There are plenty of supposed UFO encounters out there. Those between people on the ground, planes, and everything in between. The phenomenon ranges across a wide range of scenarios, but one very strange corner of all of this are those weird encounters that have been logged between trains and UFOs, and these are both more interesting and more bizarre than one might think.
On October 3, 1958, diesel freight train No. 91 was moving through north central Indiana on its way from Monon to Indianapolis along with a crew composed of engineer Harry Eckman, Cecil Bridge, the fireman, and Morris Ott, the head brakeman, as well as the conductor Ed Robinson, and Paul Sosbey, the flagman. At approximately 3:20 a.m., they went past a remote crossroads called Owasco when they saw “four big, soft white lights” in the sky up ahead. The fireman, Bridge, would say of what transpired:
They (the lights) crossed the tracks ahead of the train – about a half a mile ahead of us, we estimated. They were moving pretty slowly, too, at no more than about 50 miles an hour, four big, white, soft lights. Just the three of us in the engine saw the lights at this time. We were pulling 56 cars – that’s a little more than half a mile of cars – and because of the angle at which these things were approaching and because they were so low right then, the boys in the caboose probably couldn’t see them. I talked to Robinson, (the conductor), and told him what we had seen. During the time we watched these things, from Ewasco to Kirklin, we did a lot of talking on that radio. The dispatcher in Lafayette could hear us, of course, but he never cut in.
The train’s conductor Robinson was seeing all of this, and added his own account of the events:
I was sitting in the cupola, looking forward over the train, when Bridge called me on the radio. I had already noticed the four gobs of light but I couldn’t make out what they were. They were half a mile ahead of the caboose – the whole length of the train. A little bit after he called me the things went away and we didn’t see them for a few minutes… then all of a sudden they came back. I’d say they were only a couple of hundred feet above the train as they came toward the caboose. And they weren’t moving very fast – maybe 30 or 40 miles an hour. It was hard to tell – a fellow just doesn’t notice details like that under the circumstances. The freight train is pretty noisy, of course, but I didn’t hear any other noise, like the roar an airplane would have made. I think they were silent, or nearly silent, at least. They flew over us one after the other – big, round white things that looked about the colour of fluorescent lights, kind of fuzzy around the edges. They didn’t glare and they didn’t light up things as they went over. They just came back toward us, over the top of the cars, one after the other. Then they went on down the tracks maybe another half a mile and seemed to stop. When these things shot back over to the east of us, they lit up much brighter than they were before. They turned in line, going north or northeast and we noticed that they lit up in sequence – the front one first, then number two, three and four. They changed course and came back past the train. They were going in the opposite direction to us when they made this pass. I guess they were at least a mile or two east of us when they did it.
We had flashlights in the engine and in the caboose. Up on the head end of the train – in the engine where I was –we blinked our flashlights at the things and we waved the lights. We thought we might get them to come in closer. They did come down over the train a few minutes later, as Robinson related, but of course, I can’t say they did it because we flashed the lights at them. At any rate they didn’t flash any lights back at us. In the caboose we had a five-cell sealed beam flashlight that throws a pretty good beam a long ways. When the things came down and flew right up the tracks behind the caboose, I grabbed that sealed beam flashlight and shined it on them. As soon as the light hit them, they jumped sideways out of the beam. When they got back over the tracks I did it again and they scattered. They acted like they didn’t care for that light at all. While we were switching at Frankfort they stayed away back up the tracks, just hovered there, until we moved on. Then they followed us again. When they finally went away at Kirklin, they just zipped off to the northeast and kept on going and we didn’t see them anymore.
What was going on here? It would turn out that all of the crew had seen the mysterious light show from different angles depending on whether they were on the bridge or in the caboose, and they could all see that the lights seemed to be following them. From the caboose, Ed Robinson would add to account of it all:
We didn’t see them from the back end of the train for several minutes after they went away to the east and turned. But the boys in the engine were still seeing them. I got back on the radio with Bridge. He was watching them right then. They must have circled the train and gone north of us, real low, because the next time we saw them they came rushing up the tracks right in back of us. They were coming a lot faster this time – a lot faster than they had come back over the train the first time.
They were just above the tree-tops along the right of way, and they had changed their way of flying — their formation. This time they were sort of flying on edge. Two of them were on edge – the two in the middle. The two on the outside were tilted at an angle both in the same direction. The four of them flew like that up the tracks behind the train – a tilted one on the east, two of them straight up and down, then the one on the west tilted just like the one on the east. When they first came back over the train we could see that they were round things – circular shaped on the bottom. Then when they flew up the tracks in back of us we could see – Sosbey and I – that they were about 40 feet in diameter and maybe 10 feet thick. The two flying straight up and down were approximately over the edges of the right of way and about 200 yards in back of the caboose. If they had been flying flat down instead of edgewise. They would have just about have touched edges so they must have seen somewhere around 40 feet across the bottom.
