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A creepy, haunted, and/or sentient train used by (usually malevolent) ghosts or other monsters.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
DrNoPuma on Aug 4th 2017 at 11:20:53 AM
Last Edited By:
DrNoPuma on Aug 30th 2018 at 12:10:02 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ghosttrain_ghostbustersii.png

Although trains are usually seen as fun and lovable machines, they can be used for sinister purposes too. A Ghost Train is a train that has supernatural qualities, and is usually used to carry around ghosts or other monsters, scare people, or for other creepy purposes.

This trope, often seen in folklore, usually takes the form of an old steam train with a dark, twisted appearance. It may be inhabited by a ghostly conductor and passengers, and it may have been either created by the ghosts, or a normal train that they possess for their own ends. Alternatively, the train itself may be fully sentient.

It may often be seen in kid friendly works, especially those with Defanged Horrors, because in a way, it replaces the more conventional fun that trains bring with a more spooky sort of fun.

May be part of a Circus of Fear, or even just associated with Creepy Circus Music.

Compare Ghost Ship and Sinister Subway. See also Afterlife Express, which is for spirits going to the afterlife instead of staying on Earth, and may be more benevolent than this trope.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Film 
  • Ghostbusters:
    • Ghostbusters (1984): A reporter invokes the trope by describing a spectral locomotive his grandmother used to tell stories about when he was a boy.
    • In Ghostbusters II, Ray, Egon and Winston explore the haunted catacombs beneath New York, one of the apparitions being a ghost train. Egon was quick to identify the train as being the old New York Central "City of Albany" that was accidentally derailed in 1920, killing over 100 people.

    Folklore 
  • The Silverpilen (Swedish for "Silver Arrow") was a train used by the Stockholm Metro from the 1960s to the 1990s. Although it's really just a rare train of unusual design, some people alleged that the train was supernatural; claiming that it picks up passengers at night, who either disappear forever or only return after a long period of time (weeks, months, or even years).
  • Statesville, North Carolina is said to have a ghost train that visits on the anniversary of a horrific 1891 crash in which a train plummeted from a high bridge and about 30 people were killed. Witnesses on the anniversaries of the wreck have heard screeching train wheels, screaming passengers, and the crash itself. Many have also reported seeing a man in a railroad uniform carrying a gold watch who vanished before their eyes. A spectator watching for it on the anniversary in 2010 was caught on the railroad bridge by a modern train and killed, raising the eeriness of the site.

    Literature 
  • Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novel Night Probe. While investigating the disappearance of a train, Dirk learns of stories of a "ghost train" that appears on stormy nights and disappears when it reaches a bridge. He later discovers that the story is a hoax, carried out by a train's headlight and a PA system broadcasting train noises being pulled along a cable suspended above the ground.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The YTV show Seriously Weird had the gang encountering a real ghost of a boy who had died in a train accident. The ghost uses his powers to change the diner that they are at, into a real life ghost train (the same one he died in), and sends it headed towards impending doom.

    Music 
  • The Gorillaz song Ghost Train only refers to this in his lyrics, but it's about something that goes after narrator's soul, and how he's prepared to fight against it. Being the "ghost train" part said after every line of the song, probably the narrator refers to the train itself that goes after him.
    ''Here they come to steal my soul
(Ghost train) Wait it out until I know (Ghost train) Trying not to feel like you did (Ghost train) Moving up until I go go-o (Ghost train)''
  • YouTube composers Derek and Brandon Fiechter have a song called Ghost Train as part of their Creepy Circus Music series. The story in the video's description describes a haunted train that moves on its own.
  • The track Ghost Train by Waterflame is based on, well, a ghost train.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Terror Australis, adventure "Pride of Yirrimburra". While the investigators are in Yirrimburra, they will hear legends of a ghost train that was lost when it fell into a river. It's said that those about to die will hear its whistle blow. Later in the adventure, if the investigators are walking along the abandoned railroad tracks at night, they will hear the whistle of a locomotive and the tracks will vibrate.
  • The Night Train from Deadlands is used by the feral Nosferatu vampires to travel around at day (through the tracks of the undead-friendly Bayou Vermillion railroad) and find new victims at night.

