The Sloans Valley Ghost Lights

In October of 1890, along the railway line running through Pulaski County and into the Sloans Valley tunnel, two trains collided in one of the most horrific train wrecks in Kentucky history. Seven people died and dozens more were seriously injured when a freight train collided with a passenger train that was halfway through the Sloans Valley Tunnel. Ever since that night, mysterious lights have been seen around the railroad tracks in the valley.

October 30, 1890 was already a bad night for railroads in Kentucky, even before the Sloans Valley wreck. It was another wreck, this one at Elihu Station near Somerset, that started the chain of events that ended in the deadly Sloan Valley collision. Earlier in the day, a freight train had run into another train as that one was leaving Elihu Station. One man was killed in the wreck, and the damage and confusion shut down tracks for miles around.

The two trains that collided in the Valley that evening were the northbound Freight Train No. 22 and the Southbound Passenger No. 5. Both trains had been significantly delayed by the wreck at Elihu Station. No. 5 was one of two regularly scheduled passenger trains that were to head south on that line that evening. These trains normally ran an hour apart, but both had been held at Somerset and were running close behind one another. When northbound freight was sidetracked south of the tunnel to allow the first passenger train to pass, the engineer either forgot about the other train or mistook the first freight for the No. 5. As soon as the other train had passed, No. 22 pulled back onto the main line and started heading north, not knowing that No. 5 was heading southbound on the same line.

The two trains collided head on in the Sloan Valley tunnel. The boilers on both engines exploded, and the tunnel rapidly filled with fire. The air being drawn into the tunnel acted like a bellows, pouring more oxygen onto the flames and essentially turning the tunnel into a blast furnace. The only stoke of god fortune that night was that the passenger train had not completely entered the tunnel, and three of the sleeper cars attached to the rear of the train were sitting outside the tunnel. The frightened passengers poured into the back of the train and out through these exposed cars. Had No. 5 been just a few hundred feet more down the track, the death toll would have been much, much higher.

Soon after the wreck, reports began emerging about strange lights being seen along the tracks and mournful cries coming from within the tunnel. The lights seem to be most frequently seen at the northern end of the tunnel. They're described as bright lights that move irregularly, swinging back and forth like someone running with a lantern. Whenever someone approaches the lights they disappear. Often, when the lights are seen, the sound of wailing and crying can be heard coming from within the tunnel.

It seems as if the memory of that horrible night was burned into the walls of the Sloans Valley Tunnel. The ground itself seems to be reliving the night of that horrible accident, with the lights of the rescuers swinging around the entrance to the tunnel, trying desperately to get inside the burning train, as the panicked cries of the passengers still echo in the night.

Sloans Valley Tunnel is located near the Cumberland River at the Western edge of Daniel Boone Natonal Forest. The lights are most often seen in late October and Early November when the weather is clear and dry.

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