ghost light train tracks

The Mysterious Cohoke Light in West Point, VA

Posted on February 1, 2021

A night picture showing a bright light in the distance

The Mysterious Cohoke Light of West Point, VA

Situated in King William County between West Point and Danville is what used to be the Southern Railroad line. Off of Mt. Olive Cohoke Road is the Cohoke Crossroads, a railroad crossing with spooky legends attached to it. A mysterious yellow light appears on the train track on hazy, dismal nights. Sometimes it swings and sways as if a lantern is being carried by something who is not of this physical realm….Other times it holds steady as it gets closer and closer, like the light from a train engine bearing down on you. What exactly is the Cohoke Light?

The Legends of the Cohoke Light

The headless brakeman.

There seem to be two main stories about the possible origins of the strange Cohoke Light. In the first story set in the 1800s, trains had many different employees who had different jobs along the train and tracks. One man was the brakeman, and it was his job to walk around the train when it stopped to make sure nothing was amiss. He carried a lantern with him to signal to the engineers upfront of any problems. 

One night, a brakeman was checking his stopped train on the Cohoke Crossroad when he noticed an issue with the coupling mechanism for two cars. As he went to investigate it, the train suddenly lurched forward, decapitating the poor man. His coworkers ran to help him, but he was killed instantly. They had to carry his mangled corpse away to the caboose, but no one thought to grab his head. 

Now the legend goes that the Cohoke Light is the headless brakeman, searching the empty tracks forever with his lantern for his missing head. 

The Missing Civil War Train

Maybe the light is not a lantern, but the light of a steam engine? According to local lore, during the Civil War, a train filled with wounded Confederate soldiers was being sent out to West Point to get out of Richmond. However, the train never made it to West Point. It was suspected the missing train was attacked by Union soldiers, with the Confederates killed and the train destroyed. Perhaps the Cohoke Light is the ghost of the train, trying to carry its passengers ever onwards to West Point. 

Lastly… Aliens?

This theory is much more recent, but some think the strange light might be of extraterrestrial origin. Sometimes the light seems to change color or shape, but most of the time it stays in its yellow form. 

A Richmond man and his four friends saw the infamous light on the crossroads. It was such a dark and clear night that he saw what he thought was the light from an arc welder. His friends all gasped at the same time, and they watched as the light blinked away, only to return and change from red to multiple lights dancing around until they disappeared. 

The Truth of the Cohoke Light…Maybe

Whenever there are strange lights seen at night, the first counterpoint most people will bring up is the idea of swamp gas creating the light. It may sound strange, but it is indeed a phenomenon that occurs. There are plenty of legends worldwide of people lost in a swamp or bog who see a light in the distance, sometimes called a will-o-the-wisp or foxfire. They go towards the light and are usually devoured or never seen again. The creatures that lure them to their death–demons, fairies, ghosts, etc– may not be real, but the light in the swamp does exist. 

It has to do with the chemicals in the water of these areas. Bogs, swamps, and marshes are places with little moving water–the water is still and ends up stale. Unmoving water filled with decaying animals and plant matter creates methane gasses under the water. If you’re in a bog, you’ll see air bubbles in the water, the methane being released in small amounts. Methane, along with other gasses, is flammable, and sometimes they react with the oxygen in the air, and WHOOSH! A fireball erupts from nowhere. 

This problem was even mentioned in the diaries of men in the Revolutionary War that those hiding in bogs or swamps for the Redcoats would sometimes have their clothing randomly catching on fire! So, swamp gas igniting could be a culprit for the Cohoke Light, but like the rest of these theories will show, none of them can stand up to the light of day. 

What’s Really Going on with Cohoke?

Well, it seems that no one really knows. 

A local historian named Bill Palmer took a stab at looking into these legends. He’d written a few books on local legends, and knew all about the Cohoke Light. In fact, he pointed out that most of the lightings of the light seemed to start in the 1950s. A century is a long time for ghosts to start a haunting, he said.

The headless brakeman is a good story, and that’s about it. There are no death records from the 1800s that explicitly confirm this story. The problem also arises when this legend also pops up in other corners of the country. While there was probably someone who died and maybe lost their head in a train accident, it wasn’t on the Cohoke Crossing near West Point, VA. There was a car accident on the train tracks, a mother and daughter killed, but nothing as dramatic as a decapitation between train cars. 

Multiple Theories

 He claimed that the missing train car probably didn’t happen. Not only was there no record of it, but the story doesn’t make sense. If a train of wounded soldiers was being transported anywhere, it would not have been south of Richmond. The Union forces started their campaign at Fort Monroe in Hampton and had been pushing their way up to the Confederate Capital of Richmond. The train was going right into the enemy’s hands in the story. 

Finally, let’s look at the swamp gas idea. It could be a contender, but swamp gas does not look like a round orb that gently floats around. Also, lights like the Cohoke Light or the Paulding Light in Michigan are renowned for their timely showings. Random explosions of swamp gas are not known for sticking to a timetable. They’re the sort of light to show up 15 minutes late with Starbucks. 

Stories from the Cohoke Crossroads

People have claimed that they have seen a figure just behind the light, but it disappeared before they could make out any definite features. Others have said that the light only stops its ghostly march forward if someone tries to shoot it–which happens a lot, apparently. 

It’s been almost impossible to catch on camera, so stories are all we have at the moment. Still, on a moonless night, outside the edge of civilization in true darkness, see if you can spot anything at the Cohoke Crossroads. 

Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see the light. 

A night picture showing a bright light in the distance, representing the cohoke light

References:

Weird Virginia by Jaff Bahr, Troy Taylor, and Loren Coleman (2008) (pages 17-19)

https://www.popsci.com/jack-o-lanterns-marsh-lights/

https://www.dailypress.com/virginiagazette/va-vg-tr-ghost-light-1025-story.html

http://www.astronomycafe.net/weird/lights/cohoke.htm

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/virginia/cohoke-crossing-haunted-railroad-va/

https://www.qvirginia.com/home/2018/10/19/cohoke-crossing-west-point

Pictures Used:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paulding_Light.JPG

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Railroad_Tracks.JPG

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WTVR CBS 6 News Richmond

HOLMBERG: The legend of the ghost light of Cohoke, West Point

ghost light train tracks

WEST POINT, Va. -- For 100 years, folks have come to this rural railroad crossing on state Route 632 to look down the rifle-straight railroad tracks for the “ghost light,” or, more simply, “the light.”

Forty, fifty years ago, so many people were coming to see the strange phenomenon, the local sheriff had to shoo them away.

“I’ve seen vehicles there from every state in the United States,” said retired sheriff Jim Wolford. “There were so many people there, they burned the store down (by the tracks) and a house.”

Way before cable TV and social media, searching for the ghost light was the thing to do in rural King William.

Bring your friends, your girl or beau, some refreshments, and wait for the distant light to appear above the tracks like a white, glowing jack-o-lantern.

Shots were fired by partiers. It got so bad, they started ticketing those trespassing on railroad property. (According to one who was in the thick of it, the deputies would ticket the young men, but not the young women.)

kingwilliam

Angela Quick, who grew up there and saw the light many times – including one time practically within spitting distance – said it would appear and disappear.

It was a just a distant white light completely different from the train headlight that would approach and pass.

Her close encounter revealed an “odd-shaped” glowing light that was difficult to describe but plenty eerie.

“Being typical teen-agers, we were freaking out and screaming and we just wanted to get out of there,” she recalled, laughing.

This was before cell phone cameras that everyone has now. There are a couple of videos and photos of the ghost light on the internet, but nothing really worth seeking out. “I’ve never seen anything spooky there in my life,” scoffed former sheriff Wolford.

ghostlight

But plenty of other people have seen the light and felt fear. Linda Moore from the nearby Pamunkey Indian reservation recalls relatives being thoroughly frightened by the light, which in one case rushed up as a fast as a train – except there was no train.

Of course, paranormal investigators, scientists and armchair detectives and investigated the lights, with the usual guesses: swamp gas or distant lights reflecting off the atmosphere.

According to legend, Angela Quick said, the light is being held by a conductor who was decapitated in a railway accident and he’s out there holding a lamp, looking for his head.

There’s also a story about a train full of Confederate soldiers that disappeared. The frenzy over the lights faded long ago.

No longer are there big crowds, although nearby resident Stacy Johnson said “people will park their cars and sit in lawn chairs, looking for the light.”

Locals still stop and look, but sightings appeared to have stopped. “We’ve stopped and looked by we’ve never seen it,” Stacy said.

“I don’t know where it went,” Angela Quick said. “But I wish it would come back, because I kind of miss them.

Angela Quick

Angela Quick

Please share your stories about the ghost light, and what it was like back when it was drawing folks to this beautiful corner of Virginia.

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Ghost light legend haunts King William railroad…

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Virginia Gazette

Ghost light legend haunts king william railroad crossing.

Author

If you’ve ever driven along Mt. Olive Cohoke Road, chances are you’ve probably passed over the railroad crossing.

But have you seen the ghostly light?

Situated on a stretch of road off Route 30, the crossing is believed to be the site of an infamous light that can come and go in a blink.

As a piece of local folklore, the light is well-known to West Point Historical Society members, and some have claimed to have seen it themselves.

Edwin Malechek remembers first seeing the light when he was out with friends late in the summer of 1960. The group, standing in the road, saw a light “like a big flashlight” to the east down the tracks and just beyond the treeline. The light swayed back and forth.

