A grim anniversary today, as 130 years ago one of Statesville’s worst disasters was playing out.
Early in the morning of August 27th, 1891, just outside of Statesville proper, a train derailed and fell off a railway bridge.
To this day, no one really knows the cause, but when the dust settled and everything was accounted for, 22 people had died.
The event became fertile ground for a “ghost train” story, and tales of a phantom locomotive began to circulate locally. These of course follow a familiar pattern of urban legends all across the country, and much like the Munchkinland story, seem copied and pasted from other urban legeneds with only small details changed to make the story locally relevant.
The Statesville Record & Landmark has a fairly thorough write up on the incident published today for anyone interested in the actual details of the event.
I will say that I went out to the tracks on the anniversary once many years ago, well before the young man “ghost hunting” was killed there. I don’t believe in “ghost trains”, but I was curious to see if anyone still kept the anniversary.
Sure enough, before dark, people began gathering along the roadway in front of the bridge, (many even from out of state) all hoping to catch a glimpse or hear a sound related to the spectral engine and it’s fall from the bridge.
That night people clambered up the embankment to walk along the track in the dark with various paraphernalia related to ghost hunting. Their endeavors were ultimately cut short by repeated blasts from a train horn.
While many cheered, many others realized what this meant, and those on the bridge quickly made their way back to solid ground, some just in time to see an actual train lumber across the span. As it turns out, Norfolk Southern still uses the line, and no doubt knows about the anniversary.
One has to wonder if that night in 2010 when the 29 year old man was killed if it’s possible a new crew was conducting the engine across the bridge and didn’t know about the likelihood of people being on the tracks, or else, simply forgot.
Whatever the case, it wasn’t many years later that his death was added to the list of those killed on the bridge, and that second tragedy became part of the oral ghost story that passes from person to person in the area.
Though I haven’t been there myself since the anniversary night I went, I would assume the Iredell County Sheriffs Department probably keeps people away from the bridge these days. Surely I would not suggest going at night and risking life and limb in the dark climbing the track.
But if you would like to visit the bridge, it’s best seen in the daytime and can just be spotted from Buffalo Shoals road where it passes over Third Creek, near the landscape supply business.