Episode 16 – Train to nowhere

I’m sorry it’s been a while. I needed a break, to think, to plan, to move. After the house was broken into and ransacked, I thought it was best to leave. If they can do that to a house then what could they do to me? They can’t kill me, yet, because I still have the things they want. There are things you can do to a person that are worse than death, and I’d rather not find out what they are.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop making these statements. There’s still a lot to tell, especially since I skipped forward. I’m trying to go through these chronologically, matching the files Strother and I kept, but skipping to the end has always been a temptation of mine.

Let’s go back again, to the first year of my PhD when I was ignorant of what was awaiting me. Our cases didn’t always fall onto our laps, acquaintances and friends didn’t always think they had a ghost problem. Sometimes, we had to shift for ourselves. The problem was that we used the internet to do this, and as with something so large and therefore easier to lie to, it was almost impossible to know which ones were genuine or were down to someone having too much bucky* on a night out. I won’t insult your intelligence with some of the ones I read, or that we laughed amongst ourselves at, but there were a few amongst the shite that were worth looking into.

Ken was the one to bring this particular case to our attention. On his journeys around the internet he had found a few pages dedicated to the so-called Glasgow haunted train. He had found witness accounts of strange noises throughout an entire train that went from the capital down to Ayr. If you’ve ever been on any train you’ll know there are a lot of noises you could consider strange, and all of those will be mechanical.

According to other stories a handful of independent individuals had reportedly seen a young man sitting at a table seat, staring forlornly out the window. They thought nothing of it, but when they got up to leave and glance back, they noticed he’d vanished. Strange noises and a disappearing passenger was all we needed to head to Glasgow to investigate.

Our first problem was the people. If you’ve ever visited Glasgow central, or any major train station for that matter, you’ll know that the sheer number of people makes it impossible to get anywhere fast. The Glasgow to Ayr line was busy for commuters, people travelling to Prestwick airport, and various other people with lives to lead. So, how were we supposed to set up a controlled environment in which to investigate?

At the time it was miraculous but looking at it in hindsight it makes a lot more sense. After checking carriage and train numbers, we discovered that it was one particular train where people reported seeing and hearing strange things. Strother managed to get the train on the line with no one else on it. There was still a service going on another train on the same platform, and we were thrown strange looks by passengers, but this way we avoided having to mingle with them.

I was impressed at the time, and I thought Strother must have some pull with someone on high. Little did I know it was probably Margaret Donaldson who used her own gravitas to procure us a private train.

Obviously, none of us could drive the train so there was one more person who joined us, the driver. He didn’t look too happy about it and when Ken jokingly asked if he’d lost a bet, he replied, in all seriousness:


The train itself posed more difficulties when we were setting up the equipment. Trains aren’t known for their stability, and if you’ve ever seen how the staff stand on a journey you’ll know what I mean. Since it was a local train it didn’t go at high speeds, but there were bits of old track to navigate, winding down the countryside. Any motion sensors we set up would be constantly going off, and any images would be blurry.

Everything had to be attached to the train, to the walls, the floor, even the corners beside the CCTV cameras. There’s something very unsettling about being on a train by yourself. At first, it’s a peaceful and novel experience, then the longer time ticks away the more eerie it becomes until you feel as though Armageddon might’ve hit during your journey and you’re the only person left on earth.

By the time the train pulled away from the station everything had been set up and all we had to do was watch the screens and try not to get travel sick. To mimic the conditions when the spirit was seen we’d asked the driver to stop at the usual stations, but not open the doors. Because it was a local train there were a number of stops which felt like short distances, so by the time we set off it was time to stop again.

During our preparation, moving around the train, squeezing ourselves down the narrow passageways between seats, I hadn’t seen or heard anything. Although this wasn’t a great sign, I hadn’t dismissed the reports altogether.

I’ll admit, methods of transportation being haunted was a new concept for me. It was always buildings or people by that point. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to haunt a train either. Was travelling with Scotrail really such a trauma? Perhaps it was the prices.

I can joke now, but even Strother didn’t appear to take the job very seriously. By this point everything we’d investigated had yielded nothing, and I could see the lack of results were beginning to take its toll on morale. We’d go onto collect bits and pieces over the years, but as is the way, nothing concrete, until, of course, the asylum. So, by this point I could well imagine the team assumed we’d find nothing, especially considering our source was a bit suspect.

It really was a nice journey, barring the frequent stops. Once the train emerged from Glasgow it was sprawling green countryside until the horizon. Wheat fields, vibrant poppies, cows as far as the eye could see. But sure enough, not long into the journey we all heard a noise that was different to the rest.

Not the rumbling of the wheels on the tracks, or the whine of the engine, or the crackle of the cables overhead. I thought it sounded like someone whispering through a pipe, except it seemed to go from one end of the carriage to the other. Like those plastic tubes you used to get as a bairn, groan tubes, but with a deeper pitch and slower execution.

It was definitely noticeable over the other noises of the train, and it sounded out of place. Obviously because it was the same train and carriage numbers that people reported hearing the noise Strother was keen on it being something mechanical. For all I knew he could’ve been right. Hearing strange noises is only half of the problem, without seeing it I’m as powerless as everyone else.

He set us to searching each carriage, because the noise was being picked up on every recorder we’d set up. We looked under the seats, in the corners, Strother became so zealous he removed one of the panels on the wall to reveal the electrical circuits behind it. The rest of us didn’t go that far, but by the same token we couldn’t find where the noise was coming from.

