A Great American Legend.

Banner & Special Award.

Award Winning Speech by Bill Baxter, DTM.


ENGINE #11 SURVIVOR: "It was a night that I would never forget for the rest of my life, even if I'd lived for 200 years! I was a passenger aboard Engine #11, owned by The Chicago and Western Railway Company, during the night of a severe thunderstorm. At exactly 11pm, it happened! The train was approaching Honey Creek, near the Town of Moingona, Iowa; unaware to any of us aboard that train, that the bridge had been washed away by torrential rains. And so, the train derailed, and plunged down into the creek with a loud crash, stirring up quite a commotion over at the old Shelley Farm! A fellow surviving passenger and I managed to escape from the wreckage, and cling to some tree branches hovering over the creek, to keep from being whisked away to our deaths by the strong currents of what had now become a raging river out of control. We were safe for the time being. But if help didn't come soon, hypothermia would eventually set in, and that water was getting down right cold! I thought we were gonners! But then, I looked up at the top of the gulch, and saw a light of hope in the form of a 15 year old farm girl holding a lantern in her hand. Her name was Kate Shelley. Fellow Toastmasters, honored guests and dignitaries, this is a true historic event about a teenage farm girl, and how she became known as 'The Iowa Heroine' on that dark and stormy night, on July 6, 1881."
     "Now Kate Shelley knew that there was nothing she could do for us by herself. She would have to run to the Moingona Train Station to get help, and she would have to stop the Midnight Express Train, either by getting to that train station in the nick of time, or by using the lantern in her hand to flag the train down herself. Seeing that time was running out for us and the Midnight Express Train, Kate Shelley turned away, and made a bee line towards The Moingona Train Station as fast as her legs would carry her. But getting to that train station would put her life in even greater danger than that of me and my companion. For Between her and that train station was the Des Moines River; and during a thunderstorm of this magnitude, the only way she could get across that river alive, was over the 750 foot Des Moines River Bridge--built entirely for trains, not for foot travel, and not for horse and wagons. One slip on those slippery wet crossbars, or one misstep, in between the crossbars, and Kate Shelley would certainly plunge to her death, down into the foamy brine.
As she made her way onto the Des Moines River Bridge, her lantern went out. And now, her life was in even greater danger, because she had to cross over that bridge in total darkness (in between flashes of lightning). If a twister touched down, she would have no means of spotting it. So immediately, she assumed combat position on her stomach, and begin to cross over that bridge as though she was climbing a 750 foot ladder, only it was horizontal, and not vertical. Slowly but surely, crossbar, over crossbar, over crossbar, over crossbar, Kate Shelley made her way across that bridge as rapidly as she could, shivering violently, as hard torrential rains pounded her from the sky, shaking her body to the bone, as cold and hard gail force winds blasted her from the side! Her hands, arms, and legs were all bleeding, having been pierced by railroad spikes crossbar splinters. Her dress was just about torn to rags! But, the brave teenager managed to make it across The Des Moines River Bridge, and to the Moingona Train Station safe and sound! But when she told everyone at the train station what had happened at Honey Creek, people in the waiting room only snared at her, until an angry stationmaster cut in:"
STATIONMASTER: "That's Kate Shelley! She would know if the Honey Creek Bridge was out, or not!"
ENGINE #11 SURVIVOR: "And so everyone in that waiting room was whistling a different tune towards the brave youth, who fainted dead away from total exhaustion. When she came to, she found out that the Midnight Express Train had been stopped. So immediately, a large band of rescue volunteers toting ropes and shovels, was rounded up, and Kate Shelley led them back to Honey Creek, where we were still clinging to those branches for our very lives. And it wasn't long before my companion and I were pulled out to safety. Kate Shelley had saved our lives that night, and the lives of hundreds of others,  and we would never forget that for the rest of our lives. The next day, news of Kate's Heroism spread throughout the entire country, as the State of Iowa presented her with a Medal of Valor. From that time on she would be known as The Iowa Heroine. The Des Moines River Bridge now carries her name. But Kate Shelley would soon become a forgotten name. She would never acquire the American Folklore Fame that Casey Jones had acquired.  And to me, that's a crying Shame! Because in my book, KATE SHELLEY, THE IOWA HEROINE, WOULD ALWAYS BE A GREAT AMERICAN LEGEND!"

Other Pages on Kate Shelley.