Ghost Tracks: Surprising Stories Of The Supernatural On Rails
Jay Underwood

Railfare*DC Books

If you want ghost stories, you could be disappointed in Ghost Tracks. If you love trains, you’ll love this book.

Jay Underwood, Maritime-born-and-bred journalist and train aficionado, is now in his fifth term as president of the Nova Scotia Railway Heritage Society, and has written four books on trains, focusing on topics “not previously covered by conventional history texts.” Ghost Tracks is no exception. With a subtitle of “How death, disease, wrecks, bridge curses and even ghosts haunted Nova Scotia’s railways,” Ghost Tracks shows that Underwood knows very odd things about trains.

Unfortunately for the reader who wants supernatural chills, the real chills come from the conditions of the times – from the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth centuries, when train wrecks were a frighteningly common occurrence. Underwood does discuss the ghosts and “hoodoo” locomotives but he tries to discern the true stories behind the legends, and has used genealogists, railway records, and oral tradition to do so. The reader is left with an image of the engineers and firemen as tough, hard-working, courageous men who met horrible deaths amid twisted metal and hissing steam. Even if – as it seems – the ghost stories cannot be tied to any specific time or event, the true stories of the Intercolonial Railway have dash and colour beyond any fairy tale.

Ghost Tales has a delightfully meandering quality as Underwood follows the byways of his research, and the mindful reader can be led down many different paths of Maritime history. Underwood himself admits to a ghostly encounter in his youth, and so it is to his credit that he brings logic and reason to bear on all the supposed Nova Scotia sightings, giving every rational explanation possible for the supposedly supernatural events. mRb