Donald O’Connor, also of the historical society, said his group of friends in high school would wait for the light to appear.

It appeared as a fuzzy round light and floated several feet above the railroad tracks, said O’Connor, who added that he has seen the light twice.

Malechek recalled numerous tellings of the light story, including that the lights are caused by swamp gasses on humid nights.

Two stories rise above a handful of theories to explain the phenomenon.

In one popular telling, the light is the lantern of a dead, headless train crewman on the hunt for the head he lost in an accident that occurred in the 1800s. In another common story, the light is that of a phantom Confederate train that was attacked by Union forces during the Civil War.

Those particular catastrophes don’t seem to be supported by historical records. And while common explanations cite events of the 19th century, the first references to the light start to crop up around the 1950s, local historian Bill Palmer said.

“If they were Confederate ghosts, they waited almost 100 years before doing ghostly things,” he said.

Palmer, who has written several books about the area’s history, has researched the light legend. While there have been railroad accidents in the area, no true events appear to match up with the stories.

In the 1880s, a train derailed near the West Point Country Club and a crew member was injured. A woman and her daughter were killed traveling Mt. Olive Cohoke Road when their car was hit by a train in the 1950s, Palmer said.

“We don’t have dramatic things like decapitations,” Palmer said.

The Civil War story, in which Union troops attacked and burned a train that transported wounded Confederate troops from Richmond to West Point, doesn’t seem likely.

The area’s Civil War activity consisted chiefly of a Union campaign to push north and west up the Virginia Peninsula from Fort Monroe to Richmond in 1862. Union forces generally advanced forward until they were stopped outside Richmond. Any Confederates wounded during the campaign’s battles would be moved to Richmond away from fighting rather than to West Point, so the train orientation in the story is wrong, Palmer said.

Regardless of its shaky background, the Mt. Olive Cohoke Road ghost light continues to be an exciting and mysterious part of Tidewater lore.

Railroad crossing

The still-active track owned by Norfolk Southern can be hazardous, with or without ghosts. People shouldn’t walk on railroad tracks and motorists should obey signals and be on alert while traveling over railroad crossings.

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Ghost Trains Around The World (Including Lincoln's Funeral Train)

Spooky train cars in fog

Legends of ghosts from around the world include a wide variety of spectral phenomena, from ladies in white gowns to phantom hitchhikers to even the spirits of animals like dogs or pigs or what-have-you. But whether poltergeist or vengeful spirit or electronic voice phenomenon, most hauntings involve the spirit of a living being (with the exception of things like Japanese tsukumogami , which is a whole other kettle of fish). The phenomenon of ghost trains, however, is one where the ghost isn't a person, it's a ... well, it's a train.

In many ghost train stories, the phantom locomotives are echoes of tragic railway accidents , or they're mysterious engines that carry unsuspecting passengers off into parts unknown. While the term "ghost train" is used to refer to real-life trains that run along the lines without passengers to keep the track clear, the trains in these stories are thought to be actual, literal ghosts (though sometimes they're both). Here are the stories of a few of the most famous ghost trains, plus some haunted tracks and stations for a bit of variety.

Stockholm's Silverpilen

Stockholm, Sweden's Silverpilen ("The Silver Arrow") is one of the most famous ghost trains in the world, and an example where the train of legend absolutely did exist. Silverpilen was one of a handful of experimental unpainted aluminum trains tested out on Stockholm's metro line in the 1960s to see if these more cheaply produced trains could save the transit system money. The eerie look of its unadorned exterior and its slightly altered design were disagreeable to passengers, and the fact that the strange silver train seemed to turn up at random meant that legends soon grew up around it. Before long, the people of Stockholm would tell stories that if you got on Silverpilen, it would never stop, and you would be doomed to ride it for eternity. Or it only stops once a year and its passengers are the souls of the dead.

By the 1970s, the story of Silverpilen got combined with ghost stories surrounding an unused train station called Kymlinge, where it was said that only the dead got off the train. Kymlinge then became Silverpilen's home station, where it picked up and dropped off the dead. Silverpilen was decommissioned in the 1990s, though a couple of its cars are still in use on other trains. Nevertheless, stories of sightings of a ghostly silver train are still common among the people of Stockholm.

St. Louis Light of Saskatchewan

Perhaps the best-known spectral locomotive in Canada is the St. Louis Ghost Train, also known as the St. Louis Light, a phenomenon from just north of St. Louis, Saskatchewan, that is very familiar to locals. For generations, walking out along the track and watching for the ghost light has been a common pastime for St. Louis teenagers. Those who claim to have witnessed this phenomenon say that a white light appears along the railroad track, sometimes accompanied by a red light that moves and circles around the white light, barreling through the night air before disappearing when it reaches the bush line. 

One variant of the legend that has arisen around this eerie light is that in the 1920s a conductor was inspecting this stretch of tracks, only to be decapitated by a passing train. Presumably, the apparition is some kind of residual energy from that tragic event.

Unfortunately, record-keeping doesn't go far enough back to confirm the story of the beheaded conductor, so we may never know how much truth there is to that legend. Additionally, the land where the railroad once ran is now private property, and the tracks are long gone. Despite that, thrillseekers say the light can still be seen where the track used to be. Skeptics say the light isn't a phantom train, just car headlights from a nearby road, but for now, the mystery remains.

Ghost train of Iredell County

While many stories of ghost trains arise strictly from the realms of legend and speculation, the phantom train of Iredell County in North Carolina starts with a real-life tragedy. In August of 1821, a train just west of the town of Statesville fell into the ravine under Bostian Bridge after derailing from the 60-foot-high trestle. The train was pulling six cars, including several passenger cars, and while there were survivors who managed to escape the wreckage at the bottom of the bridge, the train disaster ultimately took the lives of 23 people, making it one of the deadliest train wrecks in the history of North Carolina.

According to legend, 50 years to the day after that fateful crash, a car stalled out in viewing distance of the crash site. The driver went to find help, leaving his wife to watch the car. When the clock ticked to the exact time of the wreck, the wife saw a ghostly echo of the derailment right before her eyes, including the shrieks of the dying as the train splashed into the creek below. 

In a tragic echo of this story that is all too real, a ghost hunter lost his life in 2010 on the disaster's anniversary while trying to see the phantom train. He was hit and killed while saving his girlfriend from a very real oncoming train.

Madrid's haunted metro

It's not only the trains themselves that appear as phantoms in railway lore. Many large cities have sprawling metro lines that stretch like spider webs under the city streets. With that many miles of often dark or poorly lit underground tunnels, it's only natural that some urban legends would pop up about these train lines and the various stations and stops that dot the transit map. Madrid, for example, has the seventh-biggest metro line in the world, and according to Midnight Trains , those 183 miles of track are jam-packed with ghosts.

One of the most famous is the station at Tirso de Molina, where people say they can hear the cries and groans of the dead from under the platforms. Allegedly, construction workers uncovered the bodies of several monks from an old monastery that had stood on the spot and hastily reburied the bones under the platforms rather than giving them a proper rest. The same station is a setting for a tale where a woman found herself accompanied by three ghostly passengers in the car with her. The Santiago Bernabéu station used to be known as Lima station, and legend says the reason is that people were known to get lost in its tunnels and emerge across the globe in Lima, Peru. But don't worry: there's a phantom train, too, which carries the souls of the damned along the city's line 5 to the realm of the dead.

[Featured image by Currybet via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

Arizona Shadow Train

Folklorist S. E. Schlosser records a legend from Arizona in which an old prospector finds himself lost with no water out in the desert flats while searching for a claim, ultimately passing out from the heat and sun. He wakes up an unknown amount of time later to the hissing sound of a steam train chugging through the torrid air. The miner is confused, as he is far from any town, but then he remembers hearing stories when he was young of a shadow train that rushes through the desert with no track like a black smear across the cloudless sky. As the black train speeds toward where he lies, too weak to move despite the engine's warning whistles, the miner realizes these stories were no legend. The train stops inches from his head, and the conductor and a passenger carry him on board just before he passes out again.

He reawakens in a sheriff's office in a town he doesn't know, being offered water by a lawman who says he found the miner lying almost dead five miles out of town. When he asks if the train had left him there, the confused sheriff tells him that there's no train that runs through that area. To this day, people claim they see the shadow train screaming through the midday sun out in the desert, still running without a track.

Republic Ghost Train

Another phantom train inspired by a very real historic tragedy is the Republic Ghost Train in Seneca County, Ohio. In January 1887, a passenger train carrying 65 people aboard collided in the dark of night with a stalled freight train near the small town of Republic. The train had been traveling at 60 miles per hour, so by the time the engineer saw the stopped train on the tracks ahead of him, it was too late to stop. The engineer jumped from the train and the two engines smashed into each other with a deafening crash. Several of the passenger cars collapsed into each other, including the smoker car, where a fire started that soon killed at least 15 people. The overall number of deaths from the crash is unknown, but it was likely as many as 22 people. Fortunately, the passengers in the sleeper cars survived because someone managed to uncouple them from the other cars and push them away from the burning wreckage.

Since that time, locals have repeated the legend that on some nights you can look down the track and see the ghost train, an echo of the 1887 disaster, barreling down the tracks. Its lights will flash throughout Seneca County when the spectral locomotive passes by the cemetery where the victims of the disaster who were never identified are buried (pictured, via the  Seneca County Historical Society Facebook page).

