The Ghost Train (1941)
Phantom Train that Carries Ghosts from a Long-Ago Train Wreck

The Ghost Train (1941) - Mismatched travellers are stranded overnight at a lonely rural railway station. They soon learn of local superstition about a phantom train which is said to travel these parts at dead of night, carrying ghosts from a long-ago train wreck in the area. The travelers eventually get to the bottom of the things that go bump in the night. In between the scary bits, comedian Arthur Askey plays the gags with his Vaudeville style humor.

The film opens with a Great Western express speeding out of Box Tunnel en route to Cornwall.

The train's passengers include Herbert and Edna, a young couple travelling to Truro to be married, Miss Bourne, a West London spinster visiting evacuated relatives, Tommy Gander, an overenthusiastic Vaudeville-style comedian and entertainer headed for the Pier Pavilion at Newquay to put on a show, Dr Sterling, a locum for a doctor in Redruth, Richard G Winthrop and his cousin Jackie, also headed for Truro, and Teddy Deakin.

Just as they are passing Dawlish, the communication cord is pulled and the train stops - only for the guard and passengers to find that Gander has lost his hat and is running back to retrieve it.

Ignorant of the delay this has caused, he returns to the train and comes across Jackie Winthrop in her compartment. Gander tries to make conversation with her, but Teddy has his eye on Jackie and is quick to try and send him packing - at one point he insinuates that Gander is in a first class carriage with a third class ticket, whereupon Gander jokingly retorts by saying he has a platform ticket.

Richard has no time for either of them, so instead they both pace back and forth outside the compartment, Gander making silly faces until at last Richard loses patience and shuts the blinds over their windows.

The train arrives at Fal Vale Junction, Cornwall, where Teddy and Gander are quick to help Jackie with her luggage. Gander offers to share his compartment, but Teddy points out that they are travelling first class, and that Richard dislikes the comedian. Instead they set about helping Miss Bourne, who initially mistakes a carriage window for a door, with her own luggage, including her pet parrot, Polly.

Just before the train leaves, Gander realises he has forgotten about the basket containing his props and costumes, but is annoyed when the guard tells him he had thrown it out of the van.

Once the train has left, the passengers are met by Saul Hodgkin, the stationmaster, who tells them that the last Truro-bound train has gone, and there won't be any further trains until morning; he is just about to lock up for the night. Upon Richard's irate prompting, and knowing that he has to rehearse at Newquay the next morning, Gander tries to charter a special, but Saul refuses to make arrangements.

As he is preparing his bicycle, rain starts to fall, and the passengers make for the station waiting room, taking out their frustrations on Gander for his lost hat. Saul tries to make it clear that "You can't stay here", but the passengers insist on staying until transport can be arranged. Eventually and rather reluctantly, Saul telephones for a bus, but for some reason is unable to requisition one.

He suggests that they walk across to the local village, but the passengers object upon hearing that it is four miles away. In the meantime, Gander has had to rescue his basket from the rain, and borrows the ticket office as a changing room. In spite of the passengers' firm decision to stay put, Saul cannot bring himself to leave them alone, and neither does he wish to stay with them - his reason being that the station is haunted......

In 1897, a branch line was run from Fal Vale Junction to an old port, crossing the river on a swing bridge at the other end of a tunnel close to the station. The swing bridge, worked by a wheel on the platform, was kept open for china clay boats, but was closed whenever trains had to cross it.

One day, some locals chartered a special train to take them home after a beanfeast in Truro, and the then stationmaster, Ted Holmes, was kept on late night duty to close the bridge for it.

At eleven o'clock, he went to close the bridge, but the effort caused him to have a heart attack before the bridge had turned very far. He tried to get back to his office and warn Truro that he couldn't move the bridge, but his heart failed as soon as he reached the waiting room door, and he collapsed with his lamp still burning in his hand.

With him dead and the bridge still open, there was no way of preventing a crash, and although something warned the train's driver, Ben Isaacs, of the danger, he was too late to stop, with the result that the train plunged through the bridge into the river. The branch line was supposedly closed afterwards, and the bridge has always remained in the open position. Ever since that day, Saul explains, there have been occasions when a train is heard desperately trying to pull up near the station. It never arrives anywhere, and neither does it start from Truro, and it is said to kill anyone who looks upon it. "If it be a natural thing," he asks, "where do it come from...where do it go?"

