators try to reflect older traditions, first and foremost is honesty and respect. As Truckee grows, it stands to loose a bit of that sense of community, but we are interdependent and need to maintain the tradition of helping people and working together.”
Beyond the educational events, the larger goal of the regulators is to build a train museum in Truckee. Cook says he would like to see Truckee acquire its own train, with rolling stock (that’s railroad lingo for pieces of a train such as cars and the caboose) that could be on permanent display, perhaps even stocked with period items so that the inside of the train could serve as part of the museum as well.
“What makes the Regulators so popular is that they bring back something that we identified with in our childhood ” those cowboys we grew up watching on Bonanza now come to life in Truckee,” said Windows on History event coordinator Corin Keck. “And no matter the event, they are really spontaneous about rallying the troops and coming to the call of the community.”
Dennis Cook : Captain Charles Culpepper
Josh Susman: Chance Ledbetter
Bev Cook: Irish Rose
MaryLou Sullivan: Miss Emelline
Vince Deveney: Tarantula Bill
Norm Justesen: Snakebite
Holly Beatie: Mustang Sal
Brooks Bloomfield: Doc
Jennifer Bloomfield: Miss Jenna
Katherine Bloomfield: Little Kay
Ben Bloomfield: Big Ben
Toot Joslin: Marshall Lambchops McCoy
Jeff Sullivan: Rowdy Parker
John Graham: Little John
Helen Graham: Fifi
Daniel McNamara: Sgt. Mac
Sharon Pace: Sharon’s Rose
Ric Canchola: Tuco
Ryan Baumann: Ringo Kid