Ghost train of Tay Rail Bridge

The Tay Rail Bridge was completed in 1877 after six years of construction to cross the Firth of Tay, an estuary in eastern Scotland where the River Tay empties between the cities of Perth and Dundee. The bridge served to connect the railway between Dundee and Fife in the northeast. Like in many stories of ghost trains, the Tay Bridge is remembered for a deadly railway disaster.

Just two years after the completion of the bridge, disaster struck in what became one of the worst train accidents in Scottish history. A train carrying 75 passengers was crossing the firth when a storm struck, causing the middle section of the bridge to collapse. The crew and passengers were all plunged into the cold winter waters below, leaving no survivors and nearly half the bodies never found.

A second bridge was opened right next to the ruins of the old one a few years later that is still being used to this day. The ruined pillars of the old line can still be seen rising out of the water next to the new bridge. Likewise, it is said that on the anniversary of the disaster, a ghost train appears floating where the old track once stood. The ghostly train repeats its disastrous plummet into the waters, with the screaming voices of the spirits of the dead passengers audible the whole way down.

Virginia's Cohoke Light

King William County in Virginia is home to a mysterious ghost train phenomenon known as the Cohoke Light, so called because the apparition is generally spotted at the railroad crossing on Mt. Olive Cohoke Road. As with other ghost train phenomena, witnesses claim to have seen an otherwise unexplained light coming down the tracks, swinging back and forth, sometimes obscured by the treeline. Historians say that sightings of the Cohoke Light date back to at least the 1950s, which unfortunately works against the legendary claims that the ghost train has its origins in the 19th century.

There are two main explanations for the appearance of the shining light on the tracks in King William County: The first is very similar to stories of the St. Louis Light, saying that a railway worker was decapitated in an accident 100+ years ago, and the light is his lantern swaying as he searches for his lost head. The second says that it's the lamp of a Confederate train carrying wounded soldiers that never reached its destination because it was ambushed by Union troops. Unfortunately, neither of these stories is supported (and in fact, both are contradicted) by the historical record, which only has relatively minor accidents occurring at that crossing, like a derailment with one injury and a single automobile collision. Additionally, any Confederate train carrying wounded soldiers would have been headed in the other direction.

Phantom Train of Medicine Hat

Most tales of ghost trains involve individuals on foot or in a car witnessing a spectral locomotive speeding past them or even away from them. But the best-known legend of the Phantom Train of Medicine Hat, Alberta, involves a near collision with another train. According to the story related by workers from the Canadian Pacific Railway, in 1908 a train headed east rounded a bend only to find itself face-to-face with an oncoming train headed west. Even though it was too late to brake, there was no crash, as the oncoming train veered off into the empty air, with ghostly crew members waving to the living crew as they flew into the ether.

Fearing that this vision was a premonition of his death, Bob Twohey, the engineer, went to visit a fortune teller who told him that indeed he was soon to die (some versions say he learned this before seeing the phantom train). Hoping to avoid his fate, Twohey refused to drive that same train on that same route again. Another engineer took over the route and also saw the phantom train. On July 8, 1908, that same engineer took that same train on the same route despite the ghostly warning. This time when the train rounded that same bend and encountered an onrushing train, it wasn't a phantom. It was a very real passenger train, driven by Bob Twohey. Every man who had seen the phantom train died on impact.

Express train to Hell

Another story collected by S.E. Schlosser  is a haunted train tale set in Newark, New Jersey, at the central station in that city. The tale focuses on the stationmaster, who is trying to calm down what appears to be an old vagabond running about his station and wailing. When the stationmaster talks to him, the old man claims that the Express Train to Hell is coming for him because he once killed a man who had cheated him at cards. The stationmaster, perhaps reasonably, assumes the old man is unwell and tries to shake off the troubling sound of his pleas for help.

Just before midnight, however, the sound of a steam train chugging through the night air approaches, sounding as if it has no intention of stopping. The stationmaster is confused, as the next train isn't scheduled until after midnight. Despite the loud sound of the engine, the scream of the whistle, and the rushing wind of a passing train, the stationmaster doesn't see anything traveling through the station. As he tries to pull the old man away from the tracks and to safety, the old man gives one terrible final wail and vanishes from the stationmaster's grip without a trace. It turns out the Express Train to Hell had in fact come for him, and it came dead-on midnight.

Lincoln's funeral train

Probably the most famous ghost train of them all is Abraham Lincoln 's funeral train, sightings of which have been reported many times around the route of the historic funeral train near the anniversary of Lincoln's death. In April 1865, following the assassination of the president, his body was taken by rail from Washington, D.C., to Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois, via New York City so that Americans along the way could mourn him. Ever since, on or around the anniversary of that initial rail journey, people have claimed to have witnessed a spectral echo of the funeral train between New York and Springfield.

While many ghost trains are described as simple lights or dark smudges, witnesses of Lincoln's funeral train have reported a number of spooky details. People claim that they can see inside the train an entire rail crew made up of skeletons, including a band playing silent dirges for the lost president. In the back half of the train is a flatcar that carries Lincoln's coffin, encircled by skeletons in Union Army coats. As the train passes, all clocks and watches stop until it has disappeared, usually leaving them six minutes slow. Others say the train pulls along with it darkness, cold, and clouds. The train has been sighted all over New York State, including in Grand Central Station, which hadn't even been built yet at the time of Lincoln's funeral.

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Chapel hill light.

QUICK FACTS:

Location: Chapel Hill, Tennessee

Appearance: A disc-shaped light along the train tracks.

  • A man who fell onto the tracks and got knocked out was decapitated and now wanders, searching for his missing head.
  • The light is a signalman who lost his head while swinging his lantern in a failed attempt to warn an oncoming train of a split in the tracks.

Other explanations: None.

Additional notes: None.

MORE INFORMATION:

The Chapel Hill ghost light is located in Chapel Hill, Tennessee along the railroad tracks that pass through the town. Although the various legends attached to the light are very well-known among local residents, firsthand accounts of it are surprisingly difficult to find online. Most descriptions are quite vague, only mentioning a “light” somewhere along the train tracks. One describes the light as disc-shaped, another as “faint.” None of the sparse reports talk about color, so it’s safe to assume that the light is white.

I received several reader submissions about the Chapel Hill light focused on the urban folklore associated with it. Two of them called out popular variations on the legend. In one, a man falls off the train (or sometimes from the station) onto the tracks and knocks himself out. When the train comes by again in the morning, it decapitates him. The man now wanders the track, searching for his missing head.

In the second story, a signalman loses his head while trying to swinging his lantern in an attempt to warn oncoming trains of a split in the tracks. Another close version of this tale involves a brake man failing to apply the brakes in time before the split, being thrown from the train, and run over. All popular versions of the Chapel Hill light seem to involve a headless person searching for his head, carrying a lantern. As stated in the introduction, this is a very common theme in ghost light folklore.

READER EXPERIENCES:

(1) Date received: Thu, 1 Apr 1999

Hi! We are from Belfast, Tennessee and we thought since you didn’t have a story up about the Chapel Hill Light in Chapel Hill, Tennessee we would let you know.

There was a guy that rode the trains into town and got off when the train would stop for him. One afternoon there was a new engineer and he didn’t stop by the guy’s house in Chapel Hill. It was late so he had his lantern with him. Well, the new engineer didn’t stop so he jumped off anyway. The train somehow knocked him out and he fell onto the tracks.

The next morning the train didn’t see him and ran him over. It smeared his head down the tracks. So now he walks down the tracks on some nights caring his lantern looking for his head he will never find.

(2) Date received: Thu, 30 Sep 1999

I read a story about ghost lights here from Chapel Hill, Tennessee. I have also visited the train tracks where this man supposedly roams the night. This place not only houses his ghost, but many others. I have never seen the lantern light myself, but have been harassed by other unearthly (and earthly) things there.

I am a member of the Census of the Dead, ghost hunters of middle Tennessee, and this spot is where we began our investigations. The crossing at the tracks is the only safe zone in the area. If you venture to the left or right down the tracks, things become either hostile or protective. The left side is decidedly more hostile. There is a section, about 200 yards down from the crossing, where the land slopes up around the tracks, blocking one in. I would never enter this area unless you are of strong mind.

I have seen UFO-like lights, huge manlike beasts covered in fur, and reflections of light on the metal tracks. I have been clawed by things in this section of track. This place must be a vortex of spiritual activity.

If you ever visit, be wary of the local police, although most of them are very nice, and hope that the locals aren’t out. They enjoy getting drunk and harassing people with train wreck horror stories and their versions of what they have seen. Just don’t expect to see the ghostly lantern.

(3) Date received: Mon, 15 Sep 2003

This is a citizen from Chapel Hill. What really happened that night was a terrible accident had happened on a split in the tracks. A signal man had his lantern, swinging it to warn oncoming trains. A train came and did not see the man, and hit him. When he went to check out the man, his head was gone. So every night one the railroad tracks, the man swings his lantern, looking for his head.

3 Replies to “Chapel Hill Light”

Updated 04-18-21. -Obiwan

I have seen the light and ghost but it was several years ago when I was in high school. I was in a theatrical production for Theater Nashville–no longer extant. And a bunch of us went ghost hunting after rehearsals.

We went to see the Chapel Hill light at least a half dozen times, but the most memorable was with a date I was trying to impress–and scare a bit so you know–well every guy in the world knows that trick.

