The 8:05 train from North Shore Cove was late. Not just a little bit late. It was a lot late. The kind of late that made folks who were waiting to pick up their loved ones uneasy. Some were pacing now, anxious, repeatedly getting up from their chairs to search out the windows, and then back to sit down again. Conversations in the room were subdued. With no explanation offered from the train staff, folks were starting to fear the worst.
The agent behind the ticket window just shook his head. He didn’t know why the train was so late. No information had been passed on to him. They were checking into it.
His phone rang. After a brief exchange, the agent rose. He leaned through his wicket and called out to the crowd. “It’s here.”
Suddenly the roar of the train engine could be heard. As it rumbled closer, its vibrations through the concrete floor felt like a thousand stampeding horses. Its whistle shrieked. Finally, its air pots puffing and spurting, the train slowed and then rolled to a stop.
Elated, the crowd spewed through the doors out onto the platform in search of its tardy travelers.
Speed-rail Express, a behemoth white, metal rail transporter--that looked like a giant segmented worm--let out one last long blast of air and then swung its doors open. Excited passengers poured like ants onto the platform and then swarmed into the waiting room in search of their luggage. Everyone seemed to be talking at once.
The train engineer and his two conductors dismounted and followed the crowd into the building. Seeing their approach, the ticket agent pulled the office door wide for them to enter. Their expressions were overly wide-eyed and looked odd.
“What happened to you guys?” Steve, the ticket agent, said, spluttering his relief at seeing them. “You didn’t call in and no one’s been able to get hold of you.”
The three trainmen looked at one another. Al, one of the conductors, reached for 4 cups out of the cupboard and poured coffee into them. “You had to be there to believe it!” he said.
The crew, Al, George, the other conductor, and Bill, the engineer, pulled out chairs and sat at the large round staff table. Steve returned to the ticket window to check for customers and saw that the building was empty; he joined the men around the table. “Okay, so tell me what happened,” he said, looking into each of their faces.
“Sheez”, said Bill, spluttering his opinion of their experience. He lifted his cap, ran his fingers through his hair and plopped his cap onto his head again. His hands began to describe in the air. He said, “There was this guy—we all saw him--some long-haired hippie wearing a bathrobe... We could see him walking down the tracks about to cross the river bridge, about a half mile away. Sun was setting, nearly blinded us--gave the guy kind of a crazy glow all around him. We gave the horn but he didn’t get off. He just kept walking. We had no choice... I threw the brakes on and we were almost to a stop when we got to him... and he just disappeared. One minute he was there, and the next, poof, he was gone. He was off the tracks so I threw the engine into gear again, but I stalled it, instead. It just powered down and died. And then I couldn’t get it to start again. We tried to call it in, but the radio was dead. Not even static. It was so totally weird. Everything just quit. So Al gets out to take a look around and he finds a rail from one of the tracks has been pulled out of place. Somebody had been up to no good because we found truck tire tracks in the dirt leading away from that spot.”
“If we hadn’t stopped for that guy... if we had hit that gap... we’d have derailed and been in the water for sure!” said Al.
“So, we’re 20 minutes out of Peyton, can’t go anywhere, and no radio,” said Bill. “We get out the nails and sledge hammer and get the rail hammered back into place again... And wouldn’t you know it, we try the engine, and it starts up again, no problem.
And as we rolled into Peyton, the radio kicked in again,” said George. “It was all just the weirdest thing...”
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