    Toys 
  • LEGO's "Monster Fighter" series included a set called "Ghost Train", a spooky-looking train with glow-in-the-dark elements and a creepy face on the front, driven by a group of troublemaking ghosts.

    Video Games 
  • AdventureQuest Worlds had a Friday the 13th event in 2011 featuring a Ghost Train. The player, Voltaire, and Deady board the train as a quick means of traveling the desert. However they have to fight their way off in order to leave the train, as passengers are not permitted off once boarded.
  • The Phantom Express from Cuphead is a creepy living train who carries a ghost, a skeleton conductor, and two lightning-shooting creatures through a dark forest.
  • In Vampire Savior/Darkstalkers 3 there's the "Iron Terror", a monstrous ghost train which serves as the stage for Jon Talbain/Gallon in the game. Also this stage can be seen few stages before getting Jedah, so it's probable the Iron Terror goes to Jedah's headquarters.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Haunt The House: Terrortown has a level taking place on a big carnival train. You play as a ghost who lives in the train's smokestack, and as in the rest of the game, you possess the (frankly, already somewhat creepy-looking) props around the train to scare everyone off.
  • The Monster-themed Downloadable Content for LittleBigPlanet has you riding around on a skull-shaped locomotive. In fact, the level is even called "Ghost Train!!!".
  • Invoked in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, in the level "Ambush Maneuver". Prof. E. Gadd shrinks Luigi down so he can enter a toy train set in one mansion. After activating the train, Luigi gets attacked by a giant Boo. He must fight the boo in the train set, while the train circles around them and Creepy Circus Music plays. Ironically, though, Luigi actually uses the train to defeat the Boo, by using the big drill on its front to split the Boo into smaller Boos, then flinging them into the train cars, trapping them.

     Webcomics 
  • Chapter 4 of Paranatural is named "The Activity Club and the Ghost Train." It features... members of the activity club going for a ride on the eponymous Ghost Train.

    Web Original 
  • SCP-1489 ("A "Ghost Train"). SCP-1489 is a train (1 locomotive and 18 railway cars) that has been herded into traveling along a circular track. It has no physical substance and will pass through any material except old railway components. If not touching such components, it flies through the air in a straight line. The SCP Foundation started stories about "ghost trains" to discourage people from believing witness accounts of SCP-1489's travels.

    Western Animation 

Indices:

Feedback: 38 replies

Aug 4th 2017 at 2:25:25 PM

Webcomics

  • Chapter 4 of Paranatural is named "The Activity Club and the Ghost Train." It features... members of the activity club going for a ride on the eponymous Ghost Train.

Aug 4th 2017 at 4:34:44 PM

Aug 4th 2017 at 5:02:54 PM

Unfortunately I believe there may already be a trope for this called Afterlife Express. Check it out and if it is not what you are looking for then by all means attempt to create a new trope!

Aug 5th 2017 at 4:38:26 AM

Literature

  • Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novel Night Probe. While investigating the disappearance of a train, Dirk learns of stories of a "ghost train" that appears on stormy nights and disappears when it reaches a bridge. He later discovers that the story is a hoax, carried out by a train's headlight and a PA system broadcasting train noises being pulled along a cable suspended above the ground.

Tabletop Games

  • Call Of Cthulhu supplement Terror Australis, adventure "Pride of Yirrimburra". While the investigators are in Yirrimburra they will hear legends of a ghost train that was lost when it fell into a river. It's said that those about to die will hear its whistle blow. Later in the adventure, if the investigators are walking along the abandoned railroad tracks at night they will hear the whistle of a locomotive and the tracks will vibrate.

Web Original

  • SCP-1489 ("A "Ghost Train"). SCP-1489 is a train (1 locomotive and 18 railway cars) that has been herded into traveling along a circular track. It has no physical substance and will pass through any material except old railway components. If not touching such components, it flies through the air in a straight line. The SCP Foundation started stories about "ghost trains" to discourage people from believing witness accounts of SCP-1489's travels.

