Iowa June 11, 2018
Most People Don’t Know The Story Behind Iowa’s Abandoned Bridge To Nowhere
Iowa has a long and storied history with the railroad! In fact, did you know that our state was the
very first to even have a train robbery? Luckily, not all of our locomotive history is as sinister, and there’s an impressive memorial bridge to prove it.
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Way out in Boone, Iowa, there stands an impossibly tall railroad bridge that crosses the Des Moines River.
For years, this was one of the highest and longest railroad bridges in the world. It stands 185 feet tall and 2,685 feet long.
The bridge was completed in 1901 and carried railcars across the river until it was abandoned in 2009. Yes, it lasted over 100 years!
What makes this incredible, abandoned bridge to nowhere so special? Well, it was the very first bridge in the history of the country to be named after a woman - the Iowa heroine Kate Shelley.
Shelley was a true hero and recognized as such after her actions on the stormy night of July 6, 1881.
On that ill-fated night, Shelley was living in her home a few miles upstream from a high trestle bridge that was similar to the one that was eventually named after her when a fierce storm rolled in.
The bridge near her home that crossed the Honey Creek had been washed out, and a train had crashed into the creek from high above. Shelley knew another train was due from Moingona, and had to get the word out that it was not safe to cross. The only way to make it to the train depot was to cross the high trestle bridge - on foot.
She crossed the Des Moines river in the middle of the storm, warned the station, and then headed back across to lead a rescue team to those who plunged into in Honey Creek.
Today, the Kate Shelley Museum in Boone is a tribute to the heroic woman. When a new high truss bridge was created to cross the Des Moines River from Boone, it seemed to only make sense that the bridge be named after Kate Shelley.
The Kate Shelley Bridge was decomissioned in 2009 and replaced, but the original was left standing as a tribute to this amazing woman.
You can still visit the Kate Shelley High Bridge, and it is a fascinating tribute to a heroine of Iowa history.
Find directions to the bridge in Boone right here. If you want to learn more about Kate Shelley herself, visit the Museum in Boone, which is not far from the bridges that stand there today. You can read more about the Museum and Park named in Kate Shelley’s honor right here. Can you even imagine crossing an imposing bridge like this on foot?