We were there, the train roared close. A shadowy figure appeared carrying a white light. Some sort of platform stuck out maybe 3 or 4 feet from one of cars on the train. That flat piece of metal seem to hit the ghost solidly in the middle and drive it forward with the train.

Whatever it was finally dropped to the ground and then slowly made it’s way back until the train disappeared–and thankfully it did as well. My date and I were stunned. And all the way back to Nashville, we held hands but said little or nothing.

When we got back to Nashville, just like the Chuck Berry Song, the seat belt wouldn’t unbuckle. I can’t recall if we cut it or somehow got out of it. But to this day, I remember that ghost. It was the most real and substantial proof of a supernatural phenomenon I have ever witnessed with my own eyes.

Thanks for sharing your experience! Really interesting and a few new details I haven’t heard before.

–Obiwan

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Ghost Light Haunts Chapel Hill's Railroad Tracks

Ghost Light Haunts Chapel Hill's Railroad Tracks

Location: Chapel Hill, TN

His name was Skip Adjent. The legend, shared over several decades, claims the young man was hit and killed by a train while along the tracks of Chapel Hill, TN. His story is just one variation of the tale behind the Chapel Hill Ghost Light, which is considered to be one of the Tennessee's most haunted legends. Adjent inspired local resident John Rickman to compose the song Chapel Hill Ghost Light . Some of the lyrics are: Many years ago along the railroad track one night, A man was walking home and held a lantern for his light. He never heard the whistle scream or the mighty engine pound, He never even knew it, when the freight train ran him down. The engineer ran back in time to see the poor man die, But as he neared the tragic spot a light rose in the sky. The lamp the man carried was never found that night. Now the old folks say above the track, His lantern shining brightly. And still, his lantern hangs over the railroad, watching every freight train go by. There's a Ghost Light over the railroad shining in the Chapel Hill sky. Skip was killed, and from that point on, the light was seen out here. It goes across the tracks sometimes, sways back and forth. Sometimes it comes up, and sometimes it goes back. And you're looking for it, and then it falls over behind you some way, it goes behind you. Other stories behind the Chapel Hill Ghost Light include a headless signalman, or train brakeman, wandering the tracks and using the light to guide his way. There is also a legend of a passenger who took the train daily and died along the tracks, leading him to haunt it. Regardless of the story behind it, several pictures have been taken along the tracks that allegedly show the light. Over the years, people have come from all over to spend the night there and even throw watch parties. The crowds sometime would get so rowdy and some even brought guns to shoot at the light to see if they could bring it down, Rickman said. There was one person killed from Bedford County out on the railroad tracks. He was so enamored by the light that he came out here and got too close to the track and got hit by a train. As the town of Chapel Hill has expanded in recent years, there have been fewer reported sightings of the light, however, earlier this year, Southern Living Magazine named Chapel Hill one of the top haunted places in the country.

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The Ghosts of Arkansas

The Gurdon Light

 Jan Stromme/Getty Images

Unlike some of other Arkansas hauntings, the Gurdon ghost light is a present phenomenon and not something that's only been seen in the past. It's been seen on television, photographed by tourists and generally accepted as existing.  Unsolved Mysteries even came to town to document it in 1994. The mystery isn't whether it exists or not. The mystery is what exactly the light is.

A Local Legend

The local people tell a legend to explain the light, but Unsolved Mysteries told a different one. A common theme to both legends is that the ghostly apparition is a railway worker. The location is still in use by the railways, and the way the light moves would remind you a railway worker carrying a lantern.

One of the legends is historically accurate.  In 1931, William McClain, a Missouri-Pacific railroad foreman, fired Louis McBride (or Louie McBryde). McBride then killed McClain. The events leading up to the murder are a bit sketchy. Some sources say the argument was because McBride sabotaged a section of track and caused a derailment. Others say McBride was asking for more hours and McClain wouldn't give them to him. An article from the Southern Standard, an Arkadelphia paper, in 1932 states McBride told the sheriff that he killed McClain because McClain accused him of being the reason that there was a train accident a few days prior.  So, this is likely the true legend.

Either way, McClain was beaten to death with a railroad spike maul. McBride was later sentenced to death by electrocution and executed on July 8, 1932 (he's listed in the execution records as MCBRYDE, LOUIE). The Gurdon light was actually first documented shortly after he was executed in the 1930s.

It's theorized that the light is McClain, haunting the tracks and carrying the same lantern he would have carried for work.

Theories on the Legend

The theory the locals toss around is shorter on historical accuracy, but equally interesting. It says that a railroad worker was working outside of the town one night. He accidentally fell into the path of a train and his head was severed from his body. They never found his head. Local people say the light is actually the light from his lantern as he walks the tracks searching for his missing head. It was fairly common for railway workers to be injured or even killed, so it is possible that one was decapitated.

This light cannot be seen from the highway. You have to go to it. It's a two and a half mile hike to the place where you can view the mysterious lantern. You will pass by two trestles before it is seen. The spot is marked by a slight incline in the tracks and then a long hill. The light is an eerie white-blue light which sometimes appears orangish. The light sways back and forth and moves around on the horizon. The light is frequently seen on the darkest nights and best seen when it is cloudy and overcast.  Check out the Roadside America map before you go.

Unsolved Mysteries didn't find out what the light really is, neither have any scientists that have checked out the area, but there are a few theories.

One leading theory is that it is actually just highway lights reflecting through the trees. Historians, however, disagree. They say the light has been written about and spoken about since before the highway was even there. Scientists have tried to explain the light and concluded it can't be highway lights. 

In a 1980s Arkansas Gazette article, a former graduate student at Henderson State University researched the light and stated:

The nearest interstate to the tracks is about four miles away, and a large hill stands in between the tracks and the interstate. If the light was caused by passing headlights, it would have to be refracted up and over the hill to be visible on the other side.

The article claimed Clingan attempted to gauge the length of time it would take a car to cross the horizon point at a 45-degree angle (the angle of the interstate to the tracks) at 55 miles an hour. Moving at 80 feet per second, he explained, 'the lights would be visible much longer than the second it takes for the Gurdon light to appear and disappear." Clingan also walked close enough to the highway to hear the sounds of specific trucks. He insisted the sounds never coordinated with the appearances of the light.

Dr. Charles Leming, professor of physics at Henderson State University , was an authority on the light before his passing. He and his students did many observations of the light. One impressive find was that when the light was viewed through filters, the lights never polarized. Any mirage light would polarize. They also could find no electromagnetic current on a galvanometer, and that the light appears consistently, regardless of atmospheric conditions.

There is also a theory that suggests stress on the quartz crystals underneath Gurdon causes them to emit electricity and produce the light. They call this the piezoelectric effect. The theory is that the New Madrid fault, which runs through this area, puts intense pressure on the crystals and squeezes them together causes them to develop a charge and put off a spark.

Where to Find the Light

Gurdon, Arkansas is located about 75 miles south of Little Rock on Interstate 30 and is located just east of the Interstate on Highway 67. The light is outside of town and along a stretch of railroad tracks. It takes a couple of hours to reach the location. You can ask for directions in Gurdon. Ask at any gas station. Everyone in this small town knows what you mean (they call it "ghost light bluffs"). There is a similar light with a similar story in Crossett. Crossett has lots of quartz too.

This one I've actually seen for myself. It's quite bizarre but I don't think it looks like a lantern. It's a very crisp, clear light that you can see moving around. My friend and I tried to get close enough to it to see what it was, but that is impossible, it keeps moving around and once you get to where it was, it's gone. This a popular spot for kids on Halloween.

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Southern Ghost Stories

Tennessee Ghost Stories: The Chapel Hill Ghost Light

The small town of Chapel Hill, Tennessee is said to be the home of a restless, wayward spirit who walks along the train tracks carrying a lantern.

There are several different stories about who the man is. Some say he was a railroad employee, others say he was someone in town who was hit by a train. But no matter which story you believe, a lot of people in Chapel Hill have seen a bright light floating around the track late at night. It’s believed the man still roams the track searching for something.

Sadly, the Chapel Hill ghost light has become deadly in recent years. Several years ago, a local man who was intrigued by the legend was hit by a train while investigating a bright light by hovering over the train tracks.

Have you see the ghost light in Chapel Hill?

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CTA, Metra and Amtrak service disrupted amid dangerously cold Chicago weather

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CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some CTA, Metra and Amtrak trains are seeing service disruptions on Monday during dangerously cold Chicago weather.

CTA derailment causes service suspension, delays

A train derailment disrupted service on the CTA Orange Line on Monday morning.

The derailment itself was minor, and no one was injured. There were 20 passengers on board, and those who use the line regularly had to wait around for shuttle buses in the cold.

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"Very inconvenient, I have to get to work and I don't drive so it's always something with the CTA," commuter Aaron Reed said. "Either it's not on time, the operators are not very nice, or you are waiting in this weather especially when you don't have car."

CTA workers were on the tracks investigating the derailment and trying to get things back on the move as fast as possible, but still it came at a bad time for morning commuters.

"The Orange Line it's 20 minutes at the most, and the buses take 30-45 and it's cold outside, so it's bad," commuter Eva Gonzalez said.

At one point, Orange Line service was temporarily suspended between Western and Adams/Wabash. The Orange Line was back up and running on-schedule later Monday.

