Monday, October 24, 2016

UP/C&NW Kate Shelley Bridge over Des Moines River west of Boone, IA

(Bridge Hunter, no Historic Bridges, Satellite)

The other long trestle bridge over the Des Moines River is still being used.

There is a trestle bridge that the public can ride over just about a mile northeast of here.

UPRR, 1901
Facebook posting of a W. H. Jackson photo from Shorpy allowed me to find the Kate Shelley Bridge. The steel girders were 7-feet deep. "The bridge was the longest and heaviest viaduct of its time, and may be the longest extant double-track railroad viaduct in the world. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places." [Report of the Historic American Engineering Record]

It was built during 1899-1901 and bypassed during 2007-2009. There are several photos on UPRR's web page.

More photos on TheTracksidePhotographer: Part 1 and Part 2.

Deborah Hufford posted (source)
Gail McLoud That picture of her shortly after this happened, she sure doesn't look 17! She looks 50! It's funny that back then they looked so much older than they were. I love to see that bridge. I've seen it many times & it never fails to send my stomach upside down when we come down that hill.
Mishelle Levi Gail McLoud FYI the bridge Kate crossed is in shambles and near Moingona. The Kate Shelley high Bridge is north between Boone and Ogden. It is just named after her
Gail McLoud Right, I knew that. I just found a link that shows photos of what's left of the original bridge. How interesting. I'd love to see that.
Joan Paup Is it possible the picture was taken some years later when she became station agent there?
Misty McNally

This week [July 5, 2019] is the 138th anniversary of Kate Shelley's heroic feat. Reposted from:


Growing up in north central Iowa, I was fascinated by the amazing true story of a girl in the 1800s who lived only 20 miles from my home. In 1881, a 17-year-old Irish immigrant girl named Kate Shelley risked her own life to save the lives of 200 souls on a midnight passenger train. The train was about to cross a trestle that had collapsed into the water below during a storm. (Iowa has tremendous prairie thunderstorms and tornadoes and you wouldn't want to be on a collapsed high trestle in a driving thunderstorm at night over a raging river!)
During the night of July 6, 1881, a horrific thunderstorm caused flash flooding near Boone, Iowa, near the Shelley farm homestead. Kate was one of five children but she had lost her father, a railroad foreman for the Chicago & North Western Railway, then the oldest brother to drowning in the Des Moines River. So she took up the mantle of caring for her family, farming and hunting.
Kate knew the schedules of the nearby trains. That night, a "pusher" engine left the small Moingona train depot to check the tracks and long trestle crossing the Des Moines River but it plunged into a collapsed trestle at 11pm that night. Kate heard the crash and grabbed a lantern to investigate. Four men were on the train. One was dead, one was swept away in the water (never to be found), and two were alive. She yelled down to them that she was getting help.
She knew that the Midnight Special passenger train could be coming within an hour and she would have to cross the long Des Moines River trestle to signal the train. The trestle was long, high and did not have close planking like most trestles. The cross beams were three feet apart. She crawled on her hands and knees balancing on the rail over the raging river. One slip and she'd be dead. Her lantern soon blew out, but she continued in the dark, the rails illuminated only by the flashes of lightning.
Finally, she reached the other side and still had to run two miles to the Moingona depot to sound the alarm. Finally, the train was stopped. Two hundred people were on board. Kate then led a crew back to the collapsed trestle to rescue the two survivors.
The modest Iowa farm girl became a national sensation. She was interviewed by newspapers, honored by railroads, songs and books written about her, and a collection taken up by the 200 passengers of the Midnight Express to honor her.
Twenty years later, a steel bridge slightly upstream was completed in 1901 and popularly called "The Kate Shelley High Bridge." (Despite a campaign to officially name the bridge after Kate, it was called the Boone Viaduct.) It was the highest double-track bridge in the country, 200-feet high and 2,685-feet long. In 1903, the Chicago & North Western Railway gave Kate a job as the train station agent for the new Moingona Depot.
Decades later, in 1955, the Chicago and North Western Railway named an Iowa passenger train the Kate Shelley 400 that ran until 1971. Then, finally, in 2009, the Union Pacific Railroad completed a new steel and concrete bridge next to the 1901 bridge. Its OFFICIAL name: The Kate Shelley Bridge.
(Update: this looks like the source of the above. (source))

Dennis Stotts commented on Deborah's post
Moingona Bridge 1882.The bridge she crossed.

