THE GHOST TRAIN
Folk story from Manzanillo, Colima
We were all having a festive dinner at don Evaristo’s ranch, because the next day we planned to leave. It was already time for Easter vacations and Emily and I wanted to go to the Copper Canyon, in Chihuahua. So there we all were, chatting pleasantly to doña Almanda and don Evaristo about our vacation plans.
“Ah! So you’re going by train!” said don Evaristo, enthusiastically. “Hardly anybody travels by train in Mexico nowadays.”
“Why is that?” Emily asked.
“Well, times have changed,” don Evaristo replied. “Now people prefer to drive to places, to take a bus or even to fly. The passenger train is just about history now. But it so happens that I know a very nice folk story about a train,” he said.
“This story is common in many parts of the country. It’s even told in areas where there never was a railway, like in the municipality of Arista, in the state of San Luis Potosi,” don Evaristo began. “What’s more, this type of train story is by no means unique to Mexico, since the ‘ghost train’ is a neo-motif in the whole world; that is to say, a new motif in universal mythology. Trains were only invented early in the 19th century, you see, and only a few years later, people started telling tales that involved trains in different countries. Written by Homero Adame.
“Now, coming back specifically to Mexico, these ‘train tales’ are generally related to the days during and after the Revolution, when many trains were robbed and derailed. One good example took place in Linares, Nuevo Leon, when the train going to Monterrey, from Tampico, was really robbed in an isolated part of the state. Many different folk stories were born from that one event.
“Anyway, the story I’m about to tell you apparently occurred between Guadalajara and Manzanillo, in the state of Colima. And it’s not about a robbery. At least, I don’t think so. Written by Homero Adame.
“Legend has it that one night, the train to Manzanillo left Guadalajara exactly on time. All the station staff and telegraph officers saw it depart. The train was not very full that night, but it was expected to stop in a number of places, including Ciudad Guzman, in Jalisco, and Colima City, before reaching its final destination. The telegraph officer in Guadalajara wired his colleagues with a smile, informing them that, for the first time in many moons, the train had actually left on time that evening!
“Early the next morning, the train full of passengers arrived, equally punctually, in the Port of Manzanillo. All the passengers got off the train, and at first sight, everything seemed quite normal. Except for one small detail: the train didn’t stop at a single station on the way. Not only that, nobody, but nobody at all saw the train at any point on its route! Written by Homero Adame.
“It was a complete mystery. Not one telegraph officer or station employee in places like Sayula, and Ciudad Guzman in Jalisco; or in Colima and Armeria, in Colima, saw the train that night. It didn’t make any of its scheduled, obligatory stops. On every platform, a stationmaster waited, assuming that the train had been delayed, even though they knew from the Guadalajara telegraph office that it had started its itinerary on time.
“But that is not all. Legend has it that the train left Guadalajara half empty, but when it arrived in Manzanillo, it was packed full of passengers! Where did all those passengers come from, if the train did not stop anywhere on the way?
“Well, the obvious thing to do was to ask the passengers, right? So, after a day or two, when speculation was at its highest point, a newspaper reporter interviewed some of the passengers. To his great confusion, everyone he spoke to said they could not remember a thing about the journey! They couldn’t even remember getting on the train, and certainly nothing about the trip! It had been so peaceful, people said, that they had slept all the way. They only knew that they were going to Manzanillo and to Manzanillo they arrived, right on time.”
“That’s a really strange story, don Evaristo,” said Emily. “But all the same, I hope that our ride to the Copper Canyon is not on a ‘ghost train’!” And we all laughed merrily in the candlelight… Folk story found at https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-colima-the-ghost-train/
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Written by Homero Adame and translated by Pat Grounds. Originally published in the English textbook Orbit 3. By Homero Adame, Pat Grounds and Carol Lethaby. Ediciones Castillo, S.A. de C.V. Monterrey, Mexico. 2000. Pp. 85-86.
.This story has been published, in Spanish, in my book «Mitos y leyendas de todo México», by Editorial Trillas.
The book is for sale in all Trillas’ bookshops, but it can also be ordered through their online store or just click on the direct link to the book: Mitos y leyendas de todo México.