To me it sounded like the ceiling, where the light strips were, but Ken swore it was the windows. It did echo around the carriage before making its way to the opposite end. Then it just stopped.

That was the only thing to happen in the first few hours. We got to Ayr, went back, and then started all over again. The scenery became pretty generic by the sixth passing. I was nearly on the same level of demoralisation as the rest of the team were because in those few journeys I’d never seen the vanishing passenger, or anything else. It looked like Strother was right. The noise must be a mechanical failure somewhere, but there was just something biting at me about the noise. I just couldn’t place my finger on what.

In the early evening, we were sitting together eating what food we’d brought with us when I saw a flash through the carriage doors. There’s a very thin window on the doors at the end, so you can only see a small bit of the next carriage, but I knew I saw something.

Giving the excuse that I needed the toilet I went to investigate. Peering through the glass I cast my eyes in every seat that was facing towards me, all the way up to the opposite end, and again, saw a brief glimmer of something. I stepped through the doors and began to walk my way unsteadily up the carriage, holding onto the seats for stability.

At the very end, at a table seat looking out the window, was a young lad. His hair was cut close to his head and he was wearing a red tracksuit with black stripes. Just like in the reports he was staring out the window at the scenery, watching as the cows and fields flashed by. I moved nearer, pinning my eyes on him hoping that would make him stay. Then the train jolted over the tracks and jerked me to one side. By the time I’d regained my balance he was gone.

Frustrated, I made my way over to the seat anyway, thinking there might be something hidden underneath or near that would give me some clues. No matter where I looked there was nothing there. At least the case had finally got interesting.

I saw him again an hour later, at the same table, but this time I managed to reach him before he disappeared. Back in those days I assumed every ghost was a ghost, but as you know there are as many different types of spirit as there are ice cream flavours. Thankfully, this one was pretty standard, and when I came to stand beside him, he looked up at me.

“We’re not there yet,” he said.

“Not where?” I questioned.

He retorted petulantly that he didn’t want to go because he wasn’t ready. Before I could think of a reply he stated, angrily, that I couldn’t force him. I became confused. This seemed like a conversation where I was the only one who didn’t know what was going on. Did he think I was someone else? If that was so then who else had he been talking to?

I began to hear the noise again, the whispered groaning, but it was more frantic this time, faster and afraid. He stood up quickly and looked out the window, practically pressing his face to the glass. The train began to slow, the engine noise was replaced with the chink of the breaks. We were approaching a stop. Then we began to pick up speed, the engine thrummed back into life, and I saw a platform briefly appear in the window before it was gone. We were going too fast to see which station.

It’s not unusual for trains not to stop at every station on the line. They might not be a part of the train’s regular route, or they might be request only. They usually slow down as they go past in case there’s anyone waiting on the platform for another train. There was nothing unusual about it.

“We’re nearly there,” the ghost uttered, staring out the window with a childlike eagerness.

He acted as if I wasn’t there at all, and he didn’t appear inclined to tell his story like most other ghosts did. I offered my help, but he rounded on me, outrage flaring his nostrils, and spat that he didn’t need my help.

Then he did something that any ghost rarely did. He pushed me out of the way and disappeared off down the carriage. It wasn’t a hard shove, but it was enough to make me stagger back a few steps, aided by the train’s unstable sense of gravity. Then a feeling of slow, viscous dread began to trickle down into my stomach. The sense that I didn’t really have any control of our current environment. Houses and buildings were one thing, they were stationary, you could leave if it became that bad, but a moving train, that was a whole other kettle of fish. I was on his turf now, and if he didn’t want to show me his story then I had no choice. I didn’t know who he was, why he was here, and I didn’t really have any way of finding out. We had started playing a game, but I didn’t have any cards.

When I returned, the train driver had joined the rest of the team and I swear I’d never seen anyone look as grey as he did. I recognised the look on his face, the one of disbelief, and a stroke of panic that made my heart drop.

He then told us he couldn’t drive the train properly, and that he hadn’t been able to take control of it for over 5 minutes. Steph asked if that was the case then who was driving the train. He swallowed hard and then replied. No one.

Present Day

I like to pack for holidays in advance. At least three days before, I have the things I’m going to take, and the things I need to take, all set aside. That’s why I wasn’t happy when I had to pack everything in as short a time as possible and leave my own home. I loved that house, I bought that house, but it’s just not safe anymore.

The files are still in hiding, not always with me. The question remains as to who wanted them badly enough to break into Strother’s family home, and my house? My first thought was Margaret Donaldson. As soon as I start looking into her people follow me and my home is ransacked. But by that same token it could be an unknown third party who has interest in the study. I’ve hardly been keeping things to myself. But all I’ve released are stories, my experience, and by themselves they’re not proof of the paranormal.

Who would want to get their hands on that proof? Who has or had a stake in the study? That’s why my mind always comes back to Inverlewis and Margaret Donaldson. It makes sense. If she has enough pull to commandeer a private train then that doesn’t leave much else she can’t do. But surely because her company funded the study they already have copies of the files, especially since Strother sent them interim reports? Why would they need to break in and steal them? Whoever broke in hasn’t contacted me despite my offer on the last statement.

Too many unknowns. I’m not ready to give the files up yet. I need people to hear my voice and listen to my stories before I publish proof they’re real. Whoever wants them is just going to have to wait like the rest of the world.

*Bucky – Scottish slang for Buckfast, a cheap alcoholic drink that gets people drunk very quickly.

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