Ghost train

This one has pulled me up short, and I haven’t got a clue what to do with it. But it’s fascinating for a number of reasons; for one, it clearly describes the railway at Brownhills in the late Victorian era. For a second, it details the water main alongside the track. For a third, it’s utterly mad and delightful at the same time.

Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler found this in the Lichfield Mercury from December, 1904, and it’s credited to one ‘Emm Kay’, clearly a pseudonym. It’s a gem of a find, and rather striking, I have to say, in it’s apparent modernity.

The images I’ve used with the article are all local, and have come from the wonderful South Staffordshire Railway website. It’s really worth a visit.

Thanks to Peter for a bostin’ find. I just wish I knew a better way to approach it…


The cutting through Brownhills can’t have changed much for a century or more. This shot from Dave Cresswell and the South Staffordshire Railway website.

The Ghost of Old Ogley Cutting.

It wanted but a a few minutes to midnight, in the Christmas week of 188-, when Joe Lekly left the office, and wished he is mate Bill Holt a good night on the platform of Red Hills station. The traffic had been unusually heavy even for Christmas time, and Joe and Bill had looked after the station by themselves from 6 o’clock in the evening, as was usual on their late shift, and were therefore anxious to get home as soon as possible. Bill, who was a porter at the station, would reach his home in the village in a few minutes, while Joe, who was a booking clerk, had rather more than 2 miles to traverse before reaching his residence in an adjoining parish.

Deciding to go down the line, the shorter way home, Joe set off at a swinging stride, and was soon in the shade of Old Ogly Cutting. The Moon shone beautifully clear and bright, but a decided gloom pervaded the cutting, the sides of which which ran steeply up for nearly 50 feet. The line here led away from the town, or, to be more correct, at the time the large village of the Red Hills, a mining centre in the South Staffordshire coalfield, by the way of the cutting for nearly a mile. At the mouth of the cutting were some extensive sidings, where one of the largest collieries in the district turned over its coal traffic to the railway company.

Untitled 5

The empty shunting yard at Norton Junction, just off the Pelsall Road. Image from the South Staffordshire Railway website.

Joe often called at the signal box at these sidings, and passed an hour or two with his old friend Dick Gilton, one of the signalman, and never tired of listening to old Dick’s quaint sayings. These sometimes treated of the supernatural, but Dick generally failed to make much impression on Joe, as on the question of ghosts the latter was always very sceptical.

As Dick resided on the outskirts of a Red Hills, near the line, they sometimes met in the cutting. On the night in question, therefore, although anxious to get home, Joe was on the lookout for his old friend. The lane where Dick resided was reached by a path worn into the side of the bank. On reaching the spot Joe stopped, and looked about in the hope of seeing Dick.

As he thus paused a strange noise arrested his attention. He could not define it. At first it seemed like a sudden rush of wind, passing without being felt. Gradually the noise increased to a roar, a shriek, and most earsplitting, hideous, and terrible rush of sound. And such a sound! It seemed hiss, whistle, roar and shriek to such an extent that for many seconds Joe could not imagine where he stood, or what to do. And yet there was nothing but sound. No object or variation in the stillness of the atmosphere except this terrifying sound, which he could hear and not understand. The creepy feeling so well known soon had possession of Joe, and it was only when a terrible sound was dying out that he roused himself, and tried to find out from whence it came. It had lasted probably the minute, during which time many of his old friend Gilton’s stories at flashed through Joe’s mind. He now dashed up the bank and, quickly reaching the top of the cutting, looked in all directions for any object to which he would have been glad to attribute the strange occurrence. Nothing, however, was visible, the stillness of the moment being in great contrast to the experience just gone through.

Untitled 4

The ghostly abandoned signal box at Norton Junction.Image from the South Staffordshire Railway website.

Very thoughtful and subdued Joe resumed his journey home, and was in no mood to do justice to the supper his mother had waiting for him. Nor could he sleep, but lay pondering on the strange experience, endeavouring to fit the circumstances too many causes, but in all he failed. Next morning found him in a strangely silent mood, so unusual to is ordinary manner that his mother judged him to be ill.

Now, he had always expressed himself strongly against things supernatural, yet Joe could not forget the incident just narrated. At the station his preoccupied and quite behaviour attracted the attention of his mates, and in response  to ‘what’s up old chap?’ from Bill, the porter and questioning looks from the stationmaster he answered that ‘he had heard a ghost.’

‘Seen a ghost, you mean,’ said Bill

‘No’ said Joe, ‘I mean what I say, I’ve heard one. I wish I’d seen it. But a any rate I mean to find if it is to be found.’

Joe thereupon recounted it adventure of the previous night, adding that he would be on the alert, and if the strange noise came again he hoped to be prepared for it.

Some six months afterwards, on a very dark night we again find Joe going home by way of the cutting. The time was about 11:30. He was carrying you his lamp and walking along at a  good place in the ‘six-foot’ way, between the up and down roads, every few minutes looking around for the head light of a train that was due, and for which of the signals were already lowered. He could hear the rumble of the train along way behind him, a train of empty coal wagons from the sidings lower down the line. As long as he saw no lights he thought himself safe, it being compulsory on the part of the locomotive men to have a distinguishing headlight upon the engine, according to the class of train.

