Originally Published October 27, 2010
Even the rails themselves have become haunted; some by trains going down rails that no longer exist, some by rail men who see only to help fellow rail men, and some ghostly trains that chase the real trains, giving the engineers a scare.
Most famous of these has to be the phantom train on Marshall Pass. Marshal Pass is on the Continental Divide, between Poncha Pass and the town of Sargents, and was used as the narrow gauge rail between Salida and Gunnison from 1881 until 1955.
Nelson Edwards was an engineer who as not new to the pass on the night the ghost train chased the train he was driving. This trip, he’d been warned that there were problems with the track, so he was extra wary. Just as the train was approaching its descent, Edwards got a signal to stop. Assuming it was from the conductor, he called to him; the conductor denied it. IN fact, the conductor said they should increase speed if anything, because he’d seen on the tracks behind them another train.
Edwards could now hear the other train’s whistles, and put on the speed, pushing it up the slope. Coming down the other side of the pass, Edwards saw the train behind was bigger – a freight train – and he knew that if the other train caught up, it would mean disaster. On a tight curve, Edwards and his conductor could see the face of the engineer behind, and was appalled that the other engineer was laughing at him.
But the chase wasn’t over – ahead, Edwards saw a warning light, signaling him to stop the train. And here is where the story changes, depending on sources. According to the story in the Rocky Mountain News, published in May 1889, Edwards pulled the brake, fearing the worst, and rode through a crowd of 10-12 ghostly men who were fixing the track, and after Edwards train had gotten through, the freight train following hit the broken track and went over the side of the cliff, vanishing as it did so.
The other account has the following train lifting above Edward’s train and going over the side as the crew watched. Both accounts hold the same, however, in the message Edwards found on the cab window the next morning, etched on the window:
“Years ago a frate train was recked as you saw- now that yu saw it, we will never make another run. The enjine was not ounder control and four sexshun men wore killed. If you ever ran on this road again yu wil be killed.”
Edwards took the message to heart; he left his train in Green River, Utah, quit working for the Rio Grande and went back to Denver via the Union Pacific. He started to work for them and became one of their best engineers. The ghost train on Marshall Pass was never seen again.