It is said that every year the phantom train repeats its final journey, playing out the crash again and again.
A Tragic Accident
On this same date, at this location, and at about this time in 1891, one of the most tragic railway disasters in North Carolina's rail history took place.
At approximately 2.30am (some sources say 2am) the Richmond and Danville engine 9 left Statesville after taking on a load of passengers and goods. The train was in a hurry, as the boarding took longer than expected, and attempted to make up the time along the way.
Less than five minutes later, and travelling at 40 miles per hour, the steam engine launched off the North side of the Bostian five span bridge and plummeted to the ground sixty feet below. The engine, tender, baggage and second class car, a sleeper, first class and a private carriage all crashed into the bushes, rocks and stream – estimates say the sleeper carriage landed 150feet from where it left the track.
Cars ended up on top of each other, crushing those in the carriages below. First class ended up crushing second class and the private car crushed the public sleeper car.
Much of the iron from the tracks was taken with the train piercing carriages and adding to the already tragic scene.
The Full Horror Revealed
It was not until the scene was completely cleared that the full horror of the event could be told. Many of the victims who did not die in the crash itself died as they slowly drowned in the waters of the creek. A Miss Luellan Pool told how she held her mother’s head clear of the water until her strength faded and was unable to bear the burden any longer. She watched as her body gave up, allowing her mother to drown before her eyes
The injured were taken back to Statesville but, as there was no hospital, they were put up and cared for in private homes. The dead were taken to a tobacco warehouse where families and friends could view the bodies of those unidentified.
It did not take long for onlookers to come to the site to have a look at the tragedy for themselves. Thousands made the journey, including William Stimson who took the images of the wreck you see along with this article.
The coroner came to the conclusion the wreck was caused by the removal of railway spikes, causing the track to become loose. It took six years to find the culprits, and two men were convicted after making confessions, while they sat in gaol for an unrelated crime.
All up 23 people lost their lives in the wreck, and many more were injured, both minor and crippling.
The Bostian Bridge Train Wreck would have essentially faded into obscurity, if it were not for events that took place at the location years down the line.
It is believed that the group had run into the elderly baggage master Hugh K. Linster. Linster had just been presented with a gold pocket watch for 30 years of service to the company on the night the crash happened. Survivors remember seeing Linster looking at his new watch with pride but puzzlement as it was showing the wrong time. He had just asked a passenger for the correct time when the crash took place. Linster died immediately of a broken neck.
Does Linster still haunt the bridge looking for the correct time?
But the experiences get even stranger...
Fifty years to the day after the crash a woman was waiting in her stranded car near the bridge, when she was startled by seeing a train come rushing past as if out of nowhere. She could hear the chuffing and see the steam, and then all of a sudden she heard a tremendous cacophony of sound as she watched it derail and crash into the creek below. The noise was tremendous.
She frantically made her way to the side of the drop and looked down at the scene below. She could see the wrecked carriages and hear the moans and screams of the trapped and injured.
Soon a car pulled up alongside hers and she ran to meet the person who got out. It was her husband and the local store owner who had come to fix her tyre. She yelled and screamed at them to come and help the victims of the crash. Well you can guess what happened next... They went to the scene and found nothing there, no train and no injured or dead people.
She was the first person to witness the Phantom Train of Bostian Bridge.
The Phantom Train of Bostian Bridge
And that is unfortunately what the 29 year old man and his group of friends were doing in 2010. They were far onto the bridge, hoping to get a glimpse or hear the sound of the trains crash on the anniversary of the accident. What they got was much more than they bargained for, as the very real Norfolk to Southern Train came hurtling down the track.
The engines driver put to the horn and slowed the train down as much as he could, but it was too late. All but two of the group made it to safety. The man from Charlotte pushed a woman off the side of the bridge to safety (she fell 30-40feet and suffered some injuries) but he was struck by the train and killed.
Still people venture to the site, and no doubt this August 27 another group will venture to the bridge and push their luck, as they attempt to witness the phantom train for themselves.