With that, Saul reluctantly leaves the passengers, warning them not to look if they hear a train that night. Miss Bourne is still shaken after hearing his story, but Richard sceptically passes it off as nonsense. Gander has been listening in on the story too, and makes a great fuss of it; in order to take his mind off things, Richard starts a game of chess with Dr Sterling. Gander tries to liven things up by singing "The Seaside Band", but this ends prematurely when Richard loses his temper and throws his gramophone out onto the track. In a surprisingly calm act of retaliation, Gander picks up the chess set and throws it into the fireplace.

After another few moments, Miss Bourne hears something in the station buffet. Richard goes to investigate, followed by Gander who pretends that someone is trying to murder him, but it turns out there is nothing to worry about. Gander then notices that Miss Bourne has some tea with her, and they decide to make some up for refreshment.

Teddy sends Gander to fetch some water while he and Jackie prepare to make the tea, but the only source turns out to be a water crane on the platform. In order to stay dry, Gander improvises a raincoat from a tablecloth and a sheet of tarpaulin, but while obtaining his supply of water he finds the old bridge wheel.

Curious as to what might happen, he tries to turn it, but the wheel is chained and padlocked, and he can barely move it. He gives up and takes the water into the buffet, where he makes mention of the wheel to Teddy and Jackie before "tea-urning the gas on" in a rather flashy fashion. Again he tries to start conversation with Jackie, but Teddy interferes again and sends him back into the waiting room, where he tries in vain to entertain the other passengers with ghost stories.

Teddy and Jackie soon bring the tea through to the waiting room, and the passengers share out what little food they have to make a meal of it, Herbert and Edna providing sandwiches and eggs while Teddy supplies them with two sausage rolls.

During their midnight meal, Gander acts as if Ted Holmes' ghost is lying in the doorway to the branchline platform, repeatedly stumbling as if the ghost had tripped him up. In the end he moves the "ghost" out of harm's way and offers to provide a dessert from a chocolate machine outside.

When he returns, however, he finds to his disappointment that he has bought several boxes of matches. As he is telling a story of an accompanying passenger smoking a cigarette until it burned through his lip ("I found out afterwards he'd been dead since Clapham Junction"), they hear footsteps outside. Richard opens the door to the branchline platform, and a seriously ill Saul Hodgkin collapses into the room.

Gander rushes outside with his lamp and raincoat to fill a glass with water from the water crane while Richard, Teddy and Dr Sterling carry Saul into the ticket office.

By the time Gander arrives back, Dr Sterling pronounces Saul dead. When Edna hears about it, she is too scared to stay at the station with a corpse in the next room, and she and a reluctant Herbert try to get back to Edna's mother. Teddy tries to call the police, but the line appears to be down. Miss Bourne, meanwhile, is in a dreadful state having fainted at the sight of Saul collapsing into the room, so Gander borrows a bottle of brandy from Dr Sterling to soothe her nerves - with the result that Miss Bourne drinks the whole lot.

Teddy, Jackie and Gander bring her through to the buffet to sleep it off, during which Gander tries and fails comically at a trick he had seen at the Hippodrome where all the crockery stays on the table when he pulls the rug off. Shortly after, Herbert and Edna burst into the waiting room with only half their luggage. A knock is heard, and they open the door to reveal a terrified young woman in black. The stranger pleads for help, saying that someone is coming for her, but there is something she has to see.

The passengers are confused, particularly when the young woman acts as if they know what she is talking about - until Teddy sees a car coming down the road. As they watch, the car spins off the road and crashes into a tree, so Teddy, accompanied by Gander and Dr Sterling, go to see what has happened.

The driver of the car is unhurt, but his car is badly damaged. It turns out that he had skidded on Herbert and Edna's luggage, including a fender donated them by the owner of a furniture shop. They return to the waiting room with the battered luggage and the driver of the car, who introduces himself as Price and explains that he has come in search of his sister Julia.

He adds that she suffers from dillusions, and is normally kept under observation. Julia overhears, and emerges from the buffet protesting that he is lying. Price further explains that she once thought she had seen the ghost train, and this was such a shock to her that has retained a fascination for it ever since, and experiences compulsions to try and see it again.

