TRAINS, UFOS & E-M Effects
July 13, 2021

One of the least-discussed of the UFO preoccupation with man's vehicles is trains. This is partly due to the lower number reported. But I have had a personal experience with an investigation involving a train incident and then I developed my own pre-occupation to the point where several years ago Rob Swiatek and I began a special train folder on the NICAP site.

In 1973 I was 31 years old, married, with two young boys, and I was a manager at the local P. N. Hirsch store at Mt. Vernon, Indiana. None of us were really prepared for the massive sighting wave of 1973. I had set up a reel-to-reel recorder with an automatic system to record when the phone rang so all I had to do was fill out a message slip and record some brief information, which included contact information so I could get back with the witnesses.

I had been working that Saturday, October 20, and had just gotten a call that morning from my wife, who was very concerned about a caller who wanted to talk to me. I might have left early for my normal 11:00 am lunch, I don't remember. The caller was a conductor for the L&N Railroad. The incident had occurred a few hours earlier and east of our little town of Mt. Vernon. Indiana, about 15 miles west of Evansville. At 6:50 a.m. the primary witness and at least three others on the train had an encounter with a UFO. The train had passed through Mt. Vernon and was over-tonnage, headed east nearing the Lamont crossing which is about 2-miles west of the outskirts of Evansville. A bright white light about 1/5th the size of the sun was coming out of the north and turned and headed east. The brightness fluctuated. When the crew neared Caborn (6-7 miles east of Mt. Vernon), the conductor told the rear conductors by intercom that they had seen a real bright light ahead of them. When they got near St. Phillips, the rear conductor reported that there was a train following them, on the same track, and the front and rear conductors argued about this because there had been nothing on the radios about this.

Most of you are familiar with the lighted signals along a RR track. Not the signals at an intersection, but along the track. This is the ABS or Automatic Block Signal system. Yellow (amber) is caution and means that something on the track is approaching (red) or is moving away (green). By now they had "a red board" which showed a "train" was approaching them. When they got near Belknap Hill, a pretty steep hill, the train became immobilized at the Lamont Crossing when a diesel unit overheated. The rear conductors weren't too concerned because of the "train" following them, so the main conductor (prime witness) radioed the Howell Roundhouse at Evansville. He was told that there was no train behind them! With nothing left to do with a stalled train, the conductor walked back to the rear of the Burlington engine and hit the restart button, and it "took right off". He knew it wasn't right but he got back in and they were able to climb that hill, loaded down with tons of coal, and make it on in to Evansville without further problems. But as they had moved up and away from the Lamont Crossing, the blocking system indicated the "train" was retreating and gave them an amber, then a green "board".

After taking some notes and a full recording over the phone I told the witness I would get him some forms to fill out and sign. In the middle of the next week we spoke again and I informed him that on the previous Monday evening at 6:50 pm at Upton, Indiana, a little town 6 miles northwest of us, a man was farming and noticed an object which looked like it was going to land on the nearby railroad tracks. No sound was heard and the witness and his young daughter were about 2-3 blocks from the OWL (my designation for an object with lights) and they moved to the other side of the field to watch. Described as dark, triangular, with "real bright", "red, white (or amber) and green" lights. This object was either on or near the tracks just before a train heading NW went through. the object dimmed and hovered near the passing train for about a minute, then took off towards Mt. Vernon. The witness told us his daughter was scared. So as I informed the L&N conductor about this sighting at Upton, he dropped a bombshell. In the last few days he had been talking with various persons about what he and his crew had seen early Saturday. Some had made fun of him but he told them he knew what he had seen and what had happened. He then proceeded to tell me that the L&N dispatcher at Evansville had told him that someone at Mauni, Illinois had called late Monday and reported that an object was seen flying over a train there, right over the engine. Mauni is only 11 miles NW of Mt. Vernon.

It was now obvious that genuine UFO activity was occurring in the region. All one has to do is look at the printout during this major U.S. sighting wave to see that. And now they were literally in our back yard and pacing trains for some reason. MADAR hadn't picked up anything yet, but this much we do know, the RR blocking system apparently had. Based on sightings in the region the UFO probably was a small car-sized craft and may have used some type of beam directed at the rear unit to cause it to overheat. The literature is full of reports of E-M effects on almost everything, but trains and other diesel engines in particular had not been affected.

A really good example of the dilemma is the November 14, 1954 incident at Forli, Italy. Three tractor drivers watched a bright red, luminous UFO approach them in a farm field. As it came near, the two engines that worked by internal combustion failed, but the diesel engine still ran. The men ran away. When they returned, the UFO had departed. The two engines that had failed were plagued with trouble after the sighting. Similarly in England, the driver of a truck told the police that a hovering UFO knocked out his lights and radio while his diesel engine continued to run.

On November 16, 1956, a RR telegrapher at Mobridge, South Dakota reported that railroad phones and automatic block system failed as a UFO followed a train into the yard, hovered, then sped away.