Switch problems, derailment cause Metra delays

Meanwhile, Metra said inbound and outbound Milwaukee District North and West trains were stopped near Union Station due to switch problems in the cold on Monday afternoon.

Some inbound and outbound trains were back on the move by 4 p.m. They are operating with extensive delays due to ongoing Amtrak switch and signal problems on Monday evening, Metra said.

Metra later said it can only provide limited service on Monday night on the Milwaukee District North, Milwaukee District West, North Cental Service and Heritage Corridor lines.

WATCH: Crews set fire to train tracks amid sub-zero temperatures

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Trains will not be operating on their regular schedules. Instead, Metra will try to provide hourly service on each line, with each train making all stops to the last stop on the lines.

Metra asked passengers to pay close attention to platform gate boards and announcements from station personnel when they arrive at Union Station.

"We've been trying to minimize delays, but we can't compete with Mother Nature," said Metra spokesperson Martha Hill.

A Metra BNSF train derailed at Union Station on Sunday evening, Hill said.

No one was injured in the derailment, and another train is taking the passengers to Aurora.

BNSF inbound and outbound trains may be operating up to 35 minutes behind schedule due to the derailment, Metra said.

Amtrak trains canceled due to weather

And Amtrak trains have been canceled due to the cold weather, leaving some travelers stranded in Chicago.

Ruth Eddy and Dan Henkus said they had never been to Chicago until the last few days. They said it's a beautiful city, but they are not here by choice.

Amtrak is putting them and other stranded passengers up at a nice hotel just off Michigan Avenue on the Chicago River.

"We got into Chicago to discover that we were canceled. Figured it would be a day or two, and we would be going home, and that was the 11th. We're still here, and we will be until Thursday, apparently," Dan said.

They were in Jacksonville, Florida for the holidays and planned to return home to Vancouver, Washington last week. Then, the snowstorm hit, dumping tons of snow on the tracks along the route.

That was followed by the bitter cold this week. It means they are not likely to be able to continue the route back to Washington until, possibly, Thursday.

"They say because of the weather, we can't go home, because they're looking out for our safety, and so we really appreciate that," Ruth said.

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5 famous ghosts that you might meet on the streets of Moscow

The headless boyar, 12th  century.

ghost light train tracks

The first scary legend concerns Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, Moscow’s founder. It’s said that in 1158 Prince Dolgoruky was traveling through the Moscow lands with a Greek sage and came upon a strange three-headed, piebald animal that looked at him and then ran into the forest. Prince Dolgoruky was frightened, but the sage said not to worry: this was a good sign, and that one day a majestic city would be built on this spot and that many nations would gather here.

Prince Dolgoruky emerged from the forest to find a hill on which stood a town belonging to the wealthy boyar, Stephan Kuchki. But the proud boyar did not meet the prince according to tradition, and therefore, Dolgoruky ordered the boyar to be seized and executed. His head fell to the ground, sprinkling blood everywhere. Meanwhile, Dolgoruky went on to rule over Moscow.  

Ever since then, the area of modern-day Sretenka is home to the ghost of the proud boyar, who appears and frightens local residents. Therefore, superstitious Moscow residents say the city, “stands on blood.” 

An Italian architect killed in the Kremlin, 15th  century

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Soon after marrying Sophia Paleologue , niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Russia’s Tsar Ivan III decreed construction of a magnificent cathedral in the Kremlin. But no matter how hard the Russian architects tried, the walls of the Dormition Cathedral always crumbled. Metropolitan Philip, who had been against the Tsar marrying Sophia, believed it was God’s curse for the marriage. 

Sophia advised her husband to invite a foreign architect, but finding a suitable candidate proved very difficult because no one wanted to go to distant and mysterious Russia. Finally, in 1475, Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti agreed to come and build a great cathedral for the tsar.  

Construction was successful, and according to legend Fioravanti built many secret hiding places and underground tunnels in the cathedral. To keep enemies from learning the secrets of the Dormition Cathedral, Ivan III refused to let Fioravanti return home. 

The architect even participated in some of the Tsar’s military campaigns before attempting to escape to Italy. He was seized at the border and imprisoned in the Kremlin’s Tainitskaya Tower, which is when historical chronicles ceased mentioning him. Most likely he died – walled up in the Tainitskaya Tower. Legend has it that since then Russian leaders see Fioravanti’s ghost just before terrible events are to take place. It vexed Vladimir Lenin, and later Joseph Stalin before the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. 

A condemned murderer on Gorky Highway, 18th  century

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The Gorky Highway was once called the Vladimir Road, along which people convicted to Siberian penal colonies were led out of Moscow. One day, a dangerous murderer was marching in a penal convoy. He didn't survive the trip, however, and since there wasn't time to bury him, they left his body at the side of the road. This is why his soul can't find peace and still terrorizes the living.

Drivers say that late at night a strange man sometimes appears on the roadside: bearded, poorly dressed and resembling a homeless man. He waves to cars as if he wants them to stop, but his gait is strange, as if his feet are shackled. 

If you see him be careful: he’s the ghost of the tormented murderer. If you stop, the ghost comes over to the window and says, “Forgive me.” Then you should say, “God will forgive you,” and quickly drive away without looking back. Otherwise, the convict’s restless soul will take you with it to the afterlife. 

The miserly old man from Myasnitskaya Street, 19th century

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This legend dates to the second half of the 19th century, in the home of the Kusovnikov family. Between 1843 and 1870 a childless couple lived on 17 Myasnitskaya Street. These merchants were known for their eccentric behavior and solitary lifestyle. The house is decorated with Masonic symbols, and legend says the husband and wife found a masonic cache in one of the rooms and decided not to have kids and not to employ unnecessary servants.

The couple was so afraid of losing their money that they almost never left home. Once, they had to leave for a short time and hid all their riches in the fireplace. Only one caretaker remained to look after the house. 

When the couple returned, however, they saw that everything had been burned in the fireplace: the caretaker had been very cold and so decided to warm himself with a fire. Old woman Kusovnikova died on the spot, while her husband went mad and died shortly after.

Today, Muscovites say that late in the evening you can sometimes see a gray-haired old man in a shabby coat approaching passersby and asking them, “Where is my money?” This encounter does not promise anything good because anyone approached by the miserly old man soon loses large amounts of money and goes bankrupt. 

A vindictive female spirit in the Moscow metro, 20th   century

ghost light train tracks

There are many scary stories about the Moscow metro. For example, it’s dangerous to ride in the ordinary train cars of the orange line after midnight on one particular day of the year. It first happened on Sept. 9, 1999, when five young ladies riding at night in car 26498 late suddenly lost consciousness.  

One of the passengers was able to film the face of a young woman outside the train with his mobile phone. What had happened? A year earlier on Sept. 9, 1998, at the VDNKh station, a young lady had lost consciousness and fell under an approaching train.  

Ever since then, she appears on the day of her death and causes passengers to lose consciousness.

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Most Beautiful Metro Stations in Moscow

Most Beautiful Metro Stations in Moscow

Visiting Moscow? Get yourself a metro card and explore Moscow’s beautiful metro stations. Moscow’s world-famous metro system is efficient and a great way to get from A to B. But there is more to it; Soviet mosaic decorations, exuberant halls with chandeliers, colourful paintings and immense statues. Moscow’s metro is an attraction itself, so take half a day and dive into Moscow’s underground!

The best thing to do is to get on the brown circle (number 5) line since the most beautiful metro stations are situated on this line. The only exception is the metro stop Mayakovskaya one the green line (number 2). My suggestion is to get a map, mark these metro stops on there and hop on the metro. It helps to get an English > Russian map to better understand the names of the stops. At some of the metro stops, the microphone voice speaks Russian and English so it’s not difficult at all.

Another thing we found out, is that it’s worth taking the escalator and explore the other corridors to discover how beautiful the full station is.

Quick hotel suggestion for Moscow is the amazing Brick Design Hotel .

These are my favourite metro stations in Moscow, in order of my personal preference:

1. Mayakovskaya Station

The metro station of Mayakovskaya looks like a ballroom! Wide arches, huge domes with lamps and mosaic works make your exit of the metro overwhelming. Look up and you will see the many colourful mosaics with typical Soviet pictures. Mayakovskaya is my personal favourite and is the only stop not on the brown line but on the green line.

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2. Komsomolskaya Station

Komsomolskaya metro station is famous for its yellow ceiling. An average museum is nothing compared to this stop. Splendour all over the place, black and gold, mosaic – again – and enormous chandeliers that made my lamp at home look like a toy.

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3. Novoslobodskaya Station

The pillars in the main hall of Novoslobodskaya metro station have the most colourful stained glass decorations. The golden arches and the golden mosaic with a naked lady holding a baby in front of the Soviet hammer and sickle, make the drama complete.

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4. Prospect Mira Station

The beautiful chandeliers and the lines in the ceiling, make Prospekt Mira an architectural masterpiece.

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5. Belorusskaya Station

Prestigious arches, octagonal shapes of Socialistic Soviet Republic mosaics. The eyecatcher of Belorusskaya metro station, however, is the enormous statue of three men with long coats, holding guns and a flag.

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6. Kiyevskaya Station

The metro station of Kiyevskaya is a bit more romantic than Belorusskaya and Prospect Mira. Beautiful paintings with classical decorations.

