Nathan enjoys researching forgotten and unusual historical and paranormal events.
The ghost train is an integral part of railroad lore, and has even seeped into the general consciousness. Numerous books, films, and even toys, have kept ghost trains and haunted railways in the public's imagination. From the early days of steam locomotives, to today's bullet trains, there have always been tales of spectral trains on long vanished tracks, haunted locomotives and signal-boxes, jinxed trains, and phantom reenactments of long ago disasters.
Some of the stories are folklore, while others seem to be a bit more unexplainable. Many of the underground subway systems and railroad tunnels around the world have their own stories of ghosts and strange events. The combination of rail travel, and the fear of dark places underneath the earth combine into numerous legends of haunts.
During the heyday of railroad travel, many legends of hauntings were associated with trains and railroad yards. Many tales of supernatural phenomena came as a result of the actual work on the tunnels to allow the railroad access. A train is a machine, an inanimate object. Even for those that believe in ghosts it is a bit difficult to understand why something like a train would still run occasionally on overgrown tracks, although the item in question was broken up long ago.
Perhaps it is the people who ran the trains long ago who are returning, and bringing the locomotives they worked on back with them. Or it could be it is just what is referred to as a a residual haunting, like a flickering image on a screen replaying like a tape loop of a past event over and over again.
There are also stories of phantom aircraft, ships, carriages, and buses which seem to go on their appointed rounds occasionally just like our railroad specters do. And railway tunnels have their own legends of paranormal sightings. Our instinctive fear of the dark may play in to some of these legends, but many of them have been seen over and over again. Lets take a look at some of these railroad haunts.
Phantom trains have been seen from coast to coast in the U.S. and in the U.K. Some seem to appear year after year, while others make sporadic appearances. One of the best known spectral locomotives haunted Eagle Gorge in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. In 1890 a horrific wreck happened there as Locomotive #33 derailed and plunged down an embankment taking both the engine and the rail-cars linked to it down into the gorge. Engineer Tom Cypher and numerous passengers were killed.
Shortly afterwards both engineers and firemen on other trains traveling through the gorge, and townspeople who lived nearby claimed that they were seeing Locomotive #33 still riding the rails. Number #33 was even seen stopping at the depot, with nobody aboard in the cab of the engine, before it silently faded away. Another engineer on the Northern Pacific line named J.M. Pinckney rode through Eagle Gorge as a passenger in the cab to see if their was anything to the constant stories of the phantom locomotive. When approaching the gorge both Pinckney and the engineer saw a train's light up ahead of them.
Pinckney panicked and tried to get the engineer to put on the brakes, but the engineer simply noted that they would not crash into this particular engine. Both men watched the engine about 300 yards ahead of them until it rounded a bend and disappeared. A station up ahead sent them a telegraph warning of a runaway engine that had just passed by. But by this time Pinckney realized that this locomotive was the infamous specter and would not be a threat to crash into anybody.
Pinckney relayed his firsthand report in a newspaper article, and stated that he knew that most would not believe him. But he stuck by his story regardless. The ghost of Locomotive #33 has not been reported for many years, but the spirit of Tom Cypher is still said to haunt the gorge.
In the small town of Warsaw, North Carolina, there was a terrible wreck in 1906. An earlier train had a piece of lumber sticking out the side which hit a switch and flipped it, causing the next train along to be sent off the rails, and down the embankment. Miraculously all the passengers survived, however the train's crew were not so fortunate. The engineer was killed, as was the conductor, and the fireman.
As the years passed by hundreds of people have heard and seen the doomed train recreating it's route. It is usually seen heading towards the deadly switch which would bring it's trip to an abrupt halt. This phantom has made regular appearances along those same tracks for over one hundred years now, and had has attracted all manner of ghost-hunters and the curious.
The Cursed Locomotive Engine
Can an inanimate object carry a curse? There are many legends of cursed ships, aircraft, and railroad engines that seemed to carry bad fortune wherever they traveled. Railroad lore is full of superstitions and stories of hauntings and other strange events. Many of the stories of jinxed locomotives revolve around the unlucky number 13, however one cursed engine stands out.
It was known as "Dread 107", otherwise referred to as Denver, Rio Grande & Western No. 107. It was built in 1883, and lasted 17 years before it was sent to the scrap heap in 1898 (well before it's time). In between those dates, this engine proved to be a hoodoo locomotive, killing numerous people during it's service.
It started on a dark night outside of Grand Junction when the 107 ran into a bridge washout. The train went down into the water taking two lives. Eventually the engine was pulled back out of the river and refurbished. Not long after that, No. 107 rounded a bend on a blind turn and hit a boulder. the resulting crash killed two crew-members and numerous passengers.
After that railroad men understandably were not anxious to crew the jinxed engine. The company moved the 107 to another run in another state. At first the change of scenery seemed to help, besides a few minor rear end collisions and a derailment ( including an unlucky hobo who was crushed in the derailment).
Then No. 107 was involved in what in railroad jargon is referred to as a cornfield meet. When two trains pass on parallel tracks it is called a meet, but when two trains meet and end up in the cornfield it is called a cornfield meet. In this case 5 men lost their lives. By this time someone had scratched the names of the dead and the dates they were killed on the side of the hoodoo locomotive. Many stories were floated around of ghosts haunting the unlucky engine when it sat in the roundhouse.
Finally after a period of reasonable calm, a non-superstitious crew was rounded up, and No. 107 went out for what would be it's last run. On a downhill grade the train ran away killing the entire crew. After that crews could not be found for love nor money, and the owners were forced to give her up for scrap. What forces may have been at work to make this engine so unlucky is anyone's guess. However there was not a crew west of the Rockies who were not happy to see the last of D&RG No. 107.
Haunts of the London Underground
The Bloody Pit and the London Underground
The Hoosac Tunnel in western Massachusetts was created over a twenty four year period starting in 1851. It was opened to rail traffic in 1874. The Tunnel was given the nickname of the “Bloody Pit”, because of the numerous deaths associated with it's creation. The number of deaths has been estimated anywhere from 75 to over 200, depending on who you believe. The tunnel has long had the reputation for being extremely haunted by the tortured souls who died there.
Workers at the “Pit” refused to work after sundown because of hearing what sounded like a man's pitiful wails of pain deep inside the tunnel. Numerous people over the years traveling through the tunnel have come face to face with spectral workers who appeared in a halo of light and then disappeared in an instant. Disembodied voices and strange sightings have continued to the present day although the tunnel is still very active with modern rail traffic.
The London Underground has numerous stories of hauntings associated with it. It seems as if half the stations on the line have ghosts allegedly haunting them. At Becontree station, travelers and employees including a station supervisor have seen a blonde woman in a white dress who vanishes before their eyes. This apparition's face is a blank, she has no facial features. It is thought she might have been a victim in a tragic collision between two trains in 1958.
In 1943, Bethnal Green tube station was the site of a wartime disaster. The air raid sirens startled hundreds of people into cramming down the narrow stairs to the station where people would wait out the bombing. However the tube station already was crowded and 173 people (mostly women and children) were suffocated in the frenzy. Since then many employees at night have heard the sounds of women and children crying and screaming in the otherwise empty station. The horrific sounds still occasionally reoccur, especially on the anniversary of the disaster.
A few of the railroad hauntings from the turn of the last century have faded over the passage of time, but some continue to the present day.
Haunted London Underground
Brandon D. (2009) - Haunted London Underground : Amazon Digital Services LLC