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Railway History by Jay Underwood

Ghost Tracks

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Ghost Tracks, Jay Underwood, 144 pp., 6 x 9, History, April 2009

ISBN: 978-1-897190-47-6 (paper) . . . $24.95

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Ghost Tracks

Readers will discover why railway men fear the number nine! … why a white horse is considered an ill omen … and why, in a profession where safety was a priority, often the supernatural was the only way to explain why accidents happened.
Some of these episodes, which have now become folklore, can be explained as figments of imagination or mischief, like the supposed curse that haunts the bridges over Halifax Harbour. Others – like the ‘hoodoo’ on Intercolonial Railway locomotive No. 239 – cannot be explained away so easily, and readers will be left to make their own determination.
Few of these stories have been told before, and never in such detail as Underwood probes the individuals involved, the events as they unfolded, and the popular superstitions of the era, to explain why such stories existed.
The locomotive was to the citizens of the 1800s and early 20th Century what the computer is to people today – a symbol of the rapid and often impersonal advance of science and technology – and ghost stories may exist simply to give some substance to the belief that higher powers are at work!
These “ghosties and beasties” range from the monster that shook the occupants of a boxcar on a remote siding, to the lonely mother who sought the body of her dead son on the shores of Cape Breton Island, to visits from the Devil in New Glasgow and the spectre of death on “long black trains.”

Three dozen rare and fascinating photos.


Author Biography

Jay Underwood (1958-2013) lived in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, and had a life-long connection with the military and the railways. Born in Changi, Singapore, son of a Royal Air Force non-commissioned officer, he earned his diploma in journalism from Holland College of Applied Arts and Technology in Charlottetown, PEI. He was city editor of the Truro, NS, Daily News, and served for several years as the information officer for 1st battalion, the Nova Scotia Highlanders (North), Canada’s largest militia infantry battalion.

He joined the Halifax Daily News as senior copy editor and a member of the editorial board. His books include Ketchum’s Folly, a history of the Chignecto Ship Railway in Cumberland County (Lancelot Press 1995), Full Steam Ahead, (Lancelot Press, 1996), a biography of Nova Scotia born Alexander Mitchell, the designer of the 2-8-0 Consolidation type steam locomotive that went on to become one of the leading designs of the steam era.

Underwood acted as president of the Nova Scotia Railway Heritage Society, and was a contributor to Canadian Rail, the journal of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association. His article “Fruit of a Poisoned Tree,” an examination of the adoption of standard gauge on Canadian railways, won the association’s award for best article in 2002.


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