The Banshee Train

Cover

Written by Odds Bodkin, Illustrated by Ted Rose

Clarion Books, 1995

In the spring of 1929, a strange event took place in the mountains west of Denver, Colorado.  Although Train Number 1 to Troublesome and Steamboat Springs was filled with passengers, the only two human beings who actually saw what happened were John Mercer, the train’s engineer, and Michael O’Reilly, his fireman.

Eek!  It’s a:  Ghost train!

Any relation to Thomas the Tank Engine?

Any relation to Thomas the Tank Engine?

The Number 1 train is travelling through Colorado right after a week of rainstorms, when floods have washed out a number of bridges.  Mercer, the engineer, is most worried about Gore Canyon Trestle, because a train had once driven into the canyon’s fog only to discover the bridge had collapsed.  The train and everyone on it had plummeted into the river below.  So Mercer plans to slow down at a gap which will allow them to check the trestle before entering the canyon.  But his throttle gets stuck and then he sees the light of another train coming up fast behind him.  Mercer tries to outrun the train but the throttle sticks again, this time locking the brakes and stopping the train dead.  They prepare for the collision of the oncoming train, but instead a ghostly train passes right alongside them, with a wailing woman racing along the cars.  When the ethereal train passes, Mercer and O’Reilly step out of their train and see that they are nearly at Gore Canyon Trestle, which has fallen apart.  The men realize that it’s the anniversary of the day the train fell into the canyon and feeling immensely grateful, they travel on to Denver.

If you have a little one who is fascinated with trains, this is most definitely the book to help them take that interest past Thomas the Tank Engine.  The story is filled with train terminology and illustrator Ted Rose fills the pages with gorgeous pictures of the train chugging through the snow covered mountains.  Author Odds Bodkin has been a master storyteller for more than 30 years, telling stories for children and adults alike, and often adding his own musical accompaniment.  If you’d like to hear him at work, you can download MP3 folk tales from his website or you can check out some of his videos on Youtube.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that hundreds of miracles happen every day and when one happens to you, it’s best to pay attention to it.

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