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The St. Mary Train

Charley James, IA, USA
April 1998

The story referred to is GHOST TRAIN

The letters below are verbatim copies of those sent to {email redacted} with the exception of corrected spelling and some points I sought to make clearer. Those places are in square brackets [like this]. Also, I encourage feedback from the teeming masses, but mail must be addressed to {email redacted} This is because NEIGHMOND is Blocked to all incoming mail to limit SPAM activity (something with which I am certain we ALL are on "brick throwing" terms with)
Permission is granted for Readers to Print or store the following for the purpose of study or entertainment. Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience.

Subj: the ghost train?
Date: 98-04-01 01:20:23 EST

I live in Iowa in Pomeroy and I think I May had had the same thing happen. I was out on the porch swing one night in June in 1988 and I saw a headlamp reflecting off the clouds to the west. Since it was a single lamp, and looked too big to be a motorbike I thought of a train (there is an abandoned spurline the second half-mile past my place). I went into the house for my field-glasses and when I came back out I could hear the distinctive "click-clack" of an older locomotive. I Looked, and sure enough it was an Old Black steamer headed west on the old St. Mary line (this line has been abandoned since World War Two). My Grandad saw it too, and he said it was carrying people on it, we both heard the whistle as it went on down the line (I'll tell you right now nothing sounds spookier than a train whistle in the small hours of the morning in the rural routes). My Grandad called it "Mourning whistle." He said that, up until the twenties, any train that carried a body in tow would Tie the whistle open so it would whine all the way. Neither of us thought anything of it [at the time] because the St. Mary Spur was still Passable at [that] time if one wasn't too choosy about how their engine ended up looking at the end of the ride.

Grandad and I watched this train for the better part of an hour, until Grannie pulled in the driveway and asked what we both were looking at so close. When Grandad told her she Laughed and said she had just come from Pokey across the St. Mary spur and, if there was a train, she never saw it. It takes a good five minutes to get to the Crossing from our lane, so if she was there with a real train she would have been waiting on it and not home so fast. My Auntie Louise was there at the time and said she saw the lights and heard the whistle, but did not see the train itself (she has cataracts, and seeing at night is hard for her). The following Sunday after church, Grandad and I walked about two miles down the St. Mary Spur west of town, and noticed the weeds and creeping Charlie on the tracks was still green, not crushed and dead as it surely would be if a many-ton locomotive and many cars rolled over it. At the present time I am researching the history of the old St. Mary Spur line. I do not know how it got its name (nor do other old-timers I asked) and My Grandad died in 1993 of cancer. Very little of the old line remains today, and it is no longer passable. I hope this does some good....

Charley James
Pomeroy Iowa

Subj: Update to My Last Email
Date: 98-04-01 21:32:38 EST

I did a little research since the last time I Emailed about the train.

The St. Mary crossing got its name from Desmond St. Mary, an early settler in the area. He Died in 1844 and our house stood on the sight his barn and shed used to stand (in fact part of our foundation is the old St. Mary Barn cellar).....that still doesn't shed much light on the train, but my Uncle Jimmie said that there is a lady in town who's husband he was in the VFW with, [for all of you not familiar with that term, it means "Veterans of Foreign Wars" and it is an organization of servicemen of wars past] and one drunken night at the VFW the old man [I can't remember anything about him, except he always had a pint in his truck, and his name was Delmer and all of his pals called him Dog or Doug] told Jimmie they saw a train riding east to west on the St. Mary crossing, so he will ask her about it next time he sees her....

Charley James, IA, USA
00:00 / 01:04
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