Poem: “Tom Gray’s Dream” AKA “The Express Train to Hell”
By, Retta M. Brown (born September 18, 1893)
Tom Gray lay down on the barroom floor, Having drunk so much he could drink no more. So he fell asleep with a troubled brain, To dream that he rode on a hell-bound train.
The engine with blood was red and damp, And brilliantly lit by a brimstone lamp; An imp, for fuel, was shoveling bones, While the furnace rang with a thousand groans. The boiler was filled with lager beer; And the Devil himself was the engineer.
The passengers made such a motley crew- Church member, atheist, Gentile, and Jew. Rich men in broadcloth and beggars in rags, Handsome young ladies and withered old hags, Yellow and black men, red, brown, and white, All chained together-a horrible sight!
Then in the distance there rose such a yell, “Ha! Ha!” croaked the Devil, “we’re nearing hell.” Then oh, how the passengers shrieked with pain, And begged of the Devil to stop the train! But he capered about and sang with glee, And laughed and joked at their agony.
“Faithful friends, you have done my work, And the Devil can never a payday shirk. You have bullied the weak, you have robbed the poor, And a starving brother turned from your door; You have laid up gold where the canker rusts, And given free vent to your fleshly lusts;
You have justice scorned and corruption sown, And trampled the laws of nature down; You have drunk and rioted, murdered and lied, And mocked at God in your hell-born pride. You have paid full fare, so I’ll carry you through, For it’s only right you should get your due.
Why, the laborer always expects his hire; So I’ll land you safe in the lake of fire. Where your flesh shall roast in the flames that roar, And my imps torment you more and more.”
Then Tom awoke with an agonized cry, His clothes soaked with sweat, his hair standing high; And he prayed as he never had prayed before To be saved from drink and the Devil’s power; And his prayers and his cries were not in vain, For he never more rode on the hell-bound train.
Urban Legend: Express Train to Hell
An old cowboy named Tom Gray mysteriously disappeared one day. When the detective went to investigate, he met an old station master who told him Tom Gray’s story. According to the station master, Tom Gray was a rambling cowboy who spent many days hanging around the train Station. The station master kept running him off but old Tom Gray kept coming back. He would run up to the other patrons shouting, “It’s coming for me! It’s coming!” When the patrons asked Tom Gray who was coming, he would cry, “I done wrong! I killed a man that cheated me at cards and now I’m going to pay!”
The station master finally had enough and took Tom Gray aside and threatened to call the police if he didn’t quit harassing the other patrons. Old Tom Gray rolled his eyes and cried out, “The Express Train for Hell is coming for my soul! You gotta help me!” Tom Gray pulled away from the station master and ran for the door. It was two minutes to midnight.
Suddenly, at that exact moment, a new sound introduced itself. A long whistle blew once, Twice, Three times. Tom Gray was standing at the edge of the platform frozen. He stared down the tracks horrified in terror. The station master ran for Tom Gray and tried to pull him out of harm’s way.
The train whistle sounded again. Just then a warm rush of air blew against everyone near the platform and the station master heard the roar of an invisible train passing directly in front of him. He heard the hiss of the steam and the screech of flanges against iron rails. But nothing was there.
Tom Gray screamed and wriggled underneath the grip of the station master. Then Tom Gray was gone and the roar of the invisible train faded into the distance and then ceased. The station master looked at the station’s clock. It was midnight.
People standing around the platform began to murmur, “Good lord, he was right.” The stationmaster pulled out his old red handkerchief and wiped his sweating bald head. A trembling man standing nearby approached the stationmaster. “Sir, what was that?” he asked. The station master stared blankly at the tracks and then turned to the man. “Son, I believe that was the Express Train to Hell.”
Then the station master pushed his way back through the station door and then turned to address the frightened passengers. “Nothing to worry about folks,” he said, “It was just an express train passing through. The next train will be here in five minutes.” The station master’s reassuring manner calmed everyone. People turned away and settled back into their seats.
The stationmaster returned to his office, closed the door and poured himself a stiff drink to calm his nerves. “Well, that’s one for the books,” he muttered. “I wonder if I should put it on the schedule. 12am – Express Train to Hell.” Shaking his head, the station master gulped down the remaining liquid and then went back to work.
A New Jersey Ghost Story
retold by; S.E. Schlosser
For days, a ragged old man had hung around the Newark Central Station. The stationmaster kept running him off, but night after night he would return. He kept accosting people, shouting: “It’s coming for me! It’s coming!” Whenever anyone asked him what was coming for him, he would just clutch his head and cry: “I done wrong! I killed a man that cheated me at cards, and now I’m going to pay!”
The stationmaster finally took the man aside and threatened to call the police if he did not cease and desist. The old man rolled his eyes and replied: “The Express Train for Hell is coming for my soul! You’ve got to help me.” He broke away from the stationmaster and ran for the door. The time was two minutes to midnight. At that moment, new sound introduced itself. A long whistle blew, once, twice. The stationmaster was startled. The next train wasn’t due until 12:05.
The old tramp started screaming when he heard the whistle. The stationmaster could hear the roar and chug of a steam train, approaching fast. Approaching too fast to stop at the station. The old man was standing at the edge of the platform, staring down the tracks in frozen terror. The stationmaster ran forward and grabbed hold of the old tramp to pull him out of harm’s way.
The train whistle sounded again. A warm rush of air blew against everyone near the platform and the stationmaster heard the roar of an invisible train passing directly in front of him. He heard the hiss of the steam and the screech of flanges against iron rails; he felt the wind whipping our hair and faces, but he saw nothing.
Beneath his grip, the old tramp gave a terrible wail. Then he vanished, leaving the stationmaster empty-handed. The roar of the invisible train faded into the distance and then ceased. The stationmaster glanced at the station clock. It was midnight.
The stationmaster stared blankly at the tracks. Around him, the waiting passengers and other bystanders were gasping and murmuring in fright. “Good lord, he was right,” the stationmaster murmured to himself. “It did come for him.” He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his sweating, bald head with it.
A trembling man standing nearby approached the stationmaster: “Sir, what was that?” he asked. “Son, I believe that was the Express Train to Hell,” said the stationmaster. He shook his head and that seemed to bring him to his senses. “Why don’t you go back into the station and pour yourself a drink?” he suggested to the trembling man.
He pushed the man through the station door and then turned to address the dazed and frightened passengers. “Nothing to worry about folks,” he said. “It was just an express train passing through. The next train will be here in five minutes.” The stationmaster’s reassuring manner calmed everyone. People turned away from the empty tracks and settled back into their seats, whispering to each other about the strange events that had just taken place.
Then the stationmaster went into his office, closed the door, and poured himself a stiff drink to calm his nerves. “Well, that’s one for the books,” he muttered aloud. “I wonder if I should put it on the schedule; 12 am-Express Train to Hell.” Shaking his head, he fortified himself with one more brandy and then went back to work.
The Express Train to Hell
Poem: “Tom Gray’s Dream” AKA “The Express Train to Hell”