Originally Published October 27, 2010
Another ghostly sighting along the rails is attributed along the Denver, South Park, and Pacific railroad, which ran from the Sheridan Station in Denver along the Platte canyon, over Kenosha Pass and through South Park, ending in Gunnison. The route was abandoned in the 1927. But in the 1870s, and Wiliam Westall, an engineer on this line in the 1880s told this story to a Rocky Mountain News reporter.
A man named Ike Taylor lived with his wife and three children in a small cabin in the town of Webster, who was in a fight with a man from Como named Smith. Apparently the fight was so bad that Smith declared he would kill Turner and burn his cabin down, and one day, when Taylor was in Breckenridge; Smith did just that – burned down Turner’s cabin, killing his wife and children in the process. Smith fled down Platte Canyon, but Taylor found him, and the men fought. Taylor’s body was found in the gulch, looking as if it had been thrown there and with stab wound. Smith was never found. Now these things happened before the railroad existed, but the engineer told of an evening as he slowly drove through Platter Canyon, just near Dome Rock, and he and his co engineer saw what looked like a man throwing himself off the rocks onto the tracks. A few nights later, in the same area, the same men saw more of a scene – two men fighting upon the rock; one stabbing the other and throwing him off the rock.
The engineer told that he drove that route every couple of years, and every time he did, he saw the same battle enacted on Dome Rock, and knew it for ghosts.
Another time, Westall and fellow rail men saw a cabin on fire near Webster as they brought their train of Kenosha Pass, heading toward Denver. They heard the screams of a woman and children, but when they asked in Denver the next day, they were told that not only was there no fire, there had not been a cabin on the spot in a long time.
Ironically, it was at Dome Rock on August 28, 1898 that William Westall died in a train wreck, sacrificing himself and his engine to save the 450 passengers on the train.
Now the tracks near Dome Rock are long gone; that section of the route has been replaced with a walking path, and a good section of it is under Platte Canyon Reservoir. The rail bed near Webster is now highway 285, though it follows the same path the D, SP&P rail line once took.
Other rail stories tell of warning lights that aren’t there appearing several times over to warn the engineers that there is trouble on the rails ahead. Some engineers did not heed the first like, nor the second, but heeded it the third time, stopping their trains. As soon as they do, the lights – and sometimes the ghostly shapes of rail men wielding the lights, saving trains and men from the fates they themselves suffered.
The dreaded and dreadful locomotive number 107 is considered more of a cursed train than anything else. From the time it left the roundhouse in Grand Junction for the first time, accidents and deaths happened, as the train repeatedly derailed. The body count piled up until 1909, when the engine was retired, being too much of a liability to continue to run it. But the train still ran, still runs, in ghostly form- and old fashioned steam engine wending its way out of Grand Junction.
Most of these lines have been replaced by paved roads, traveled by locals and tourists alike year round. Do the ghosts of the trains still run the same roads, do the ghostly rail men still wave a light to warn travelers of danger ahead? I don’t know – up for a ride?