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7. Taganskaya Station

At the main hall Taganskaya metro station you will find triangle light blue and white decorations that are an ode to various Russians that – I assume – are important for Russian history and victory. There is no need to explore others halls of Taganskaya, this is it.

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8. Paveletskaya Station

Another and most definitely the less beautiful outrageous huge golden mosaic covers one of the walls of Paveletskaya. I would recommend taking the escalator to the exit upstairs to admire the turquoise dome and a painting of the St Basil’s Cathedral in a wooden frame.

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Travelling with Moscow’s metro is inexpensive. You can have a lot of joy for just a few Rubbles.

  • 1 single journey: RMB 50 – € 0,70
  • 1 day ticket: RMB 210 – € 2,95

Like to know about Moscow, travelling in Russia or the Transsiberian Train journey ? Read my other articles about Russia .

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Wow! It is beautiful. I am still dreaming of Moscow one day.

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It’s absolutely beautiful! Moscow is a great city trip destination and really surprised me in many ways.

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My partner and I did a self guided Moscow Metro tour when we were there 2 years ago. So many breathtaking platforms…I highly recommend it! Most of my favorites were along the Brown 5 line, as well. I also loved Mayakovskaya, Arbatskaya, Aleksandrovski Sad and Ploshchad Revolyutsii. We’re heading back in a few weeks and plan to do Metro Tour-Part 2. We hope to see the #5 stations we missed before, as well as explore some of the Dark Blue #3 (Park Pobedy and Slavyansky Bul’var, for sure), Yellow #8 and Olive #10 platforms.

That’s exciting Julia! Curious to see your Metro Tour-Part 2 experience and the stations you discovered.

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In Transit: Notes from the Underground

Jun 06 2018.

Spend some time in one of Moscow’s finest museums.

Subterranean commuting might not be anyone’s idea of a good time, but even in a city packing the war-games treasures and priceless bejeweled eggs of the Kremlin Armoury and the colossal Soviet pavilions of the VDNKh , the Metro holds up as one of Moscow’s finest museums. Just avoid rush hour.

The Metro is stunning and provides an unrivaled insight into the city’s psyche, past and present, but it also happens to be the best way to get around. Moscow has Uber, and the Russian version called Yandex Taxi , but also some nasty traffic. Metro trains come around every 90 seconds or so, at a more than 99 percent on-time rate. It’s also reasonably priced, with a single ride at 55 cents (and cheaper in bulk). From history to tickets to rules — official and not — here’s what you need to know to get started.

A Brief Introduction Buying Tickets Know Before You Go (Down) Rules An Easy Tour

A Brief Introduction

Moscow’s Metro was a long time coming. Plans for rapid transit to relieve the city’s beleaguered tram system date back to the Imperial era, but a couple of wars and a revolution held up its development. Stalin revived it as part of his grand plan to modernize the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 30s. The first lines and tunnels were constructed with help from engineers from the London Underground, although Stalin’s secret police decided that they had learned too much about Moscow’s layout and had them arrested on espionage charges and deported.

The beauty of its stations (if not its trains) is well-documented, and certainly no accident. In its illustrious first phases and particularly after the Second World War, the greatest architects of Soviet era were recruited to create gleaming temples celebrating the Revolution, the USSR, and the war triumph. No two stations are exactly alike, and each of the classic showpieces has a theme. There are world-famous shrines to Futurist architecture, a celebration of electricity, tributes to individuals and regions of the former Soviet Union. Each marble slab, mosaic tile, or light fixture was placed with intent, all in service to a station’s aesthetic; each element, f rom the smallest brass ear of corn to a large blood-spattered sword on a World War II mural, is an essential part of the whole.

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The Metro is a monument to the Soviet propaganda project it was intended to be when it opened in 1935 with the slogan “Building a Palace for the People”. It brought the grand interiors of Imperial Russia to ordinary Muscovites, celebrated the Soviet Union’s past achievements while promising its citizens a bright Soviet future, and of course, it was a show-piece for the world to witness the might and sophistication of life in the Soviet Union.

It may be a museum, but it’s no relic. U p to nine million people use it daily, more than the London Underground and New York Subway combined. (Along with, at one time, about 20 stray dogs that learned to commute on the Metro.)

In its 80+ year history, the Metro has expanded in phases and fits and starts, in step with the fortunes of Moscow and Russia. Now, partly in preparation for the World Cup 2018, it’s also modernizing. New trains allow passengers to walk the entire length of the train without having to change carriages. The system is becoming more visitor-friendly. (There are helpful stickers on the floor marking out the best selfie spots .) But there’s a price to modernity: it’s phasing out one of its beloved institutions, the escalator attendants. Often they are middle-aged or elderly women—“ escalator grandmas ” in news accounts—who have held the post for decades, sitting in their tiny kiosks, scolding commuters for bad escalator etiquette or even bad posture, or telling jokes . They are slated to be replaced, when at all, by members of the escalator maintenance staff.

For all its achievements, the Metro lags behind Moscow’s above-ground growth, as Russia’s capital sprawls ever outwards, generating some of the world’s worst traffic jams . But since 2011, the Metro has been in the middle of an ambitious and long-overdue enlargement; 60 new stations are opening by 2020. If all goes to plan, the 2011-2020 period will have brought 125 miles of new tracks and over 100 new stations — a 40 percent increase — the fastest and largest expansion phase in any period in the Metro’s history.

Facts: 14 lines Opening hours: 5 a.m-1 a.m. Rush hour(s): 8-10 a.m, 4-8 p.m. Single ride: 55₽ (about 85 cents) Wi-Fi network-wide

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Buying Tickets

  • Ticket machines have a button to switch to English.
  • You can buy specific numbers of rides: 1, 2, 5, 11, 20, or 60. Hold up fingers to show how many rides you want to buy.
  • There is also a 90-minute ticket , which gets you 1 trip on the metro plus an unlimited number of transfers on other transport (bus, tram, etc) within 90 minutes.
  • Or, you can buy day tickets with unlimited rides: one day (218₽/ US$4), three days (415₽/US$7) or seven days (830₽/US$15). Check the rates here to stay up-to-date.
  • If you’re going to be using the Metro regularly over a few days, it’s worth getting a Troika card , a contactless, refillable card you can use on all public transport. Using the Metro is cheaper with one of these: a single ride is 36₽, not 55₽. Buy them and refill them in the Metro stations, and they’re valid for 5 years, so you can keep it for next time. Or, if you have a lot of cash left on it when you leave, you can get it refunded at the Metro Service Centers at Ulitsa 1905 Goda, 25 or at Staraya Basmannaya 20, Building 1.
  • You can also buy silicone bracelets and keychains with built-in transport chips that you can use as a Troika card. (A Moscow Metro Fitbit!) So far, you can only get these at the Pushkinskaya metro station Live Helpdesk and souvenir shops in the Mayakovskaya and Trubnaya metro stations. The fare is the same as for the Troika card.
  • You can also use Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

Rules, spoken and unspoken

No smoking, no drinking, no filming, no littering. Photography is allowed, although it used to be banned.

Stand to the right on the escalator. Break this rule and you risk the wrath of the legendary escalator attendants. (No shenanigans on the escalators in general.)

Get out of the way. Find an empty corner to hide in when you get off a train and need to stare at your phone. Watch out getting out of the train in general; when your train doors open, people tend to appear from nowhere or from behind ornate marble columns, walking full-speed.

Always offer your seat to elderly ladies (what are you, a monster?).

An Easy Tour

This is no Metro Marathon ( 199 stations in 20 hours ). It’s an easy tour, taking in most—though not all—of the notable stations, the bulk of it going clockwise along the Circle line, with a couple of short detours. These stations are within minutes of one another, and the whole tour should take about 1-2 hours.

Start at Mayakovskaya Metro station , at the corner of Tverskaya and Garden Ring,  Triumfalnaya Square, Moskva, Russia, 125047.

1. Mayakovskaya.  Named for Russian Futurist Movement poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and an attempt to bring to life the future he imagined in his poems. (The Futurist Movement, natch, was all about a rejecting the past and celebrating all things speed, industry, modern machines, youth, modernity.) The result: an Art Deco masterpiece that won the National Grand Prix for architecture at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. It’s all smooth, rounded shine and light, and gentle arches supported by columns of dark pink marble and stainless aircraft steel. Each of its 34 ceiling niches has a mosaic. During World War II, the station was used as an air-raid shelter and, at one point, a bunker for Stalin. He gave a subdued but rousing speech here in Nov. 6, 1941 as the Nazis bombed the city above.

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Take the 3/Green line one station to:

2. Belorusskaya. Opened in 1952, named after the connected Belarussky Rail Terminal, which runs trains between Moscow and Belarus. This is a light marble affair with a white, cake-like ceiling, lined with Belorussian patterns and 12 Florentine ceiling mosaics depicting life in Belarussia when it was built.

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Transfer onto the 1/Brown line. Then, one stop (clockwise) t o:

3. Novoslobodskaya.  This station was designed around the stained-glass panels, which were made in Latvia, because Alexey Dushkin, the Soviet starchitect who dreamed it up (and also designed Mayakovskaya station) couldn’t find the glass and craft locally. The stained glass is the same used for Riga’s Cathedral, and the panels feature plants, flowers, members of the Soviet intelligentsia (musician, artist, architect) and geometric shapes.

