Relative Disasters, Episode 79 - The Story of the Kate Shelley High Bridge

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In the summer of 1881, a heavy thunderstorm caused a flash flood in the Des Moines River valley of central Iowa, in the midwestern United States. The flood caused a small railway trestle bridge to weaken, which in turn caused a steam locomotive to plunge into Honey Creek - killing two of the crew and stranding the rest in the still-rising water. So begins one of the most remarkable rescue efforts in the history of American railways.

On this episode, we're talking bridges, bad luck, Victorian poetry, and the remarkable tenacity of an Iowa teenager.

Sources for this episode include:

"Iowa’s Railroad Heroine" (blog post at ISU Special Collections)

"Kate Shelley: Heroine of the High Bridge" (website)

"Kate Shelley: A Girl’s Heroic Journey", by T. Beck for Historynet, 2019

"Our Kate" poem by J. B. Kaye, 1901

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