Aug 5th 2017 at 5:58:23 AM

Music:

  • The Gorillaz song Ghost Train only refers to this in his lyrics, but it's about something that goes after narrator's soul, and how he's prepared to fight against it. Being the "ghost train" part said after every line of the song, probably the narrator refers to the train itself that goes after him.
    Here they come to steal my soul (Ghost train) Wait it out until I know (Ghost train) Trying not to feel like you did (Ghost train) Moving up until I go go-o (Ghost train)
Video Games:
  • in Vampire Savior/Darkstalkers 3 there's the "Iron Terror", a monstruous ghost train which serves as the stage for Jon Talbain/Gallon in the game. Also this stage can be seen few stages before getting Jedah, so it's probable the Iron Terror goes to Jedah's headquarters.

Aug 5th 2017 at 8:22:34 AM

Aug 5th 2017 at 2:20:33 PM

It wouldn't be on We Are Not Alone Index, because the Ghost Train page on Wikipedia is some combination of this trope and Afterlife Express, so shouldn't stand for only one of them.

Aug 5th 2017 at 4:37:12 PM

^ I see what you mean. I'll change that now.

Although, I'm starting to worry that this isn't different from Afterlife Express after all. Some examples (like the Cuphead example) are already listed on Afterlife Express (although, admittedly, the Cuphead example seems to fit this trope more. We don't know for sure yet because the game hasn't been released.) But since I've gotten this many hats, I guess I'm doing a pretty good job of differentiating this from the other trope.

Aug 6th 2017 at 5:45:11 AM

Well, train to the afterworld is different from train full of ghosts that scares people. Obviously, some examples can be both if it takes a route through Earth, put the purpose is different and that's where the distinction lies.

Aug 8th 2017 at 8:13:09 AM

Hi, I just fixed a little the Gorillaz example, that's all :P

Aug 8th 2017 at 8:13:27 AM

Sorry, duplicated post

Oct 24th 2017 at 1:10:29 PM

I guess this is as good a time as any to bump this draft. If it gets launched, I'd like to do it before Halloween!

Any more comments or suggestions before launching?

Oct 24th 2017 at 1:47:24 PM

Film Animated

  • Young Chihiro Ogino from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away travels on a commuter train to seek counsel from Zeniba. While the train itself seems ordinary and clean if outdated, all the passengers aboard are spirits, returning from Yubaba's spa. No one minds that Chihiro is riding this train, as her fellow passengers sit morose and unmoving the whole time.

Possible page image: [1]

Oct 24th 2017 at 3:27:04 PM

^ That sounds more like Afterlife Express, though. Although I still have my doubts that people will consider this separate from that...

Oct 24th 2017 at 4:57:39 PM

  • The YTV show, Seriously Weird had the gang encountering a real ghost of a boy who had died in a train accident. The ghost uses his powers to change the diner that they are at, into a real life ghost train (the same one he died in), and sends it headed towards impending doom.

Oct 24th 2017 at 9:15:18 PM

  • Film/Ghostbusters a reporter invokes the trope by describing a spectral locomotive his grandmother used to tell stories about when he was a boy.

  • Final Fantasy Brave Exvius had a Halloween event in 2016 that featured a ghost train full of hostile evil spirits,

Nov 4th 2017 at 8:35:52 PM

  • Adventure Quest Worlds had a Friday the 13th event in 2011 featuring a Ghost Train. The player, Voltaire, and Deady board the train as a quick means of traveling the desert. However they have to fight their way off in order to leave the train, as passengers are not permitted off once boarded.

Nov 4th 2017 at 8:38:20 PM

Aren't there urban legends about these ghost trains? There should be a Folklore folder.

Nov 5th 2017 at 6:55:37 AM

^ Only if someone has specific examples of legends about them.