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Go two stops east on the 1/Circle line to:

4. Komsomolskaya. Named after the Komsomol, or the Young Communist League, this might just be peak Stalin Metro style. Underneath the hub for three regional railways, it was intended to be a grand gateway to Moscow and is today its busiest station. It has chandeliers; a yellow ceiling with Baroque embellishments; and in the main hall, a colossal red star overlaid on golden, shimmering tiles. Designer Alexey Shchusev designed it as an homage to the speech Stalin gave at Red Square on Nov. 7, 1941, in which he invoked Russia’s illustrious military leaders as a pep talk to Soviet soldiers through the first catastrophic year of the war.   The station’s eight large mosaics are of the leaders referenced in the speech, such as Alexander Nevsky, a 13th-century prince and military commander who bested German and Swedish invading armies.

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One more stop clockwise to Kurskaya station,  and change onto the 3/Blue  line, and go one stop to:

5. Baumanskaya.   Opened in 1944. Named for the Bolshevik Revolutionary Nikolai Bauman , whose monument and namesake district are aboveground here. Though he seemed like a nasty piece of work (he apparently once publicly mocked a woman he had impregnated, who later hung herself), he became a Revolutionary martyr when he was killed in 1905 in a skirmish with a monarchist, who hit him on the head with part of a steel pipe. The station is in Art Deco style with atmospherically dim lighting, and a series of bronze sculptures of soldiers and homefront heroes during the War. At one end, there is a large mosaic portrait of Lenin.

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Stay on that train direction one more east to:

6. Elektrozavodskaya. As you may have guessed from the name, this station is the Metro’s tribute to all thing electrical, built in 1944 and named after a nearby lightbulb factory. It has marble bas-relief sculptures of important figures in electrical engineering, and others illustrating the Soviet Union’s war-time struggles at home. The ceiling’s recurring rows of circular lamps give the station’s main tunnel a comforting glow, and a pleasing visual effect.

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Double back two stops to Kurskaya station , and change back to the 1/Circle line. Sit tight for six stations to:

7. Kiyevskaya. This was the last station on the Circle line to be built, in 1954, completed under Nikita Khrushchev’ s guidance, as a tribute to his homeland, Ukraine. Its three large station halls feature images celebrating Ukraine’s contributions to the Soviet Union and Russo-Ukrainian unity, depicting musicians, textile-working, soldiers, farmers. (One hall has frescoes, one mosaics, and the third murals.) Shortly after it was completed, Khrushchev condemned the architectural excesses and unnecessary luxury of the Stalin era, which ushered in an epoch of more austere Metro stations. According to the legend at least, he timed the policy in part to ensure no Metro station built after could outshine Kiyevskaya.

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Change to the 3/Blue line and go one stop west.

8. Park Pobedy. This is the deepest station on the Metro, with one of the world’s longest escalators, at 413 feet. If you stand still, the escalator ride to the surface takes about three minutes .) Opened in 2003 at Victory Park, the station celebrates two of Russia’s great military victories. Each end has a mural by Georgian artist Zurab Tsereteli, who also designed the “ Good Defeats Evil ” statue at the UN headquarters in New York. One mural depicts the Russian generals’ victory over the French in 1812 and the other, the German surrender of 1945. The latter is particularly striking; equal parts dramatic, triumphant, and gruesome. To the side, Red Army soldiers trample Nazi flags, and if you look closely there’s some blood spatter among the detail. Still, the biggest impressions here are the marble shine of the chessboard floor pattern and the pleasingly geometric effect if you view from one end to the other.

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Keep going one more stop west to:

9. Slavyansky Bulvar.  One of the Metro’s youngest stations, it opened in 2008. With far higher ceilings than many other stations—which tend to have covered central tunnels on the platforms—it has an “open-air” feel (or as close to it as you can get, one hundred feet under). It’s an homage to French architect Hector Guimard, he of the Art Nouveau entrances for the Paris M é tro, and that’s precisely what this looks like: A Moscow homage to the Paris M é tro, with an additional forest theme. A Cyrillic twist on Guimard’s Metro-style lettering over the benches, furnished with t rees and branch motifs, including creeping vines as towering lamp-posts.

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Stay on the 3/Blue line and double back four stations to:

10. Arbatskaya. Its first iteration, Arbatskaya-Smolenskaya station, was damaged by German bombs in 1941. It was rebuilt in 1953, and designed to double as a bomb shelter in the event of nuclear war, although unusually for stations built in the post-war phase, this one doesn’t have a war theme. It may also be one of the system’s most elegant: Baroque, but toned down a little, with red marble floors and white ceilings with gilded bronze c handeliers.

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Jump back on the 3/Blue line  in the same direction and take it one more stop:

11. Ploshchad Revolyutsii (Revolution Square). Opened in 1938, and serving Red Square and the Kremlin . Its renowned central hall has marble columns flanked by 76 bronze statues of Soviet heroes: soldiers, students, farmers, athletes, writers, parents. Some of these statues’ appendages have a yellow sheen from decades of Moscow’s commuters rubbing them for good luck. Among the most popular for a superstitious walk-by rub: the snout of a frontier guard’s dog, a soldier’s gun (where the touch of millions of human hands have tapered the gun barrel into a fine, pointy blade), a baby’s foot, and a woman’s knee. (A brass rooster also sports the telltale gold sheen, though I am told that rubbing the rooster is thought to bring bad luck. )

Now take the escalator up, and get some fresh air.

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The Moscow Metro – MCC – MCD – everything about capital’s subway

Moscow Metro map and journey planner app called Yandex.Metro is available for iOS and Android for free.

We have a great Moscow Metro & Stalin Skyscrapers Private Tour across all famous metro stations, available for you every day.

1. Famous Moscow metro stations

Kievskaya (circle line).

Kievskaya Metro Station (Circle line)

The station was opened on March 14, 1954. It was named after the nearby Kievsky Railway Station. Decorating of station is devoted to friendship of Russian and Ukrainian people. Rich mosaic decoration is made from smalt and valuable stones by project of Ukrainian architects, chosen from seventy-three works presented on competition.

Kievskaya (Dark-blue line)

«A holiday in Kiev» wall painting at Kievskaya Metro Station (Dark-Blue line)

It was opened on April 5, 1953. Design of the station is devoted to the Soviet Ukraine and reunion of Ukraine and Russia. The station is decorated with a large number of the picturesque cloths executed in style of socialist realism in fresco technique. The fresco «Holiday in Kiev», made in 1953 was practically destroyed in 2010, due to an accident during nearby constructing works. While the fresco recovery, restorers revived its original appearance that had gone through many changes since its creation.

Ploshad Revolutsii

Famous dog at Ploshchad Revolyutsii Metro Station

The station was opened on March 13, 1938. The most interesting feature of the station is 76 bronze figures, situated in niches of 18 arches. This peculiar gallery of images of Soviet people, aimed to personify force and power of the country, its glorious past and bright future. One of the bronze sculptures — a dog that accompanies a frontier guard — is believed to bring good luck if you touch its nose.

Prospekt Mira

Prospekt Mira Metro Station

Prospect Mira station of the Circle line was opened on January 30, 1952. It used to be called Botanical Garden up to June 20, 1966. The station’s decoration is devoted to development of agriculture in the USSR. Light marble and bas-reliefs by sculptor G. I. Motovilov decorate poles of the station. Famous smalt panel «Mothers of the World» by A. N. Kuznetsov is situated in the lobby.

Komsomolskaya

Komsomolskaya Metro Station

Komsomolskaya station was opened on January 30, 1952. The station has rich decoration devoted to a fight of USSR against overseas aggressors and victory in the Great Patriotic War. Mosaic panels from smalt and valuable stones, created according to sketches of the Lenin Award winner Pavel Corin, represent famous Russian commanders and weapons of different eras.

Novokuznetskaya

Roof mosaic at Novokuznetskaya Metro Station

The station was opened on November 20, 1943. Its name was originally written through a hyphen: ‘Novo-Kuznetskaya’. The interior of the station is rich with decorating elements. The idea of creative force and power of Soviet people, its remarkable victories in the Great Patriotic War found realization in architectural design of station. The perimeter of the escalator arch is decorated with bronze sculptures by the sculptor N.V.Tomsky.

Novoslobodskaya

Novoslobodskaya Metro Station

Novoslobodskaya station was opened on January 30, 1952. It was called after Novoslobodskaya street, where the station is situated. 32 original stained-glass windows from multi-colored glass, framed with steel and gilded brass and the famous mosaic panel «World peace», situated at the face wall the station, are made by sketches of Pavel Dmitriyevich Corin.

Dostoyevskaya

Portrait of Fyodor Dostoyevsky at Dostoyevskaya Metro Station

Dostoevskaya is comparatively new station, opened on June 19, 2010. It is situated at Suvorovskaya Square. Russian writer Fedor Dostoyevsky was born and lived in this district of Moscow. Therefore, the station bears his name and features scenes from his works «Crime and Punishment», «The Idiot», «Demons», «The Brothers Karamazov». Artist Ivan Nikolaev, the author of the decoration, said that depicting scenes of violence shows depth and tragedy of Dostoevsky’s work.

2. General information about Moscow metro

Metro working hours, navigation, wi-fi.

