Ghosts, Wreckers, and Rotten Ties: The 1891 Train Wreck at Bostian’s Bridge

Just what had caused the train to derail and who was ultimately responsible for the twenty-two deaths that occurred? Was it the railroad’s fault for poor maintenance of the bridge, or had a gang of robbers removed a rail to deliberately wreck the train and rob the passengers? “Train Wreck of Bostian Bridge,” Stimson Studio, Statesville, North Carolina, 1891, State Archives of North Carolina.

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Ghosts, Wreckers, and Rotten Ties: The 1891 Train Wreck at Bostian’s Bridge

by Scott Huffard
Southern Cultures, Vol. 20, No. 2: Summer 2014

"When train number nine on the Western North Carolina Railroad tumbled off Bostian's Bridge in 1891, it ignited a media frenzy, as well as a firestorm of outrage, a detailed investigation, a compelling mystery, and a series of unanswered questions."

Norfolk Southern locomotives still rumble periodically over Bostian’s Bridge trestle, a 300-foot long stone bridge that rises 30 feet off the ground near Statesville, North Carolina. But supposedly, those aren’t the only trains on the track. As legend goes, on the anniversary of a wreck that occurred at the site on August 27, 1891, a ghost train hurtles off the bridge and crashes to the ground below. Visitors have claimed to see a uniformed man with a gold watch, or to hear the screams of doomed passengers and the clang of crashing metal. Statesville has thus played host to hordes of ghost hunters and paranormal researchers, who converge on the site every August 27 hoping to catch a glimpse of the haunted train. In 2010, tragedy struck the annual gathering when a party of ghost hunters encountered an actual freightliner barreling down the track. The group fled, but one man was struck and killed.