Sit down dear reader, get comfortable, let the train take the strain, as I regale you with the true life encounter of a phantom vehicle witnessed by myself back in the late 70’s . .
Tightly grasping each other’s hands we quickly scrambled up the steep incline, our pathway choked by brambles and weeds. Leslie yelled as a thorn bush encircled her ankle, tripping her and causing pinpricks of fresh blood to appear on her crisp white socks. After attempting to free my friend from her horticultural captor I felt the familiar tingle of nettle stings annoyingly prickling at my fingertips. This was not the start to our adventure we had imagined! Nevertheless, we continued to clamber precipitously as we were determined to investigate the highest point of the embankment at the rear of our adjoining homes.
Rising high above the ordinary row of terraced houses the seemingly perpendicular hill had been tempting us all summer, not because it was anything special, there was nothing grand or remarkable about it at all, the appeal came from the fact we were forbidden to play there and to two small children, this was reason enough! We had marveled at the bigger boys who had bravely stolen wire cutters from the nearby allotments and watched jealously as almost every afternoon they disappeared together through the hole they had snipped into the fence. So this is how we found ourselves scratched, stung and sore, disobediently trespassing on an old earthwork owned by British Rail.
Upon reaching the brow of the mound we stopped to catch our breath and consider our surroundings. Unimpressed by what we discovered there, we nonchalantly wandered down a cinder path, stopping periodically to gather small posies of clover, daisies and buttercups until boredom got the better of us.
We pondered the appeal of the place and thought it was perhaps time to head home when we spied a great, grey cloud on the horizon, it came into view quite unexpectedly and appeared to be heading towards the pair of us at an alarming rate. We exchanged worried glances, searching each other’s faces in the hope of finding an explanation there for the strange anomaly before us. Suddenly, we became aware of a deep rumbling sound accompanied by a shrill whistle then the grinding of cogs and gears.
Falling to the ground, I was roughly thrust aside by a powerful rush of air and looking up I could scarcely believe my eyes… .hurtling by my friend and I was a magnificent, green steam locomotive followed by three shabby but still elegant carriages! It huffed and puffed along the embankment beside us proudly chugging coal soot and steam into the atmosphere.
After such a shock, Leslie, being the oldest, gently took me by the arm and proceeded to carefully guide me back down the steep grassy slope.
Gingerly stepping back through the wire railings we were met by an irate group of our parents and neighbors all acutely concerned with our whereabouts.
As we began describing what we had witnessed that afternoon to account for our absence we found our explanation met with incredulous stares. The adults regarded us suspiciously and seemed completely unconvinced by our recount.
Incoherently babbling about the train we had seen we were stopped in mid-flow by my father, taking us to one side he patiently rationalised why our account was preposterous . . . steam engines had been replaced by diesel many years previously, trains had ceased to run along that particular (Marton) line in 1964 and by 1970 the tracks had been removed!!
As if this chronicle wasn’t ominous enough, there is also an uncanny postscript, Leslie and I were convinced we had been exploring for no more than an hour at most but according to our respective parents we had in reality been missing for the best part of the day, hence the search party!
Interestingly, the trackbed of this old rail route is still in existence, it is now ‘Yeadon Way’ the main road out of Blackpool Lancashire leading to the M55 motorway. I often wonder if anyone else has born witness to the phantasmagorical phenomenon of the spectral ghost train.