He is curious, however, as to how they heard about the ghost train; the passengers reply that Saul Hodgkin had told them, but is lying dead in the ticket office. Price goes to take a look, but Saul's body has mysteriously vanished, and his desk was just the way he had left it earlier. When they explain to Price what had happened, Julia insinuates that it was actually Ted Holmes.

Dr Sterling suggests that Julia remains at the station until she realises that the ghost train doesn't exist. Price reluctantly concedes, but insists before he leaves that Julia comes back with him as soon as he can find a car. Some time after he leaves, a signal bell is heard to ring in the ticket office, followed by the shrieking whistle of an approaching train.

Teddy and Richard try to open the doors and get a look at the train, but the doors won't open. As it thunders through the station, Julia smashes a window to get a look at the train, but faints the moment she sees it. Dr Sterling makes her comfortable on one of the waiting room benches and requests for a glass of water. Teddy and Gander, who suspect trouble, take this opportunity to go outside to do some sleuthing.

The rain has stopped, but Gander is surprised to find that Saul's lamp has vanished too. Further surprise comes when Teddy finds the bridge has been closed - then they hear singing from the tunnel mouth, and look to see someone wandering towards them. Julia hears it from the waiting room, and claims that Ben Isaacs, the sole survivor of the accident, is coming back just as he had after the accident - out of his mind and singing "Rock of Ages".

Teddy knows better, however, and shoots at the "ghost", causing it to flee back into the tunnel. He and Gander run after it, but Teddy spots a sheet of cloth with drops of blood on it, and heads back to the waiting room. Gander doesn't realise Teddy's distraction until he is some way into the tunnel.

Price has managed to requisition a bus, but is perplexed to hear from Richard that "some idiot's been fooling around with a gun outside".

At that very same moment, Teddy re-enters the room and holds everyone at gunpoint, locking the doors as he does so. He shows them the bloodstained cloth and begins to explain about the hoax behind the ghost train; someone has taken advantage of the accident and a local superstition to make their job easier, except that it didn't work on him and his fellow passengers.

This ghost train, he adds, "happens to be as real as the Plymouth Express". But before he can elaborate on this, Jackie points out that Gander was the reason for them being here in the first place. Teddy is taken off guard by this, allowing Richard to punch him hard in the jaw and knock him out. They carry him to the bus with their luggage, and are just about to start away when Gander arrives in time to catch it.

He notices Teddy lying unconscious next to him and tries to bring him round. When at last Teddy comes to, he is furious with Richard for what he had done, for now there will be no-one to intercept the train on its return journey. Julia insists that "the ghost train never comes back", but Teddy counters that it is more obliging in that makes a return journey.

Gander remarks that if it is a ghost train, it won't matter if the bridge is open - and points out that that was what he had done a few moments back. Dr Sterling suddenly moves towards the front of the bus at this point and orders the driver to stop, while Julia and her brother hold everyone at gunpoint. He tells the driver that the bridge is open, and orders him to turn back so that they can warn the train.

Meanwhile, guns are being loaded aboard the "ghost train" from a nearby beach. As it turns out, Saul Hodgkin is very much alive and in the thick of the business. He flags the train off and climbs aboard as they start away with their illegal cargo.

On the bus, Teddy explains to Richard that the "ghost train" is really a gunrunners' train being used by Fifth Columnists sympathetic to the Nazi movement, with Price as their leader. In the distance, Julia can see the train on the last curve before the bridge. Price and Sterling order the driver to stop, and Price heads down the embankment with Julia and the driver to try and stop the train, but it pays little heed to them as it hurtles towards the bridge.

Just as Sterling is trying to retrieve Teddy's gun from Richard, Gander sounds a buzzer in the driver's cab, startling the doctor and enabling Teddy to knock him unconscious. Taking Sterling's gun with them, the passengers make their escape. At the same time, the driver of the ghost train realises too late that the bridge is open, and applies his brakes. But there is nothing he can do to stop in time, and the train takes a nose-dive from the bridge and crashes into the river.

Afterwards, Teddy discreetly explains to Gander that, "confidentially", he isn't whom he makes himself out to be, indicating that he may officially have been sent to investigate the case for British Intelligence. Richard admits that he has been rather foolish, and apologises to both Teddy and Gander. Miss Bourne then staggers out of the buffet with a terrible headache. Thankful that, as far as she is concerned, "nothing exciting has happened", she makes for the special train they have ordered while Teddy and Gander look on in amusement.