Nov 5th 2017 at 9:26:23 PM

^ Speaking of urban legends:

Folklore

  • The Silverpilen (Swedish for "Silver Arrow") was a train used by the Stockholm Metro from the 1960s to the 1990s. Although it's really just a rare train of unusual design, some people alleged that the train was supernatural; claiming that it picks up passengers at night, who either disappear forever or only return after a long period of time (weeks, months, or even years).

Nov 6th 2017 at 1:11:54 PM

  • The track Ghost Train by Waterflame is based on, well, a ghost train.

Nov 6th 2017 at 3:08:31 PM

Nov 8th 2017 at 8:16:58 AM

Another Folklore contribution:

  • Statesville, NC is said to have a ghost train that visits on the anniversary of a horrific 1891 crash in which a train plummeted from a high bridge and about 30 people were killed. Witnesses on the anniversaries of the wreck have heard screeching train wheels, screaming passengers, and the crash itself. Many have also reported seeing a man in a railroad uniform carrying a gold watch who vanished before their eyes.

Nov 8th 2017 at 9:24:29 AM

Regarding Spirited Away, there is a difference between "spirits" as in "the separated souls of formerly living people" and "spirits" as in "occasionally intangible mystical beings." There are many examples in Japanese media of the "spirit world" being a parallel reality that occasionally intersects with ours without the residents being the Western idea of ghosts. We're going to need cleanup between the pages.

Nov 10th 2017 at 9:31:40 AM

Should we start a cleanup thread for Afterlife Express before launching this?

Nov 17th 2017 at 8:09:41 AM

Bump. There is a red link in the Literature part and a typo in Music.

Nov 17th 2017 at 9:38:20 AM

I could have sworn an actual ghost train appeared in Ghostbusters 2 or something?

Feb 5th 2018 at 1:51:47 PM

This was rogue launched by a ban evader, so unlaunched.

Feb 8th 2018 at 11:36:35 AM

Not exactly ghostly but still undead-related, the Night Train from Deadlands is used by the feral Nosferatu vampires to travel around at day (through the tracks of the undead-friendly Bayou Vermillion railroad) and find new victims at night.

Feb 8th 2018 at 5:04:29 PM

^^Thanks, Berrenta.

^Will add that one.

Now then... I miss the feeling of launching a trope. I'd like to launch this one soon, so... any objections? We all agree that this is different enough from Afterlife Express?

Jun 25th 2018 at 1:54:18 AM

I noticed that Ghost Ship still had this draft in it, so I removed it. Bump.

Jun 25th 2018 at 7:46:42 AM

There's a Japanese urban legend involving a monster train I read about in a book, and it may have inspired a monster in Blood C. If I can dig up the info would they count?

Jun 25th 2018 at 2:02:36 PM

  • Alan Rails from Rick And Morty is a member of the intergalactic Super Team the Vindicators. Having survived a derailed train crash that killed his parents, Alan was gifted with the power to summon ghost-trains.
    Alan Rails: All aboard motherf*ucker!

Jun 25th 2018 at 10:30:05 AM

I also have a picture if you want to use it:

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ghosttrain_ghostbustersii.png

  • In Ghostbusters II, Ray, Egon and Winston explore the haunted catacombs beneath New York, one of the apparitions being a ghost train. Egon was quick to identify the train as being the old New York Central "City of Albany" that was accidentally derailed in 1920, killing over 100 people.

Jun 26th 2018 at 1:45:29 AM

William F Nolan's story "Lonely Train A-Comin'" is about a man seeking vengeance on what he believes is a train-riding serial killer who murdered his sister. The eventual revelation is that the act was committed not by a human but a demonic man-eating steam train.

Aug 28th 2018 at 1:05:13 PM

YKTTW Bump. The TRS thread I started for Afterlife Express was locked without any discussion, so is it safe to launch this?

I didn't realize there were new examples. Thanks. I'll add those, and I guess the picture works well enough.

@Star Sword: Sorry I'm late (:P), but depending on the context, I think that might work.

Aug 30th 2018 at 12:10:02 PM

Huh... I thought I had more questions regarding this page than what I put in that last post. I guess I can just go ahead and launch this.

Thank you, mods for unlaunching it previously. Sorry for the trouble.

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