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Big 6, The Ghost Train

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A big 6

A Big Six on a turntable.

I was twelve-years-old spending a fair amount of time at my grandmother's cabin at Pine Grove State Furnace. Pine Grove has always been haunted, mostly due to Fuller Lake, a water-filled, old, open pit iron mine. Though the Park Service has gone so far as to send divers down to the bottom to prove that no one was killed, many people have seen ghostly horses stampeding from the old stables to the lake and into the water, making it glow a deep blue before disappearing. My story, as far as I'm aware, has never been duplicated or replicated. It involves an old iron horse that wasn't quite ready to be scrap.

I was walking back along the old railbed that runs from Laural Lake (a man-made lake, slightly larger lake than Fuller) at dusk in June. I did not fear being alone in the woods after dark; I knew the woods and the mountain as well as the back of my hand, just like my father did before me. It had just turned fully dark when I noticed something peculiar. It was silent. Dead silent.

People that are from the woods will tell you that it is almost never completely silent. There's always some critter rustling through the leaves, a cicada or cricket chirping, a great horned owl hooting its dominance. The fact that there was nothing unnerved me and made me anxious to get back to the cozy little cabin. So I increased my pace.

I was more or less speed walking along this deserted, silent trail. The only sound I heard was my sneakers crunching on the cinders. Tall pine trees on both sides of the trail cast shadows down on me, making it difficult to see. I was just reflecting on how dark it was when I heard a sound I will never forget for as long as I live. 

The long, lonesome wail of a steam whistle. 

I recognized it from a trip to the Strausburg Railway when I was younger. Nothing in the woods could replicate that sound. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I looked around. The place was as empty as a church on Monday. I was in a deserted part of the trail, the nearest cabin was two miles away in the opposite direction. I simply told myself that my mind was playing tricks on me and kept walking. Then I heard it again, and it was getting closer! 

A faint light appeared behind me, so faint that it was barely recognizable as a light source. I told myself that it was swamp gas (it is quite a marshy area around the trail) and that my mind was continuing to pull sound out of nothing to make up for the silence. I kept walking, thinking about fresh biscuits and wild grape jam to take my mind off of things when I noticed that the light was slowly growing brighter. I had seen swamp gas lights before, they usually only lasted moments and weren't terribly bright. The main thing that told me that it wasn't my mind, was the ground. It was vibrating. 

The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight as arrows. Earthquakes weren't unheard of, but it felt and sounded like something heavy pounding the ground rather than a jarring movement of an earthquake. I was properly scared, thinking about Wendigos and other supernatural monsters that lived in the woods. I stepped off the trail and crouched down by a thick pine tree, waiting for whatever it was to go by and let me go on with my business. I became aware of a slow snorting sound, making me again think of the giant 80 foot Wendigos that turned people into cannibals with their touch. I also realized that the light was growing brighter and the rumbling of the ground was slowing down. It came around a long sweeping curve at a crawl, slowing to a stop in front of me. 

It was a Big Six, a 2-10-2 Baltimore and Ohio operated locomotive, Number 6666. It hissed to a stop, its giant driving wheels resting on the bare cinders. It was shrouded in a light blue mist of steam and wore a deep black coat of paint that seemed to suck all available light into it except the bright light of the front spotlight. The steam mist, when it hit me, turned cold. I bit hard on my knuckles trying to control myself. Two blue lights were in its cab, as if on cue. One hopped down and crouched in the bushes for a moment. I heard a sound of stressed steel and a clack. An invisible switch had been thrown by the ghost fireman. The blue light then took the opportunity to walk slowly around his 91-foot-long, evil-looking locomotive before casually climbing back up the ladder into the cab. I then saw the firebox open and I heard such a scream, the kind of scream you'd never want to hear again, the sound of someone being roasted alive. Almost as quickly as it had opened, the firebox door shut with a clang and then a long soulfully sad song of the whistle chimed again. 

Big Six puffed a blue cloud of steam up out of its short black smokestack, as it rolled slowly across the invisible switch. It took a sharp, almost 90 degree turn, much too sharp for any real locomotive and puffed away into the woods. The whole encounter lasted probably no more than four or five minutes. But believe me, I had seen more than enough. I did the rest of the trail at a dead sprint, and didn't stop until I was in the cabin with the thick wooden door locked behind me. My grandparents, parents and friends have tried unsuccessfully to get this story out of me. But I had never told about it until this day, the story about how I had seen one of the scrapped Big Sixes that burned people for fuel.

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