Republic Ghost Train

(Orig. Published 1/2003)


On the cold, late evening of January 10, 1887, a passenger express train was traveling along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, heading west at sixty miles an hour.  It was due to arrive at the Republic station at 2:00 a.m..  On the same rail line, and from the opposite direction, a slower-moving freight train was leaving Tiffin and heading toward the same destination.  The freight train was supposed to arrive and pull off at the Republic station well before the passenger train would arrive.

Workers on the freight train grossly miscalculated the time and distance between them and the speeding passenger train.

At just past 2:00 that morning, and one-half mile west of Republic, the passenger train rounded a bend and violently collided with the freight train.  It is said that the force of the head-on collision was so great that both engines rose in the air and crumpled into one another.  An engineer on the freight train was impaled by steel beams that  lifted him over ten feet.  He died a slow, painful death three hours later. 

The crash site was soon overcome by a massive fire, which quickly consumed the sleeper cars containing 15 people.  Most did not survive and were burned beyond recognition.  Among the dead were two young boys and their father, who had just sold the family farm and was carrying the proceeds with him.  His wife and daughters, who were in a different sleeper car, survived the accident, but were left penniless.  It is unknown exactly how many persons died that night.  Many human remains that were recovered consisted of nothing more than burned fragments.

While an investigation was conducted after the crash, unlike the Ashtabula Train Disaster, no one was ultimately held officially accountable for this unavoidable tragedy.


Since the disaster, many have reported seeing a “ghost train” near Republic.  Chris Woodyard has collected one story from a group of young boys who witnessed the “ghost train” while camping near the tracks of the old B & O Railroad.  Notwithstanding the credibility of these accounts, one wonders which of the two trains is the “ghost train.” 

Just weeks after the accident, train workers began reporting the appearance of a ghost at the scene of the disaster.  A glowing, white female apparition would appear, carrying a red lantern to warn oncoming trains to stop.  When a train would notice her red lantern and stop, the “ghostly woman” then mysteriously disappeared.  Her appearance was reported by train workers on three separate occasions.  

Below is a copy of a clipping from a Tiffin newspaper article on the Republic Ghost, dated March 4, 1887, courtesy of Fast Freight.  Thanks again, Engineer!


For more information about the Republic Train Disaster, including a reproduction of Frank Leslie’s January 15, 1887 news article on the grisly details (and a primary source for the factual research of this story), check out’s website by clicking here.

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