Phantoms of the Rails

Ghosts, Spooks and Demons on the Old Colorado Railroads
By MaryJoy Martin
Page 1 of 3   |  

Railroad men had a remarkable talent for collecting excess baggage as they traveled the miles of lonely track. Like mining men, they had their own set of supernatural creatures to keep them company, things from ordinary spooks to lantern-swinging bogeys who directed them down the wrong line. Every engineer had his hoard of favorites stuffed in the engine tender and tried to out-talk every other engineer when it came to exchanging tales of the wraiths.

Among these was a particularly enticing phantom shared by several of the engineers and crewmen on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. Tales of the ghost were told and retold in the late 1880s, and many an unfortunate engineer got his ears pulled if he happened to relate the story within earshot of his wife.

The ghost of the AT&SF was that of a beautiful woman with red-gold hair and more curves than the Ophir Loop. She had eyes as blue as the summer sky and a smile that could cause cardiac arrest in the sturdiest of engineers. No one knew who she was or where she came from or how she came to be a ghost, but this was never their concern. They only hoped she wouldn't fade before they could feast their lusting eyes on her.

It was said that she appeared on the AT&SF road between Timpas and Thatcher, never anywhere else. She would be standing along the tracks smiling like a she-devil, or more often she would hop the train, materializing on the platform of a passenger coach or the caboose or sometimes in the engine cab, where the air would be sweetened with the scent of roses. Curiously, no passengers ever saw her. She seemed to reserve herself for the railroad crew only, beckoning, beguiling, and vanishing after they were "hotter'n a steam-piston." One engineer, who was safely unmarried, informed his jealous comrades that the ghost gave him a kiss before departing at Thatcher, a kiss that caused general euphoria and the cessation of all his normal respiratory and circulatory functions. He forgot to stop at the next station, and he never did quite recover.

Men on other lines weren't as blessed as the AT&SF regarding spooks. The ghost of a little girl repeatedly frayed the nerves of a Rio Grande Southern engineer when she teasingly appeared in the middle of the track and vanished in echoing giggles moments before he would have struck her. Other railroad men were driven to madness by unknown goblins who toyed with the switches, especially at Leadville and Boulder, and who swung misleading signal lanterns that caused all sorts of havoc.

© Article copyright Pruett Publishing.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »