The Train at Bostian's Bridge

The Story

The year was 1891, and trains were still the primary mode of transportation in North Carolina. The invention of air-conditioning was quite a few years off, and people vacationed in the cool mountain air during the summer in order to escape the heat. Passenger train number Nine had just pulled out of Statesville, N.C., in the early morning hours of August 27, filled with folks from all over who were anxious to get to Asheville, the largest city in the mountains of North Carolina.
Baggage master H.K. Linster, a railroad employee of over thirty years, got up from his seat in order to check the gold watch given to him by the railroad for his years of faithful service. Though he was due to retire soon, railroading was in his blood, and he was mighty proud of his watch; truth be told, he was only setting it in the hope that someone might see him, and ask about the watch.
Unfortunately for Mr. Linster, nobody would ever get the chance on this trip. As the train barreled down the tracks southwest of Statesville, something went horribly wrong. Passenger train number Nine got about half way across the Bostian Bridge, which spanned a drop of well over 90 feet, and then suddenly the train jumped the tracks and plunged to the ground below, taking over a hundred people with it. Almost 30 people lost their lives that day in the wreck, including baggage master Linster, and nearly every survivor required medical attention. Pictures of the accident made the national news, and for a time everybody had seemingly heard of Bostian's Bridge in the town of Statesville, North Carolina. The following year, on August 27th, passers-by were alarmed by the sound of yet another train wreck, hearing metal crunching metal and the cries of injured passengers. When they went to investigate the noises, however, all they found was a man on the side of the tracks, dressed in a uniform, holding a gold watch and asking them for the time. They rushed passed him, thinking he must be in shock from the accident, but when they realized there was nothing to be found in the ravine this time, they turned back towards the man. And he, still holding his watch, just smiled at them and...vanished. Supposedly the scene is repeated at least once a year, with H.K. Linster still out on the tracks, asking people for the time.

What I Found

First, can I just tell you that the stories I heard about this place all put the bridge on the east side of Statesville, which, as it turns out, is a bunch of hooey. I spent two hours going to every dad-gum railroad bridge east of Statesville, taking pictures and seeing all kinds of stuff that doesn't look so good after getting hit by a train. I finally wised-up and went to the visitor's center there in Statesville, hoping they might have an old railroad map that I could look at. When the very nice woman asked what specifically I was looking for, I sheepishly told her "Bostian's Bridge", and she said "oh, are you trying to see the ghost?" Obviously, I was on to something. On the walls of the center hung three or four pictures of the Bridge, some painted, some photos, and she showed me a picture of the wreck itself (it was in a book called "The History of Iredell County" in case you're interested, and I didn't feel I could take a picture of the old photo from the book and post it here). The woman was extremely helpful, although I'd obviously interrupted her lunch, and she informed me that she'd never heard the stories of the ghost train until she started working at the visitor's center. Folks had called her for directions to the bridge on halloween, and she was told that any full moon will bring the ghost train back, though most of the stories I got stated that the train reappeared only on the anniversary of the wreck itself.
So off we went, in the totally opposite direction of where we'd been looking, and there, indeed, was Bostian's Bridge. You cross over the tracks near a quarry, and the Bridge is just a little further down on your right. I ended up parking the car just past the little bridge in the road- through the trees, up to the right, looms Bostian's Bridge. I would NOT recommend you try to get there through the pasture that is between the road and the tracks. It looks easy enough, but you CANNOT get to the tracks this way without going through a ditch, fairly new barbed wire, briers and a whole lot of poison ivy. I cannot emphasize enough that cutting through the pasture is NOT the way to get up there.
Okay- that said, I'll tell you that, naturally, this was the way that I tried to get up. The photo to the left shows the view across the bridge back into Statesville, where the train came from. The pic below shows the embankment that the train smashed into when it fell off the bridge; I doubt there were any cattledogs on the bridge at the time, of course. And the little sign is simply the railroad's way of telling you to stay the heck off the bridge because it is still used by their trains. After a little while and a few pictures, we headed back out. That's when the property owner showed up- he may have been waiting for us, I'm not sure. Anyway, he started driving towards us, and I was still picking thorns out of my shirt and trying to get the dog out of his path. He stopped where we were, of course, and I apologized for the dog, at which point he said "blue heeler, ain't he? I used to have three of them", and I realized that I, trespasser that I was, was off the hook. So I talked with him a bit. He was the grandson of Mrs. Bostian, who owned the property back when the wreck occurred; folks, this guy was pushing eighty years of age, easy, but seemed like a nice enough fellow, though I was glad I was holding a camera to back up my story. I told him why I was there, and he just kind of snorted- he'd heard all the stories (apparently there used to be a few more), but he'd lived there all of his life and he'd never heard nor seen any sign of weirdness near the bridge. Except, one supposes, the sight of complete strangers scarring themselves for life as they try unsuccessfully to cut across his cow pasture. He proceeded to tell me about how there were 26 or 27 people killed in the wreck, and that his aunt lived in the white house right there on the hill in front of the bridge, and the injured passengers were laid on her front porch until they could be tended to; the dead ones stayed down in the yard. I thanked him for his time, apologized again for cutting through his cow pasture, and got back on the road and on my way again before he could change his mind.

If You Want to Go

Get on West 70 as it goes through Statesville; from Shelton Road (where the visitor's center is located), you'll travel approximately 1.2 miles on 70 West. You'll come to a traffic light at the intersection of 70 and Buffalo Shoals Road. Hang a left at the light so that you are driving AWAY from town, and go maybe two miles down Buffalo Shoals- the tracks will be following along with you on your left. As the road starts to veer left, just before you cross the tracks, you'll see Bostian's Bridge Road off to your right. You might be able to park there, if the quarry traffic has died down, but if you cross the tracks, you'll go another 0.5 miles to a bridge over a little creek. There'll be room to pull off to the side of the road there, and you can see Bostian's Bridge off to the right. If there's train wreck noise coming from the bridge, you'll hear it from where you're parked. Allow me now to reiterate just how bad of an idea it is to try and cross that cow pasture up to the bridge, but if you get up there via another route and see ol' H.K., make sure you compliment him on his watch....

My condolences and sympathies are extended to the friends and family of the young man from New York who was struck by a train on Bostian's Bridge in August of 2010. I cannot emphasize enough that hanging out at some of these places after dark can be a dangerous proposition, and I urge everyone to use extreme caution while on their visits, no matter what time of day you go.