Marshall Pass is a mountain pass in the Sangre de Cristo Range in Colorado. It crosses the Continental Divide as part of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad’s transcontinental route from Denver to Salt Lake City. Completed in 1881, the railroad line saw the daily Shavano passenger train until its closure in 1955. Sounds innocent enough, right? Wrong. Lurking on these tracks is the sinister legend of the phantom train that loomed over the Pass until its last day.
Train engineer, Nelson Edwards, who was operating a passenger train in the early 1880s thought that on this particular night the night appeared to be blacker and the air felt colder. Feeling anxious Edwards continued despite hearing an earlier report of a defective rail and hazardous bridge. Edwards heard a train whistle echoing among the rocks, snow, and ice, and applied the brakes. Annoyed, the conductor asked Edwards, “Why?” Edwards then sanded the tracks and continued on his way.
Still hearing the whistle of what he thought was a wild train, Edwards opened the throttle to climb the mountain to avoid a collision. He told the conductor to warn the passengers then chanced crossing the defective rail. Before crossing the pass, Edwards looked back at the wild train and saw an engineer leaning out of the engine’s window with an evil grin upon his face. As Edwards approached the dangerous bridge, he crossed without trouble while the other train continued racing toward him. He passed through switch nineteen without a problem, and looked back again at the coming train. At that moment, he saw the train topple down the canyon. He heard no cries from passengers so he assumed there weren’t any.
When Edwards pulled into town he saw this haunting and misspelled message written in the frost of his cab window: “A freight train was reck as yu saw. Not that yu will never make another run. The engine was not under control and four sexshun men wor killed. If yu ever run on this road again yu will be recked.” Needless to say, Edwards resigned from the Denver & Rio Grande that morning, thus creating the legend and myth of the phantom train.
With their debut EP, Phantom Train, The Marshall Pass is creating a legend of their own. A duo from Worcester, Massachusetts, consisting of multi-instrumentalist Duncan Arsenault and singer Craig Rawdings this seven-song collection started as Arsenault’s personal project after the passing of his friend and singer/guitarist, Scott Ricciulti. Deeply effected by Ricciulti’s death, Arsenault gave the tracks to friend Craig Rawding who wrote the lyrics which led to the creation of Phantom Train.
Phantom Train is a wonderfully textured soundscape that brings to life the landscape and environment of the west and Marshall Pass. It echoes, whistles, and glides like a ghostly train through the spacious and pristine sound of rugged folk. Rawding’s edgy vocals and Arsenault’s crisp instrumentation also help to mirror the pass for which they take their name; taking the listener on a journey through the peaks and valleys, or in this case, canyons of life, and climbing out of the depths of despair without ever hitting a musical low.