Francis Otterbein posted
Circa 1900. "Steel viaduct over Des Moines River, Iowa -- Chicago & North Western Railway." by William Henry Jackson
Francis Otterbein posted
Chicago & North Western viaduct over Des Moines River near Boone, Iowa ca. 1902. Photo by William Henry Jackson. Detroit Publishing Co
Glenn Pollock Kate Shelly High bridge.

Francis Otterbein posted again
A train passes over the Valley Trestle Bridge Chicago & North Western Railway viaduct over the Des Moines River, near Boone, Iowa. (1900)

Martin Sorenson posted
"Chicago & North Western viaduct over Des Moines River near Boone, Iowa" ca. 1902. Photo by William Henry Jackson. Detroit Publishing Co.

Stephen Karlson This is the Kate Shelley bridge, now being preserved as an engineering landmark. Union Pacific put in a new bridge capable of handling two stack trains on it at speed, using parts from the Milwaukee Road bridge downriver.

Mike Coker posted
Marty Bernard posted

Dave Arganbright posted

David Seggen posted
The former Kate Shelley Bridge over the Des Moines River near Boone, Iowa.
Bryon Thiesse posted
Some i-bar work in Iowa.
Tom Mason love the bridge but those engines dont belong there.Daniel Herkes The engines are heavy, but that isn't always the problem. The motion of the train as it approaches the various parts of a bridge greatly determine how much mass the structure can distribute to the earth. See:
Bart Culbertson Heat Shrinking the I bars to tighten up the old Deck truss span . This allowed two trains to operate over the bridge at 3o MPH . One in each direction or same direction on the double track at the same. Utimately the goal was to operate 79 over the bridge but that was not a possibility with the age of the structure and its general condition hence the plan was to replace the old Kate Shelly bridge with a new double track concrete and steel span bridge.
Jean InconneauJean and 13 others are consistently creating meaningful discussions with their posts. How is "Heat Shrinking the I bars to tighten up the old Deck truss span ." accomplished?
Bart Culbertson Jean Inconneau This link should take you to one of the Contractors we have used for this type of work in the past. 
This is a process in which you heat a small section of the steel I Bar with gas torches. The co
lor of the steel is monitored so that you dont over heat the steel. The steel will shrink as it cools . To achieve the right amount of shrinkeage , you may have to repeat this operation in several locations along the length of the I bar. Never reheating the same location. When adjusting a series of I bars at a connection , you well shrink each to the same length so all bars equally carry the load. Note that this is a very critical operation which should not be used by an unqualified person to perform this work . I have only touched lightly on the process and not given a detailed discussion of this topic.

Bart Culbertson This picture is from 2002 the the steel bridge is now out of service and a new Concrete and steel bridge has replaced the bridge allowing for higher speeds for double track . The new bridge was operational in late 2009.

Steven J. Brown posted
Union Pacific C44-9W 7331 on the point crossing The Kate Shelley Bridge in Boone, Iowa - June 8, 2002.
Chris Faulk I took several trips there back in the early 2000s, wish I had gotten back there during the CNW days. But now, I really cherish my shots from that time as it doesn't look the same since the new bridge. In fact I don't even think you can get shots from that old road bridge anymore.

Steven J. Brown shared
Bart Culbertson Nice shot if you look closely at the bottom chord of the 300' deck truss you can see the scaffolding used by the Iron workers to strengthen the deck truss.

Steven J. Brown posted
Union Pacific GP15-1 714 (built 1982 as MP 1714) and GP38-2 404 (built 1970 as B&O 4805 to CSX 2105 to CNW 4705 became CEFX 404) on the Kate Shelley Bridge at Boone, Iowa - June 10, 2002.

