Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October Haunting - The Screaming Bridge

Screaming Bridge on Maud-Hughes Road between Princeton and Millikin roads in Liberty Township is alleged to have been the site of several deadly and mysterious tales, too numerous to recount here. The bridge spans a railroad mainline that has had several names since the 1870s -- the Short Line, Big Four, New York Central, Penn Central, Conrail and, after June 1, 1999, the Norfolk Southern. No one knows when it was first called the screaming bridge. The unofficial name may have become popular because it sounded like someone screaming when a vehicle passed over the original span, which had grooves in its floor. Others contend the screams are those of people who have died on or near the bridge. The historical basis for the name goes back to a railroad accident in which two men were scalded to death when a locomotive exploded between West Chester and Gano. Strangely, that accident was in West Chester Township (formerly Union Township). The screaming bridge is in Liberty Township. There is no explanation for the discrepancy. Some visitors to the bridge -- especially when the area was less populated -- said they saw ghostly figures beside the road and glowing red balls of light off the roadway.

Another undocumented explanation of the lights is that they are on the caboose of a phantom train. After the 1909 explosion, members of train crews passing the area and residents along the tracks reported seeing the ghost of one or more dead trainmen walking beside the railroad. They appeared to be warning of the dangers lurking on the line.

The 1909 accident killed two engineers and injured three other railroad workers on a northbound Big Four freight Sunday morning, Oct. 24, 1909. One of the dead engineers was off duty, hitching a ride back home to Middletown. While traveling about 40 miles an hour, a steam locomotive exploded. The tender had been loaded with plenty of water before it left Ivorydale in Cincinnati. Unknown to the crew, after a run of only about 11 to 12 miles, a leak had drained much of the water, causing the explosion. The 1909 accident wasn't the only railroad fatality along that stretch of track. June 7, 1976 -- at the Princeton Road overpass in Liberty Township -- a Penn Central employee, a resident of West Chester, was killed when two rails protruding from a southbound work train penetrated the cab of a northbound Penn Central diesel locomotive.

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