‘Rails to the Darkside’ haunts CT Trolley Museum

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
East Windsor - posted Wed., Oct. 12, 2011
Katrina Elliot and her younger cousin Danielle Bonzalan wait as ‘Motorman Gallo’ tells the story of how the track was laid across an old cemetery. Photos by Jennifer Coe.
Katrina Elliot and her younger cousin Danielle Bonzalan wait as ‘Motorman Gallo’ tells the story of how the track was laid across an old cemetery. Photos by Jennifer Coe.

The Connecticut Trolley Museum is the perfect location for an event like “Rails to the Darkside.” Shrouded in the mysterious history of technology and transportation long forgotten, you are greeted at the annual Halloween event by men and women in uniform who tell you the story of how the trolley’s line construction was begun in 1905, but after it was almost done, the workers found out that they would have to put the track through an old cemetery. Not wanting to delay the construction any longer, they pushed on through.

Cue the chills and chattering of teeth.

“I don’t know where they moved the bodies, actually,” said one of the motormen spookily, and he shifted the gears and sent the rickety trolley flying through the pitch-black darkness.

Visitors were already screaming and biting their nails, prior to even boarding the train. “I’m nervous, but I know it’s not real,” said Abby, a member of the St. John’s Episcopal youth group. But she and her friends were psyching each other out in anticipation of the ride.

Once on board, Motorman Gallo addressed the crowd lining the seats of one of the antique trolleys that belongs to the museum. Creating a bit of a thickly laid-on mystique as he went, Gallo warned the riders to never get out of their seats, “no matter what happens along the route.”

“It was the fall of 1906 when weird things started to happen,” he said. “Who knows what’s going to happen?” Story goes, at least according to the Connecticut Trolley Museum’s website, that a man dressed in black began to appear in photographs of the site a few years ago.

These riders would see a whole lot more than just a man in black that night though.

The clackety-clack and rocking of the trolley as it rolled along the track convinced riders that something could happen at any moment. And, it did. Using the creative talents of several volunteers, the “Darkside” was sufficiently shocking, surprising and scary for those who chose to ride the rails that night.

“Rails to the Darkside” is one of the many annual events that the museum hosts to expose visitors to the history surrounding the almost extinct trolley travel industry. This spooky event, like all the other events held at the museum, assists the museum in making restoration and repairs possible on an ongoing basis.

Also going on now is the museum’s annual Pumpkin Patch Ride, which is much more family-friendly. Take a ride on one of the antique trolley cars, stop at the Pumpkin Patch and find a pumpkin to bring home with you.

These popular events run from Columbus Day weekend to Halloween. For more information, go to the website www.ceraonline.org.

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