Kate Shelley

The year was 1881. The place, Des Moines, Iowa. Kate Shelley, who was only 15 years old, lived in a farmhouse in the beautiful valley of North Creek. She lived there with her mother (a railroaders widow) and her 5 other siblings. The Chicago and North Western Railroad ran right past the Shelley house. The particular day was July 6th, it was late in the afternoon, and a terrible rainstorm began to flood the creek in front of the Shelley home.

At 11:00pm an engine stationed at Moingona, the closest village, was ordered, "A run to Boone and back regardless of all other trains and the weather." The train left the station with 4 men on board. As the train passed the Shelley house, two men were standing on the outside of the engine checking for washed out tracks. Then the train made its way onto the Honey Creek Bridge, when out of nowhere, CRASH!! The bridge had broken.

"They've gone down!" Kate shouted to her mother. Kate jumped to her feet and sprang into action because she knew a passenger train would be on these same tracks shortly. With only a jacket, a straw hat and a tiny miner's lantern, Kate ran out into the stormy night.

Kate made her way along the bluff, on the backside of her house, to the railroad tracks. She followed the tracks to the Honey Creek Bridge, where she found the men and wrecked engine in the water below. Kate knew the Midnight Express would be at this very same spot soon and they too would plunge into the abyss below…unless she could somehow stop it. Quickly, she decided she must go to Moingona and stop the passenger train. The town was only a mile and a quarter away, but first she would have to cross the Des Moines River wooden bridge.


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