Lebanon County, Pennsylvania is home to a rich history of mining and train passes. It is also the home of Rausch Gap, a ghost town on Hotel Road. Back in 1823, Dr. Kugler opened the first coal mine in the area. Rausch Run was established in 1828 and quickly brought flocks of people to the area to man the mines and build up the town to support the influx of people. Between 1850 and 1851, a railroad was constructed, critical to the success of the area. Rausch Gap was prospected and mined until 1872. Unfortunately, railroad headquarters were moved as a result of ongoing issues with the lack of quality coal and the Civil War. By 1900, the town was all but deserted.
Lebanon County’s mining town was one of the largest coal mining towns in the Strong Valley area. With the influx of so many people and the shipping out of so much coal, managing the train switches was one of the most important jobs in the tiny coal mining community. One family at Rausch Gap was responsible to pull the switches at the same time each day to manage the trains running through the mine town. A railroad switch is a turnout which enables trains to be guided from one track to another at a point of central connection. One man diligently minded the tracks, ensuring safe travel and passage for the valuable supplies.
Unfortunately, one day, the man met a fateful death and the entire community was devastated. As in years past, the job passed to the next member of the family. As this man had no sons, his wife was responsible for the task. Faithfully, she tended to the tracks and ensured the safe passage of the trains through town until one fateful day. The widow found herself so torn with grief that she could not force herself to get out of bed. She could think only of herself and her misery until the startling noise of steel and screams tore her from her cloud of desolation.
The woman had failed to throw the train switches and the train had collapsed off the track. Hundreds were killed on impact and cars were destroyed. The accident shook the town and the widow was immediately blamed. The bodies of the hapless victims could not be identified or even separated and they were buried in a mass grave near the outskirts of town. The mining community called for the wife’s head and demanded she be lynched for her roll in the tragic deaths and great costs to the town.
Overcome with the shame of disappointing her family, destroyed by the loss of her husband, and feeling responsible for the deaths of so many people, the widow prevented the towns people from having to act at all. The next day, at the time of the next train passing, the widow desperately threw herself in front of the fast traveling train, ending her life.
Though Rausch Gap is abandoned and little to nothing remains of the once prosperous mining community, hikers and tourists still travel to the area, hoping to catch a glimpse into Pennsylvania’s past. Unfortunately, many often find more than they bargained for while traveling near the railroad beds. Many have claimed to feel the temperature drop at least twenty five degrees and describe a feeling of heaviness. Some even report seeing the ghost of a woman, carrying a lantern, walking along the long abandoned track beds. Those unlucky enough to spot have had her look right through them. Local lore is that if the woman, likely the widow of the track monitor, passes through your body, you will meet a fate similar to hers- results similar to those of a train accident.