Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ghosts of the Night Express Train - Hartford, Vermont

On the early morning of February 5, 1887, a Montreal bound Central Railroad train No. 50 known as the "Night Express" was speeding along attempting to make time because it was running late. At some point near Hartford, Vermont as it neared a large wooden railroad bridge, the last sleeper car on the train jumped the track, unknown to anyone on board as the express sped along through the night.  The Night Express crossed the Woodstock Bridge as it was known at the time, and a disaster was about to unfold.

The charred remains of the Woodstock Bridge right after the Night Express train crash of 1887.  Photo courtesy:

As the express steam engine rolled over the bridge and when the last car on the train which had become dislodged from the rail hit the bridge, it began sliding off.  One of the conductors on the train felt that something was not right and signaled the engineer to stop.  Realizing what was happening, the engineer accelerated the train in attempt to get as many cars as possible off of the bridge.  In the end, the derailed car had pulled two other coaches with it as it plunged over the side of the bridge into the icy river below.  Not completely submerged, the smashed rail cars, heated by wood burning stoves and lit by oil lamps, burst into flames immediately setting the wooden bridge on fire in the process.  The survivors worked to save as many as possible, but in the end, twenty-four passengers and five train crewmen were killed either in the crash or by the fire that followed.  Legend has it that a little boy was among the surviving passengers, however, he had watched in horror as one of his relatives died in the flames, helpless to save them.

A new bridge made of steel was constructed on the site of the disaster that same year to span the White River.  However, the original bridge pilings were used so part of the original bridge remained.  Over the years many folks traveling by train over the bridge and by foot along either side of the White River, have seen what appeared to be young boy standing in the water beneath the bridge trusses.  Some say that upon closer inspection, the figure was actually hovering above the river waters only to disappear completely! In most cases, folks report him to be wearing clothing from the late 1800s. Many feel that this is the spirit of the boy who watched his family member die in the railroad bridge disaster of 1887.  The boy seems to linger in the spot perhaps hoping for another chance to save those he loved from the flames. There are some who claim that they have also seen other figures standing around in that same spot who are also dressed in 19th century clothing.  Perhaps these are a few of the victims who perished that terrible night.

An aerial view of the former (Woodstock) rail bridge at Hartford, Vermont as it stands today.

A railroad bridge still stands in that very spot and can be found near the Savage Cemetery, Hartford, VT 05001, just south on Rt 14.  Latitude: 43.682044  Longitude: -72.394966

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