The Middleton Railway in Leeds is the world’s oldest continuously operating railway, having been established as early as 1758. Today it is operated by a trust, ensuring that the pioneering history of this engineering feat is preserved for future generations. The railway also holds another, less salubrious world’s first, in so far as the site is thought to be the location of the first ever human death caused by being struck-down by a locomotive. In 1821, a young man by the name of David Brook was walking home from work along the track of the Middleton Railway. It was the start of December, so night had fallen early and the area was experiencing thick, heavy sleet, obscuring vision and blocking out the moonlight. The wind was up, whistling past David’s ears with a high pitched screech. As the young carpenter continued to plod along the tracks he was totally unaware of an approaching locomotive. Likewise, the train’s driver was unable to see more than a few meters in front of the train as it trundled through the night.
When David became aware of the approaching steam engine it was already too late. The train struck him down, pushing him onto the tracks and dragging him under the moving carriages. When David’s body was discovered it was mangled and broken. Reports stated that one of his arms was cleanly torn from the shoulder and that the victim’s stomach had burst open, exposing his guts and organs. The corpse was a bloody, pulped mess, having been rolled along the track under the train for as much as 100 meters. The young man left behind a wife and two daughters. According to the local legend, David’s wife and children were unable to support themselves following his death and were evicted from their home. They ended up in a near-by Poor House, where they became the de facto slaves of a factory owner. Sadly, the poor house was where the two daughters ended their lives, both succumbing to an outbreak of TB in 1823.
Since the accident all those years ago, reports have been made of a ghostly figure wandering along the stretch of track where the accident took place. Witnesses have described seeing a man, dressed in a thick coat, stumbling along the railway line, often with one hand over the top of his face, as though he was sheltering his eyes from the elements. The ghost has been observed for as much as a minute at a time, before suddenly disappearing in a flash of light. Interestingly, the figure appears to be fading with time. Early sightings described a totally life-like apparition, whose appearance was indistinguishable from a living human being. More recent sightings, dating from the 1980s and 1990s describe a transparent figure. Although the details remain clear, the ghost has become see-through.
The ghost of Middleton Railway has not received much coverage, despite the fact that the story and corresponding sightings have persisted down the ages. The railway itself is now run by volunteers from the Middleton Railway Trust Ltd. It has become a favoured location for railway enthusiasts from across the globe to visit, yet few realise that this historic location has a much darker past. Whats more, few are aware that Middleton Railway may also have the oldest railway ghost story known to man.