Joe used to pride himself upon possessing great presence of mind, and had no doubt of doing the necessary thing at the right moment. But the vanity of youth! What blows do not time and experienced deal to it. He was young and hearty, and had not met his superior at several kinds of athletics, and certainly never thought that at a critical moment he would be found in doing the wrong thing.

Untitled 3

The days of coal and steam. Image from the South Staffordshire Railway website.

He had just passed the scene of his startling experience of some months before, when again came the terrible noise, rendered more fearful and hideous by the intense darkness which this time filled the cutting. Simultaneously with the terrifying recurrence of the ‘sound’ came the train from behind, the engine, it’s tender first looming up large, and nearly on top of our young friend, and without it’s warning headlight. Standing in the six-foot way as he was, instead of simply moving to the right, and so out of the way of train, he made a slanting spring across the rails in front of the engine, dropping in to the “grip” or ditch at the foot of the cutting. So dangerous had been the result of this foolish leap that the lamp he swung in his right hand was struck by the buffer of the engine. As he pulled himself up the train, a short one, came to a stand. The fireman, reaching him as he scrambled to his feet, seemed very much relieved to finding him uninjured as he and the driver certainly thought that the engine had killed the owner of the lamp. By this time the mysterious sound had subsided, and getting on to the engine Joe rode down to the sidings with the men, and agreed with them to say nothing of the absence of their headlight. He visited Old Dick, who was on duty in the signal box, and related to him his double experience with the strange noise. In return Dick told him that he too, sometimes heard queer noises, and in his droll way introduced ghosts and goblins, and said that the place was full of them. Joe, however, was not satisfied, and was vexed at an interpretation of the sound by his adventure with the engine, and although perhaps a trifle scared looked forward with something more than curiosity for a repetition of it.

Another beautiful night, and but two days from Christmas. Old Ogley cutting this time lit up by the moon sailing nearly overhead.

Our friend Joe had just met old Dick at the foot of the path by which he would shortly leave the line for his home. The old man was resting, one foot forward upon a square bridge structure, much like the top of a ‘well’. I must here mention that the large main water pipes from a waterworks some miles down the line ran alongside of the railway. In some places there were visible on the surface, at others they were laid in the earth and inches below the surface only. The brick structure referred to would be sometimes like 8 feet deep, and stood perhaps a couple of feet above the level of the ditch at the base of the cutting. These places existed at distances about half a mile apart, and were understood to be used for the ‘shutting off’ of the water on emergencies, or during sectional repairs or renewals of the pipes.

Untitled 3

Everything looks more ghostly in black and white… Image from the South Staffordshire Railway website.

Whilst our friends were chatting, discussing the events of the day, and of  the approaching holiday season, Joe for the third time within the year heard the premonitory notes of the terrible sound, and in an instant, as Dick jumped away from the “well” apparently startled, the source of the mysterious sounds flashed to his mind. Dick must also have guessed the solution of the problem, as on Joe remarking “We have found our ghost,” he chuckled in his old quiet way. He then explained that it was occasioned by the engine at the head of the pumping station being put into motion after a stand. The water in the pipes subsiding during a stoppage in pumping for particular purposes some air got into them, and this being driven along on the resumption of pumping, and reaching these several structures, with their accumulation of pipes and joints, the terrible music which had so startled our young friend was a result.

Joe’s startling experiences were thus ended, and the ghost of Old Ogley cutting was laid.

This entry was posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Just plain daft, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Ghost train

  1. Rob says:

    Fascinating story.
    May have to revisit Dickens’ “The Signalman” or something by MR James after that!

  2. Ryan says:

    This is really odd I used to be Shelfield school and for odd time me and my friends keep heading what sounded like steam trains. I have been interested in ghost myths and Legends for years and looked into ghost trains and found you and I have found other links to Ghost trains on the old South Stafrodshire line. I’d like to do an Investigation on it and several more haunted locations in Walsall, Rushall, and Bloxwich.

  3. Mick McNulty says:

    I have found this after searching for strange sightings in this area. I am not from nor familiar with the area but have recently encountered a strange sighting in this very area….
    I have just returned from a two week tour of the canal network around the four counties with my wife and two children. One day whilst happily chugging along my daughter (9yrs) who was up top with me told me she could see a train through the trees. I looked across and could see a train which looked white moving at speed running parallel with us. I glanced at it and dismissed it as yet another train which i had seen many on my trip. I then thought and looked at my map as i thought we had left the main line some time ago. When i looked at my canal map i was shocked to see that there was no railway line just a drawing of what was a dismantled line……
    i have since found articles around this area describing hauntings on betting cutting and now this one. Has anyone else sighted any trains in this area? I cannot explain what we saw as there is nothing in that area after re visiting….

  4. Pingback: A ghost of a chance… | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.