The Moscow Metro is open from about 5:30 am until 1:00 am. The precise opening time varies at different stations according to the arrival of the first train, but all stations simultaneously close their entrances and transitions to other lines at 01:00 am for maintenance. The minimum interval between trains is 90 seconds during the morning and evening rush hours. Each line is identified according to an alphanumeric index (usually consisting of a number), a name and a color. Voice announcements in Russian refer to the lines by name and by numbers in English. A male voice announces the next station when traveling towards the center of the city or the clockwise direction on the circle line, and a female voice – when going away from the center or the counter-clockwise direction at the circle. The lines are also assigned specific colors for maps and signs.

Free Wi-Fi is called MT_FREE and available on all 14 lines (inside the trains).

Using Metro services is frequently the fastest and the most efficient way to get from one part of the city to another. But during daytime Moscow Metro stations are usually overcrowded so if you want to just enjoy the beauty of the underground, it’s better to visit it late in the evening.

MCC and MCD

Since 2016 The Moscow Metro is connected to two new types of rail transport. The first one is MCC – Moscow Central Circle. It has 31 stations around the city with changes to metro stations (most of them require to walk a few minutes via the street). The second one is MCD, Moscow Central Diameters, a system of city train services on existing commuter rail lines in Moscow and Moscow Oblast. MCD has several lines, they’re being marked as D1, D2 etc. Changing to both MCC and MCD from the Metro is free when your journey is within the city. Both MCC and MCD lines exist on all of the Moscow Metro maps.

Interesting facts about Moscow metro

213 people were born in the metro during the World War II, when it was used as a bomb shelter.

There are 76 bronze sculptures of workers, peasants, soldiers, sailors, etc. at Ploshchad Revolyutsii station. There is legend connected with this station. To pass any examination successfully, a student should touch the bronze dog’s nose («the Frontier Guard with a Dog» sculpture). You can easily understand high popularity of this legend by looking at the polished nose of the dog.

It is said that some of the magnificent mosaics at several central stations, for example the «World Peace» mosaic at Novoslobodskaya, were made with the pieces of enamel and smalt, taken from the famous Christ the Savior Cathedral, before it’s destruction.

As any other dungeon the Moscow metro, has its own ghosts. The most famous one is the old lineman. He is not dangerous and usually hides into the wall, when people appear. The ghostly metro train is much more dangerous. It appears after midnight at the Circle Line and consists of old-time carriages. It sometimes stops at the stations and opens its doors, and then goes back into the darkness. It is said that the souls of Stalin’s prisoners, perished during the building of the metro are locked in the train forever.

3. Moscow Metro tickets

1 or 2 trips.

You can buy tickets in ticket offices or in automatic ticket machines. Passes for 1 or 2 trips are the most expensive. They sold only in ATM and cost 55 and 110 rubles (€0.75 and €1.51) respectively.

More than 2 trips

All the other kinds of tickets are available in the ticket offices. Tickets for bigger amount of trips are more profitable.

«90 Minutes» ticket

A ticket «90 minutes» is valid for one trip on the metro and an unlimited number of trips on surface transport within this time. It costs 65 rub (€0.89).

The «Troyka» card

You can also use «Troyka» – refillable card to pay for travelling on all kinds of public transport – metro, buses, trolley-buses, trams, monorail and blue minibuses. With «Troyka» one trip costs 35 rub (€0.48).

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    The Gurdon Light is said to be an eerie white-blue, sometimes orange, glowing light that moves through the trees near the railroad tracks, off Interstate 30 in southern Arkansas. Local legend...

  6. HOLMBERG: The legend of the ghost light of Cohoke, West Point

    WEST POINT, Va. -- For 100 years, folks have come to this rural railroad crossing on state Route 632 to look down the rifle-straight railroad tracks for the "ghost light," or, more simply ...

  7. The St. Louis Ghost Train

    For decades, a mysterious floating light has appeared over the train tracks north of St. Louis, Saskatchewan. Described variously, by a varying selection of ...

  8. Ghost light legend haunts King William railroad crossing

    A woman and her daughter were killed traveling Mt. Olive Cohoke Road when their car was hit by a train in the 1950s, Palmer said. "We don't have dramatic things like decapitations," Palmer ...

  9. Ghost Trains Around The World (Including Lincoln's Funeral Train)

    While the term "ghost train" is used to refer to real-life trains that run along the lines without passengers to keep the track clear, the trains in these stories are thought to be actual, literal ghosts (though sometimes they're both).

  10. The Legend Of The St. Louis Ghost Train, Saskatchewan, Canada

    Appearance: Subject typically appears as a strange light floating on or near what used to be a set of a train tracks running by the small town of St. Louis in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. (The railway to which the "light" purportedly belongs is no longer in operation.) The light may be white or red, depending on the account; it also may be large or small, again depending on the ...

  11. The Maco Light: North Carolina Railroad Ghost Story

    News of the Maco Light ghost story spread throughout the country. Soon it became one of the South's best known hauntings. Locals and tourists alike flocked to the bend in the track where the accident took place, hoping to catch a glimpse of the light. ... In the 1970s, the railroad pulled up the train tracks at Maco. Soon afterwards, the Maco ...

  12. Chapel Hill Light

    Location: Chapel Hill, Tennessee Appearance: A disc-shaped light along the train tracks. Folklore: A man who fell onto the tracks and got knocked out was decapitated and now wanders, searching for his missing head.

  13. St. Louis light

    The St. Louis Light, St. Louis Ghost Light, or St. Louis Ghost Train is a supposed paranormal phenomenon seen near Saint Louis, Saskatchewan, Canada. It has been described by witnesses as a huge beam of white light, reminiscent of a locomotive headlamp. [1]

  14. Maco light

    The Maco Light was a supposedly anomalous light, or "ghost light", occasionally seen between the late 19th century and 1977 along a section of railroad track near the unincorporated community of Maco Station in Brunswick County, North Carolina.Said to resemble the glow from a railroad lantern, the light was associated with a folk tale describing a fatal accident, which may have inspired tales ...

  15. Ghost Light Haunts Chapel Hill's Railroad Tracks

    Many years ago along the railroad track one night, A man was walking home and held a lantern for his light. He never heard the whistle scream or the mighty engine pound, He never even knew it, when the freight train ran him down. The engineer ran back in time to see the poor man die, But as he neared the tragic spot a light rose in the sky.

  16. The Mystery Behind the Gurdon Ghost Light

    Unlike some of other Arkansas hauntings, the Gurdon ghost light is a present phenomenon and not something that's only been seen in the past. It's been seen on television, photographed by tourists and generally accepted as existing. Unsolved Mysteries even came to town to document it in 1994. The mystery isn't whether it exists or not.

  17. Tennessee Ghost Stories: The Chapel Hill Ghost Light

    By allen June 5, 2022. The small town of Chapel Hill, Tennessee is said to be the home of a restless, wayward spirit who walks along the train tracks carrying a lantern. There are several different stories about who the man is. Some say he was a railroad employee, others say he was someone in town who was hit by a train.

  18. Cohoke Ghost Light at West Point, VA

    VAPI travels to West Point, VA in search of the mysterious Ghost Light that has been seen moving along the train tracks at Cohoke Crossing.

  19. The Legend of the Headless Railroad Man and the Ghost Lights ...

    Accounts share a common theme of a light appearing as a faint flicker in the distance, growing stronger, and swaying from side to side as if it were moving down the track and coming closer.

  20. Back on track: The high-speed train from Las Vegas to California is

    All-new tracks will be built for trains running at speeds of up to 200 MPH—powered by solar and geothermal energy from California and Nevada operating a catenary system of overhead wires ...

  21. CTA Chicago: Orange Line train service disrupted due to track

    Person found dead on CTA tracks near O'Hare: CPD Metra passes $1.1B budget, major fare structure changes coming 2024 CTA 'ghost buses' continue to frustrate riders, agency working to fix

  22. Chicago lights train tracks on fire amid extreme cold

    Chicago lights train tracks on fire amid extreme cold. There were no winners in Chicago on Friday night for a ceremony celebrating the greatest winners in franchise history. NASA and Lockheed Martin have finally taken the wraps off of the X-59, a "quiet supersonic" aircraft that may shape the future of both military and civilian air travel.

  23. Salt built this California ghost town. Now salt is destroying it.

    During a visit on an October morning in 2023, I saw metal half-pipes with their tops rusting away. Wooden train tracks had frayed into limp, wispy splinters.

  24. 5 famous ghosts that you might meet on the streets of Moscow

    There are many scary stories about the Moscow metro. For example, it's dangerous to ride in the ordinary train cars of the orange line after midnight on one particular day of the year. It first ...

  25. Most Beautiful Metro Stations in Moscow

    Novoslobodskaya Station. The pillars in the main hall of Novoslobodskaya metro station have the most colourful stained glass decorations. The golden arches and the golden mosaic with a naked lady holding a baby in front of the Soviet hammer and sickle, make the drama complete. 4. Prospect Mira Station.

  26. How to get around Moscow using the underground metro

    But since 2011, the Metro has been in the middle of an ambitious and long-overdue enlargement; 60 new stations are opening by 2020. If all goes to plan, the 2011-2020 period will have brought 125 miles of new tracks and over 100 new stations — a 40 percent increase — the fastest and largest expansion phase in any period in the Metro's ...

  27. The Moscow Metro

    MCC and MCD. Since 2016 The Moscow Metro is connected to two new types of rail transport. The first one is MCC - Moscow Central Circle. It has 31 stations around the city with changes to metro stations (most of them require to walk a few minutes via the street). The second one is MCD, Moscow Central Diameters, a system of city train services ...