This case has no real answers in sight. Another rather harrowing report comes from October 20, 1973, from the near Mt. Vernon and Evansville, Indiana. On this morning, a train crew on a L&N train near Upton, in the Mt. Vernon area, began experiencing engine trouble at around 6:50 a.m. but they kept on going towards their destination, and at one point observed a mysterious light in the distance that was pulsating from really bright to dim, and back to bright. It did not look like an aircraft, and they watched it head out of sight, yet this would not be the end of their ordeal. UFO researcher Francis Ridge, an investigator for National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) would say of what happened next:
When they neared Caborn (6-7 miles east of Mt. Vernon), the lead conductor told the rear conductors by intercom that they had seen a real bright light. When they got near St. Phillips, the rear conductor reported that there now was a train following them, on the same track. By then they had gotten up on Belknap hill (at Peerlsess Crossing), “a pretty good pull on a train”, and had gotten hung up. One of the rear men suggested that they should get the train behind them, which he said had been following them for awhile, to push them. The lead conductor replied, “Well, I haven’t heard him on the radio.”
After a short while the rear man suggested the same solution to the problem, again: “Well, he’s been following us and I can see his light back there and the ‘board’ is red!” The object following them had given them a “red board” on their blocking system. The signal referred to here is a series of lights, similar in color to regular traffic lights, situated on a pole on the side of the tracks. This shows either red, amber, or green, indicating “danger” , “caution”, or “all clear”, respectively. (This signal is a part of the Automatic Blocking System which tells of other traffic on the same track). The “red board” normally meant that something was on the track behind them. The rear conductor again suggested that the crew call the “tower” (Howell Round House at Evansville) and see if there was a train behind them.
A quick check with the yardmaster showed that there was no train behind them at all. Upon receiving the news, the rear conductor replied, “There is a headlight behind us. I can see it. It’s real bright. After the train had gotten hung up and had stopped on Belknap Hill, they got out and looked around. The conductor, after backing the train down the hill, got out, walked down to the rear unit and pressed the restart button. To his surprise the unit “kicked right off, ran real good. The light or the object was now moving off, back from where it had come from. According to the conductor, whatever had given them a “red board”, now was giving them a “green board.” As he, himself, stated, “The board went green. The light cleared up the board”. The train, previously hampered with a bad rear unit and way over-tonnage, was now fully able to climb the steep, hill and made it in to Howell without further mishap.
Interestingly, this happened during a major UFO sighting wave in the area at the time, and we are left to wonder just what was going on here. A few years later, there was another very odd account investigated by Ridge as well, this time from the region of Columbus, Ohio. In late October of 1977, a freight train headed out to the Fostoria Distribution Company warehouse just north of Fostoria, Ohio in order to pick up a food shipment. They reached their destination without incident and began loading up the train when things began to get strange, starting with a sighting made by the engineer, Howard J. Albert. Ridge would say in his report on the incident:
At about 3:20 AM, Howard saw what looked to be a shooting star to the west; it curved down out of the northwest. He was sitting in his cab facing southbound. The first box car blocked his view in this direction. The light came down in the field toward Route 23 between him and the church. Slowly, at about the speed of a walking man, it came toward him across the field. It was approximately 16 feet off the ground and stopped on the other side of the tracks between four and five box car lengths away – 180 to 270 feet.Howard picked up his radio and called out to his conductor who was about seven or eight car lengths down the track, “Donald… come up to the engine.” Donald replied by radio and asked what was happening. Howard answered, “Hey, we got a g- d— UFO up here.” By this time the UFO had moved to within two car lengths of the track.
