by Scott Corrales
Common knowledge, coupled, with the sage advice of our elders, has led us to rest secure in the
knowledge that "there is no such thing as a ghost," and that it is childish for an adult to
in-much less write about-them.
But millions of people around the world have seen the shades of the departed, both human and
animal, and no society on the planet has a dearth of lore on the subject of dealing with ghosts
when they appear to us: how do we appease them, how do we banish them (if necessary) or
simply, how do we honor the dead and assure their peace?
In the industrial world, it is not uncommon to learn of cases in which the living have
encountered ghostly images. These include nonliving things, such as ethereal houses,
automobiles, and in some rare instances, entire ghost villages which, like Brigadoon, are not
there the following morning. Therefore, the case involving a phantom locomotive should not
cause us to raise our eyebrows. Or should it?
After the completion of the coast to coast railway system at the end of the 19th century, the
United States boasted one of the busiest rail systems in the world. Enormous trains
like the Mikado hauled vast numbers of coal cars to feed the industrial appetite of the budding
world superpower Pittsburgh, in particular, needed coal to fuel the blast furnaces of its
steel, glass, and iron works, and was serviced by a number of crisscrossing railways.
The building of the interstate highway network, the decline of commerce by rail, and the advent
of the postmodern era led to the obsolescence and eventual abandonment of the railways and of
the tunnels that were blasted through the heart of the Appalachians.
One such train track ran through tunnels south of Pittsburgh, near the city of Canonsburg. It
retains a ghostly memory of its heyday, as two young Pennsylvanians were able to discover for
While driving along the back roads running off Donaldson Rd., they came upon long abandoned
rails, rusted and interspersed with weeds. A pair of tunnels farther down the line caught their
attention-particularly the fact that one of the tubes was barricaded by a gate that swung aside
they approached, as if beckoning to them.
Discretion prevailing over valor, they chose to forgo the dubious distinction of venturing into
the darkened tunnel's nether reality. They decided to return during the day, only to discover,
the best horror-film fashion, that the gates were no longer there-in their place now stood a
wall of old bricks, the work of earlier decades, judging from their poor condition. This
disconcerted the youths even further.
Unable to ignore the site's enigmatic attraction, they returned to the tunnels one night during a
full moon in May 1993. Any plans they may have entertained about exploring the abandoned tunnels were thwarted by the sudden
appearance of a phantom locomotive, pearly white in color and almost solid, which caused them
to lose their resolve and run away.