Unticketed Passengers

A Halloween Story

Ghost stories are not reserved for Halloween. A few years after the Civil War, railmen on the Western & Atlantic Railroad (W&A) between Chattanooga and North Atlanta reported multiple sightings of Civil War soldiers and ghost trains in the vicinity where Sherman invaded Georgia and the Great Locomotive Chase has occurred. Some stories involve hearing and feeling the air move from trains that were not there to Civil War soldiers boarding the trains.

The following news story was printed 150 years ago in December of 1872 when W&A railmen attempted to confront an unticketed passenger.

The Journal tries its hand at a ghost story with the following result:

For some months, railroaders – conductors, engineers and brakemen – have been noticing, between Tilton and Alatoona, that when their respective freight trains would enter onto that portion of the track named, that their number would be reinforced by an extra train hand, who of course the officers of the W and A Railroad cannot persuade to sign the “death warrant.” This individual appears suddenly on top of the freight cars, takes a seat and remains there for many miles, then the unknown brakesman disappears. Conductors, seeing him, have often gone out to collect his fare, but on nearing him, he would vanish like mist.

One night, an engineer, on a freight train, plainly saw the ghostly brakesman, seated on top of the third car from his engine, he determined to settle the vexed question as to who he was, and accordingly, left his engine in charge of the fireman, and proceeded at once towards the mysterious object. The engineer approached cautiously, with both eyes fixed on the form of the man, but as he neared his ghostship, he gradually faded from view, leaving the engineer completely bewildered, but who still tried to unravel the suddenness of his disappearance by passing over the entire train and looking in every place, which was capable of concealing a man, but nowhere was the man visible. The engineer turned round in despair, and as he cast his eye toward his engine, which was swift in speed, there sat the object of his search, unterrified and full of life, on the same identical spot where he first discovered him. It was incomprehensibly strange and unaccountable to the engineer, but his intrepid courage never failed him, and he again went towards him, and as he approached, again the apparition dissolved itself into nothing. The engineer passed on to his engine, and on looking back t6here sat, perched upon the car box, the same unknown being, where he remained until the train had left many miles in the distance, then his ghostship disappeared, and returned, probably, to re-enact on the next passing train the same scenes.

Barnard, George N, photographer. Allatoona Pass, Ga. looking south. [Photographed between 1861 and 1865, printed between 1880 and 1889] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2012649961/>.

“The Georgia Press.” Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Georgia Journal & Messenger. (Macon, Ga.) 1869-1880, December 10, 1872, Image 6 ” Georgia Historic Newspapers. Georgia Historic Newspapers. Accessed October 18, 2022. https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn85034222/1872-12-10/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=01%2F01%2F1763¬text=&date2=12%2F31%2F2022&words=brakesman+engineer+freight+ghostly+night+One+plainly+saw+train&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&index=1&proxdistance=5&rows=12&ortext=&proxtext=one+night%2C+an+engineer%2C+on+a+freight+train%2C+plainly+saw+the+ghostly+brakesman&andtext=&page=1.

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