Steven J. Brown shared

Kevin Piper posted
On 9-11-82, the C&NW ran a trip out of Boone, IA, with R-1 1385. Here the special train crosses lofty Kate Shelley Bridge. Note the railfan gathering below. STEVEN SUHS PHOTO

Bruce Feld posted two photos with the comment: "OLD CNW BRIDGE WEST OF BOONE IOWA, AND THE NEW UP BRIDGE ADJACENT TO IT."
Harvey HenkelmannHarvey and 261 others joined RAILROAD BRIDGES, TRESTLES, TUNNELS AND CUTS within the last two weeks. Give them a warm welcome into your community! The new bridge is a UCEB.
Dave Agosti I see they don't use as much steel today!
Herb Wilson nope...most are made of concrete and r-bar.
Paul Pierson I think they are saving the old bridge for a trail.

Donald J Hagen posted a photo with a train crossing it before it was obscured by the new bridge.

UP Fast Facts

Jim Huygens posted three photos with the comment: "High Bridge, Boone, IA. over Des Moines River. Also referred to as Kate Shelley Bridge. Original steel span (out of service) closest to camera, newer concrete span behind. 08/19/20, my photos."



Bob Klaus posted
I had not yet reported to work as Boone Section foreman in May 1979, when the Roadmaster called Sunday night.
I was to go out and guard the Boone Viaduct Bridge overnight. (WTF? -Some vandals had set fire to nearby barns that weekend, and watching the bridge was a precaution).
If I was going to be there all night, I wanted something to do.
On my way over, I stopped at the Bridge and Building toolhouse and borrowed a 6 foot long straight wrench. I spent all night tightening the 1600 track bolts on the bridge. They needed tightening!
First the eastbound track, and back on the westbound. Started in the dark and finished at dawn.
Four trains passed during the night -I thought each was going to shake the bridge down!
It was beautiful out there: Alone with a full moon above. Fog was level with the bottom of the bridge spans, flowing like a river. Coyotes howling below.
Later that summer, my section crew assisted the B&B ,replacing the oversized ties beneath the expansion joints in the center of the bridge. A B&B worker in a body harness hung from a crane, and guided the tie, fed by another crane, into the opening under the joint.
A section crewman had to pull the ties home, straddling a three foot wide hole. Tie tongs are notorious for slipping. I wouldn't ask my crew to do anything that insane, so I did. One slip, and it was 180 feet to the mud below.
As I tugged on the tie, my feet slid on fresh creosote until my boots met the rail. By the time we finished with the last tie, storm clouds were moving in.
As our hy-rail pick-up left the bridge, lightning struck the east approach signal next to us. My crew glared at me without saying a word: "How dare you endanger us this way?"
Here is a photo of 4014 Big boy going over the replacement Kate Shelly Memorial Bridge in 2019. I was in the Challenger car, the fourth dome car in the train.
One of four photos posted by Andrew Elges
The Kate Shelley High Bridge over the Des Moines River near Boone, Iowa was originally constructed as a steel trestle when the C&NW built the Boone-Ogden Cut-Off, opening in 1901. As trains became progressively heavier throughout the 20th century, speed restrictions were introduced, and eventually only one train was allowed to cross at a time, despite its being a double-tracked bridge.
In 2009 UP opened the new concrete and steel bridge, allowing for two trains to cross simultaneously at speed (up to 70 mph). The old bridge was left in place.
The story of Kate Shelley, the bridges' namesake:
Photo presentation that includes images of the new bridge under construction:
Photos are mine, taken 20 Sept 2020. The train pictured was an EB coal train that had stopped to change crews in Boone.
Sean Reed: Actually you left out part of the story. Before the new bridge was built, UP had beefed up the bridge and was running in both directions at the same time on the old one.

UP has a media page about the old and replacement bridges including some photos and videos. Judging from the speed of the trains in the videos, it is hard to believe they had to go slower on the old bridge.

Video: 3:31-e/b-3+0-intermodal on the new bridge, the old one is in the background
4) (3:38) An eastbound UP intermodal train pulls across the new double-track replacement bridge for CNW's Kate Shelley bridge near Boone, Iowa, on 17 June 2020. It is hard to see the entire bridge due to the wooded nature of the area.
Kevin Leahy The old bridge was double-track also when it was in operation.
Lee Wohlgemuth Thank you for the correction.

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