The object was “birthday cake” or disk shaped, about 90 feet in diameter, and 45 feet high. It was brightly lit, with banks of nine vertical “tubes” separated by a dark void space that reflected no light. Short horizonal tubes ran over the top and bottom of these voids. The bottom of the disk could be seen; it appeared like ceramic and was “the color of a common kind of knife sharpening stone… gray with a trace of lavender.” No windows, ladders, antenna, or markings of any sort were observed. There was no sound associated with the disk. The disk was slightly tilted and rotating counter clockwise. Both Howard and Donald used their railroad stop watches twice to time the speed of rotation. The speed was 9 rpm. They could not say what was used as a reference point for the timing, but are sure their estimate was accurate. The object glowed yellow. Electric-like energy arcs ran around the disk in a clockwise direction. They were blue in color. As the arc touched the tubes, the tubes lit up. When the center of the tubes were touched, the ends lit up. When the ends of the tubes were touched by the arcs, the centers lit up
At one point the tower operator In Fostoria, hearing radio conversation between the three men, called and asked, “Hey, Howard, you got a UFO out there?” Howard replied, “Yes, Merv, we got a UFO up here. He’s damn close.” Merv then asked, “Do you want the cops up there?” The reply was, “No, They can’t drive up to where we’re at. And if they do get here, they’ll probably shoot at It. It isn’t hurting anybody. We’re playing games with it.” When the object was close across the tracks something told them that they should stay on the train and not cross the tracks. They also seemed to know that if they blew the train whistle the object would leave. Howard thought that the object’s occupants were observing their engine, a relatively uncommon model, and in turn were allowing them to observe their craft.
Howard then began turning the train cab headlight on and off in an effort to somehow signal the mysterious object, and when the light went on, the object grew brighter and dimmed again, as if responding. It was at around this time that he realized that the engine was no longer working, and that the radio and walkie-talkies were also oddly out of operation. The object then began spinning at a rapid pace and grew almost blindingly bright, before shooting straight up and then speeding off to the northwest, completely silent the entire time. More recently still is a case from January 14, 2002, in the area of Paintsville, Kentucky, which allegedly involves an actual collision between a train and a UFO. At approximately 2:50 AM in the early morning hours, a coal train was lumbering along its course when the electronic systems on the train starting going haywire. As the crew tried to figure out just what was going on, they turned a bend at a stretch called “Milepost 42” and that was when they noticed lights headed in their direction. It was assumed that this was an oncoming train, and so they killed their own lights so as not to blind the incoming conductor. However, this was no train. The witness describes what happens next in his official report with the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) as follows:
As we rounded the corner our onboard computer began to flash in and out, speed recorder went nuts, and both locomotives died. Alarm bells began to ring and that’s when we saw the objects. Apparently scanning the river for something, the objects, (at least 3) had several “search” lights trained there, the first object hovered about 10 to 12 feet above the track. Metallic silver in color with multiple-colored lights near the bottom and in the middle, no windows or openings of any kind that we could see. Approximately 18 to 20 feet in length and probably ten feet high. With both engines dead as we rounded the corner, we made little noise and the first object did not respond in time, I estimate that we hit the object at 30 mph with 16,000 trailing tons behind us. It clipped the top of our lead unit then skipped back slicing a chunk out of our trailing unit and first two coal cars. The other objects vanished into thin air.
After this, the train came to a stop around 2 miles past the impact, screeching slowly to a grinding halt after the emergency brakes had kicked in, and the power to their systems jumped back to life. They notified their dispatcher and then surveyed the damage, finding the cab of the rear locomotive to be “demolished and smoking” and the second two cars looking as if they “had been hit with a giant hammer.” Despite the extensive damage, the train was deemed track worthy, and was able to limp along the rail back to the yard, and this is where things would get perhaps even stranger than they already were. The witness explains:
We pulled into Paintsville yard at approximately 5:15 am. The huge overhead lights lining the yard were noticeably dark and the only lights came from what we assumed were railroad officials’ vehicles parked near the end of the track. We pulled to a stop and began unloading our grips off the wounded train. We could hear what sounded like an army of workers immediately tending to our train. Vehicle doors slamming, guys running by in weird outfits and lights glaring from all directions, the one thing missing was railroad officials. A guy named Ferguson shook my hand and asked me to follow him into the old yard office. We did, once inside they, and by they I mean I have no idea who these people were, began to ask us hundreds of questions, they then told us for our own protection we’d be medically tested before we could leave.
I asked repeatedly to talk to my road foreman or trainmaster and not only were these requests denied but they confiscated my conductors’ cellular phone. Hours later we were led outside the old yard office and the strange things continued to happen, the 2 locomotives and two cars were removed from the rest of the train we had brought in and my only guess was parked 4 tracks over under a huge tent like structure buzzing with activity. We were led off property and told due to national security our silence on this matter would be appreciated. We were then put in a Railroad vehicle and taken to Martin Kentucky were we went through questioning again with railroad officials and were then drug tested.
What exactly happened here? Was this an actual collision with a UFO and how did a slow-moving coal train manage to hit it? Who were those officials they were interrogated by? or is this all some sort of hoax? It is hard to say, but a train crashing into a UFO is not something you see every day. That can probably be said about all of the cases we have looked at here, and they occupy a very strange little corner of the UFO phenomenon. What was going on here and what were these objects? The answers remain unclear.