But on October 3, 1958, just 15 years prior to the L&N encounter at Mt. Vernon, and also in Indiana, the famous Monon RR train incident occurred and over a path from Wasco to Kirtland, near Indianapolis. At 3:10 a.m. a Monon Railroad freight train was proceeding through Clinton County when a formation of four odd white lights crossed ahead of the train, very similar to the L&N encounter, except this time the objects turned and traversed the full length of the train, front to back (about a half mile) observed by the entire crew. After passing the rear of the train, the objects swung east, turned back and followed the train. The bright glow concealed the exact shape of the UFOs, but they appeared flattened and some times flew on edge. Operating part of the time in-line abreast with coordinated motions, the objects followed the train until the conductor shone a bright light on them. Immediately, the UFOs sped away, but returned quickly and continued to pace the train. Total time of observation: about 1 hour 10 minutes. Finally the UFOs moved away to the northeast and disappeared. The coordinated maneuvers in formation, reaction to a bright beam of light, and pacing of the train, all suggest some form of intelligence.

Eight days after the L&N incident here there was a UFO sighting less than 5 miles NE of Mt. Vernon at Bufkin, Indiana. On November 1st at 9:47 p.m., the MADAR unit at Mt. Vernon picked up an anomaly. At 10:40 pm there was a 10 minute sighting of a blue and green light at Bufkin, just a few miles northeast of the MADAR site. The object first went from east to west, then north to south, moving up and down, back and forth, and there was a humming noise associated with it. Last seen at the Meade Johnson plant at Mt. Vernon.

A diesel train of 14 cars was stalled on March 10, 1983, by a huge UFO near Ventilla, Bolivia, First seen as an enormous, blinding cloud of light over the city, it then flew toward the train changing color from bright white to glowing orange. Seventy passengers on board were awakened and screamed in terror. And take note of this, a " yellow ray of light struck the locomotive and stalled the engine." Engineer Sixto Churaz said that "I tried to start up the engine, but it was dead. Fifteen minutes later the engine suddenly came to life again as the object began to move away from the-train." The locomotive had just been through an overhaul and was found to be in perfect condition. Experts from the University of Qruro, railroad officials, and local police confirmed that a UFO had paralyzed the train and that it was not a mechanical breakdown. On three previous nights, nearby villagers being harassed by UFOs tried to frighten them off with gunfire. This episode introduces the extreme challenging element of the engine starting by itself as the UFO departed, a circumstance that has been reported on 27 other occasions for spark-ignited engines."

One of our consultants in the earlier days was James McCampbell ("UFOLOGY"). He told us that he notably higher efficiency of diesel engines over gasoline engines was achieved by using a higher compression ration. The compression ratio in gasoline engines is limited to about 10 to 1 to avoid explosive pre-ignition of the fuel-air mixture. Ratios of 14 to 1, however, are possible with diesels because they compress only air.  A metered amount of fuel under high pressure is sprayed into the cylinder at the critical time. With the air temperature in the cylinder at about 500 degrees F, the fuel is immediately ignited so spark plugs are not required.

When reliable supplies of natural gas are available, such as in petroleum fields and along gas pipelines, it can be used as a fuel in stationary engines. Older types of these engines compressed a mixture of gas and air but were limited to low compression ratios typical of gasoline, engines. This problem was circumvented by designs that utilized very lean mixtures of gas and air, yielding compression ratios that were comparable to diesels. Ignition in them was produced by a pilot injection of fuel oil supplying only about 5% of the BTUs. Even that small amount of refined oil can represent a significant logistics problem and expense, so in later developments, manufacturers introduced models that replaced the diesel oil injectors with spark plugs! These engines, known as "high-compression, spark-ignited engines" are produced in great variety by several manufacturers in the range of about 1500 to 4500 horsepower, They  are "....the ideal choice for compression stations on gas pipelines.

Because of the higher pressure of gases in the spark gap, these engines require much more powerful electrical systems in accordance with Paschen's Law. Secondary circuits operate at about 25,000 volts. So they would be uniquely sensitive to interference by any source of  ionization in the atmosphere that would reduce the breakdown potential and permit shorting the high-voltage surges to ground rather than allowing delivery to the spark plugs. While there are many variation in design of the electrical systems, they have breaker points.
Consequently, collapse of an arc across the points could cause this type of diesel to self-start in complete analogy to automobile engines.

I filed a report in 1973 with MUFON, as I was a MUFON State Section. For some reason the powers that be did not want to an article on the incident. Ten years later, with the computer age, with printers, scanners and copiers, I was Indiana State Director. I was also an authorized field investigator for CUFOS. Using my word processor and all those tools I updated all the important cases I had investigated and provided copies to everybody, including the routine copies to MUFON's DDI (Deputy Director of Investigation), Dan Wright. And I kept a copy of each for myself. The originals, of course, went to MUFON once again. The reason I mention all this is that the full report is apparently "lost". Nobody seems to know where it is. It's not in the Pandora files. Dan Wright turned all his files over to MUFON. When I downsized and moved to Newburgh in late 2017 all my files had been transferred to Jean Waskiewicz in Michigan, who is longer among us. CUFOS may have a copy but so far it is elusive. The only version of the case that I know of is on the NICAP site and it is missing the signed forms, the daily logs and other materials, maps, etc. The biggest sin is that no article on this now almost 40-year-old case has been publicized in any UFO journals. Few people know of its existence. We're still looking for it.
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Francis Ridge
Newburgh, Indiana