The Train @11pm


Rana, the newly-appointed stationmaster, took over the reins from Nitai Babu. The elderly man showed him the ropes, every nook and cranny of the station. Before leaving, he said. “One last thing. Every night, at 11, a train arrives. When you hear the whistle, do not, under any circumstance, look out. Close your eyes and feign sleep. Whatever you do, don’t answer a single call!”

“But,” Rana began only to be silenced by a steely glance.

“NO questions. Just follow my words, and you’ll see another sunrise.” Nitai Babu packed his bags and disappeared into the twilight.


This was his first posting, a remote, nondescript station in Bengal. All he needed was the monthly paycheck, a lifeline for his ailing mother and young brother, back at home.

The day passed uneventfully. As the sun dipped below the horizon, an oppressive silence descended. After seeing off the train at 8pm, Rana decided to have dinner and sleep until his next duty at two.

A shrill whistle broke through his sleep. Throwing away the covers, he fumbled for the torch. It was definitely a train. Was it 2 am already? Confused, he checked the watch – 11pm! Nitai Babu’s warning sent a shiver down his spine. He sat rigidly on the bed waiting for the train to pass.

The train rolled in with a screech, coming to a halt right outside his cabin. Passengers could be heard shouting at each other. Vendors hawking tea and snacks. This was impossible at that hour, Rana wondered.

And then he heard the knocks. Once, twice and thrice.

“Master…open the door,” a voice called out.

He held his breath. The knocking intensified. “Master…. wake up.”

He glanced at his watch – 11.02pm! The train lurched forward, leaving the station behind. Rana heaved a sigh of relief.

Seconds later, a deafening crash resounded through the night, sending him sprawling on the floor.

This time, Rana rushed out of the cabin. All he saw was a raging ball of fire. The train, mangled beyond recognition, bogies strewn around, bodies – charred and mutilated, scattered everywhere.

He screamed! It was all his fault. If only he had answered the door, the tragedy could have been averted. All because of that cryptic warning of the senile stationmaster.

Rana sank to his knees, and howled.

As abruptly as it began, the eerie spectacle vanished. It became quiet. He looked up. The mangled bodies were reassembling themselves, piece by piece. They clambered into the intact train, the whistle shattering the silence once again.

That was enough!

Rana crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

The next morning, he woke up to find himself surrounded by concerned faces.

The village headman stepped up. “You saw the train, right?” His voice was gentle.

Rana recounted his experience last night.

The man explained, “We should have shared all the details. Years ago, a young stationmaster, notorious for his drinking habits, neglected his duty one night. In his drunken stupor, he let the train at 11 pm pass by. It collided with another on the same track. Many innocent lives were lost. Since then, every night at 11, the ghost train arrives. The guard knocks, looking for the negligent stationmaster. If you answer, you lose your life, for the ghost holds the stationmaster responsible for the tragedy. If you don’t, you witness the horrifying crash. Few have the courage to stay on at this station.”

The headman paused. “We will understand if you decide to quit the job,” he said gently.

Rana sat in a daze.

“This job is crucial,” he thought. “From tonight, I will ignore the train at 11pm.”

Later that night when the explosion erupted, Rana lay in bed, trembling. The whole ordeal lasted for fifteen minutes.

He concluded that fifteen minutes of a ghostly encounter was a small price to pay for keeping his job.

Sreemati Sen