In 1881, She Bravely Saved A Train Full Of Approximately 200 People From A Fatal Crash At Just 17-Years-Old

MJ Turner Photograpy - - illustrative purposes only

If you’re a fan of stories of people showcasing tremendous bravery and putting their lives on the line to save others, you should know who Kate Shelley was.

Thanks to Kate Shelley’s courage and knowledge of railroad operations, she saved a train full of people from disaster when she was only a teenager.

Kate was born in Ireland in 1863, and her family immigrated to the United States when she was a baby. Her family followed the growing railroad system to Iowa and settled in Boone County, building a home near the Des Moines River.

Kate’s father, Michael, got a job as a foreman and worked on building tracks for the Chicago and North Western Railway, which ran right near their house. Kate grew up there with four other siblings, and although they weren’t a rich family, they lived happily. That is, until 1878, when Michael passed away.

After her father’s passing, Kate and her mother were forced to take care of their home and her siblings without his stable income.

Kate’s life changed forever when she became a hero on July 6th, 1881. That night, severe thunderstorms were occurring, and around 11:00 pm, 17-year-old Kate heard the sounds of an awful crash. She went outside to discover that a pusher locomotive train had fallen into Honey Creek after the Honey Creek Bridge had broken during the thunderstorms.

Because of her knowledge of the railway system, she knew a passenger train from Ohmaha was on its way, and the people on board would face the same dark fate if someone didn’t stop it. There were four crew members on the crashed locomotive, and two survived. Kate informed the survivors she’d get help and set out on her treacherous yet heroic journey.

Kate trudged across muddy train tracks in the thunderstorm with only a lantern in her hand and began to crawl across the Des Moines River Bridge, which had also sustained damage in the storm.

Her lantern eventually went out, but she kept going, not stopping until she reached the Moingona depot two miles away, warning them and getting them to stop the passenger train.

MJ Turner Photograpy – – illustrative purposes only

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