The words “ghost train” are usually associated with a favourite amusement park ride through a dark, creepy building filled with sinister shadows, ghoulish voices and gruesome sights.
But they also conjure tales of a phantom train of ghostly passengers silently riding the tracks before mysteriously disappearing into thin air. Here are some of our most spine-chilling rail hauntings. Fact or fiction? You be the judge…
Stations with spirit
The beautiful village of Exeter is located in the NSW Southern Highlands. It is home to a rustic general store, a picture-perfect historic stone church and a quaint country railway station, which locals proudly describe as looking like they were lifted straight from the pages of an Agatha Christie novel.
And, like any good mystery, the railway office is reputed to be haunted by a Station Master who died while on duty. Legend has it that his conscientious spirit is still there completing his shift and is responsible for the unexplained noises heard there from time to time.
Platforms with presence
Not much is known about the restless spirits who are alleged to lurk near Newcastle and Morisset Railway Stations.
Formerly the city’s main railway station, the Newcastle terminus has been known by several different names (including Honeysuckle and Honeysuckle Point) and was moved to various locations throughout its long history. The current heritage-listed building at Watt Street was built in 1878 and is now undergoing restoration to return it to its former glory as part of the Revitalising Newcastle project which has $650 million to deliver public spaces, light rail and a new public transport interchange.
It is here that the incorporeal presence of a man has been regularly sighted, making his way from the station up the hill to the iconic Royal Newcastle Hospital. He has also been seen walking back from the hospital to the platform, no doubt to await his return train ride.
Interestingly, the hospital was reputed to be heavily haunted by former staff and patients. Only its North Wing and the Nurses’ homes remain today; the rest of the site was developed into apartment towers in 2008. Were the hospital’s ghostly residents moved on, or did they move in?
Located on the shores of Lake Macquarie (112kms north of Sydney), Morisset sprang up as a sawmill town clustered around its train station, which opened in 1887 as a hub point between Sydney and Newcastle on the Great Northern Railway. The current brick station building was completed in 1938, to cater for the growing commercial and passenger demand, including that created by visitors, staff and patients of Morisset Psychiatric Hospital, which housed up to 1,600 people.
The notorious maximum security Ward 21 for the Criminally Insane, “the Crim”, was built in 1933 and stories abound about the disembodied voices, unexplained footsteps and disturbed spirits who make themselves known to visitors avidly seeking an encounter from another realm.
The station is located little more than 4kms from the hospital and there are many witness accounts of a phantom figure of a man walking along the platform late at night. When approached, he fades away.
The lonely ghost is thought to be the spirit of one of the inmates from the nearby hospital, who were frequently transported by train to and from the hospital.
Station staff have also heard unexplained noises of people walking on the platform when there was no one visible and felt an other-worldly presence and sudden drops in temperature in the booking office.
Believe it or not…
Legends also tell of a poltergeist in a signal box with a penchant for toast. He is thought to be the spirit of a Novocastrian signalman who cooked himself a piece of toast at 7am every shift and continues to do so, long after his passing.
Bogies and Bogeymen
Once one of the busiest coal mines in the southern hemisphere, the Richmond Main Colliery at Kurri Kurri operated from 1914 to 1967. Coal from Richmond and the adjacent mines of Minmi, Stockrington and Pelaw Main was transported by steam trains on a privately owned 26km long rail line that pased through three tunnels, until the line closed in 1987.
Richmond Main is now the home of the Richmond Vale Railway Museum and its array of steam train and mining memorabilia. In addition to its rich history, and the (still working) heritage locomotives and bogies on display, Richmond Vale is well known for the ghostly manifestations that have been witnessed by staff and visitors alike.
A variety of paranormal activity has been reported to occur in the eerie buildings surrounded by bush – voices heard in the abandoned mine shaft, unexplained noises in the empty loco shed and ghosts sighted in the old Administration building. A dark shadow has been encountered in the number 2 tunnel, the site of a collision between a railmotor and a coal train in 1910. The railmotor, carrying a passenger and the manager of the Pelaw Main mine, ran into the back of a coal train and resulted in serious injury to the passenger and the manager’s death. Could this be the source of the tunnel’s restless wraith?
Strange things are also reputed to happen in some of the steam locomotives preserved at the museum – controls appear to move by themselves, the throttle has been frequently found fully open when the drivers swear they have left it in the closed position and the engine’s whistle cord has been pulled right in front of the fireman and driver’s eyes.
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The “bogey-man” responsible for these spooky events is thought to be the ghost of the former manager, Mr John Brown, who died there in 1930. Mr Brown’s bogey has been seen in the early morning and reported by different crews when they have been firing up the steam loco for a day’s run on the rail line that served the area’s coal mines.
The museum reopened on 4 March 2018, after some of its buildings and historic rolling stock were severely damaged by bushfire in September 2017. The fire also damaged the bridge on the line to Pelaw Main. Ghost investigation evenings will be held in March, June, August and November by Newcastle Ghost Tours. Let’s hope the ghosts weren’t driven away by the fire.
Just north of Wollongong at Thirlmere is the NSW Rail Museum, which holds Australia’s largest collection of rolling stock. It is here that “rail heritage comes to life” in more ways than expected. One of the locomotives and some of the bogies are thought to be haunted by a former driver. The prison van, a rolling gaol cell that operated from 1867 until the 1950s, is reputed to be inhabited by the ghost of a prisoner who was being transported to his hanging.
Urban myths or true stories? Regardless of whether the ghosts are in residence, both museums are well worth a visit by train buffs and those interested in the history of rail.
Central Station’s Paranormal Passengers
Deep below the usual bustle of Central Station, lie the lonely platforms 26 and 27. Completed in the late seventies, these gloomy “ghost” platforms were originally intended for rail services to Bondi and the Illawarra.
Built on what was originally the Devonshire Street cemetery after bodies were exhumed in 1901 and reburied at several different cemeteries, these musty underground platforms are reputed to be the home of several ghosts, including a family whose happy chatter excitedly anticipates the arrival of a train (although the platforms were never actually used).
Rail workers have also seen flickering lights, heard voices at the other end of the tunnel and the boisterous sounds of children playing on the unused platforms. Thinking that vandals or trespassers had gained entry, they followed the direction of the sound, only to find that the laughter suddenly stopped and was replaced by an inexplicable chill in the air.
Today, the Metropolitan Tunnel is the only one open to the public and if you head there around dusk, you might see its famous residents – the glow worms for certain. A ghostly presence or two? Maybe, if you are very lucky.
Or perhaps, very unlucky.
Have you had any paranormal experiences at these or other rail locations? We’d like to hear about them. Please note that entering the places listed in this blog without permission is trespassing and fines may apply.