Reading Rainbow

Season 9 Episode 9

Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express

Aired Weekdays 2:30 PM Sep 26, 1991 on PBS

Episode Recap

A montage of trains rolling by is seen at the beginning of the episode. LeVar says, "It seems that trains are always in motion. But even once in a while, a train must stop and cool it's wheels." LeVar is at the Los Angeles Trainyard where trains get cleaned up and tuned up before they can hit the rails again. To be safe, LeVar is wearing a hard hat and goggles. One of the train engineers, Rosy Ellis, stops to say hi to LeVar. An engineer is the person who drives, or operates the train. Rosy shows LeVar and the viewers parts of the train. The front part is called the locomotive. The train's engine is 3,000-horsepower, and the whole train weighs a quarter of a million pounds. The wheels and track are made of steel. To keep the wheels from coming off, they are guided against the track by steel lips called flanges. The train runs on diesel fuel, and its tank can hold up to 1800 gallons of it. The locomotive is hooked on to the other cars with steel knuckles and power cables to give the train its electricity. The place inside the locomotive where the engineer drives the train is called the cab. Rosy shows how the train is operated and how the train goes. LeVar even gets to blow the whistle. Normally, you take the train to get to a specific location. LeVar is going to ride the train just for fun. He is going to travel from Los Angeles, California to Seattle, Washington. LeVar will be traveling near the Pacific coast and spend the night on board the Coast Star Light, the name of the train he'll be riding on. Before the trip, the locomotive gets hooked up to the other cars and then mail and supplies are loaded. The train then gets pulled up to the station platform where other passengers are waiting to get on board. After LeVar waves goodbye to Rosy, he jumps aboard his passenger car. LeVar loves starting a new trip by train. After LeVar checks the view, the train conductor comes by and asks for LeVar's ticket. LeVar gives the conductor his ticket, and they wish each other a good trip. On a long train trip, LeVar has lots of time to read. To get the trip started, he reads a suspenseful story. Brian Dehnnihy narrates the true story of a 15-year-old girl who puts her life at risk while saving train engineers and stopping an express train from crossing over a broken bridge. It's the story of Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express. The event occured in July 1881 in the state of Iowa. Kate Shelley was preparing for a storm that was coming. Kate's family lived on a farm near the railroad tracks near Honey Creek. As night came, the railroad men were inspecting the tracks so the trains could go safely across. They also checked the bridges over the rivers to see if they can hold up in the storm. An express train was scheduled to go past the nearest station without stopping at midnight. When Kate sees an engine crossing the bridge over Honey Creek, the bridge collapses. Kate gets shocked when the engine goes down. She is determined to save whoever was still alive and also to stop the midnight express. Near Honey Creek, Kate finds two train men who are still alive. To get to the nearest station, Kate had to crawl across the bridge over the Demoine River. Kate had to hold tight to the rails to keep the winds from blowing her off the bridge. When Kate finally reaches the station, she tells the station men to stop the express because the bridge over Honey Creek was out. A telegraph message was sent to stop the express. Finally, the two men near Honey Creek get rescued. Because of Kate's bravery, she won medals and there was even a bridge named after her. Since Kate Shelley's heroism, there has been many people who kept everyone safe on the railroad. Such people like Rosy know all about that. She blows the whistle when she comes near the railroad crossing to warn anyone approaching the tracks. The whistle means that nobody, but NOBODY, should play on the train tracks because it's dangerous. Stopping a train takes longer than stopping a car. Rosy says she loves being an engineer, because she grew up near a railroad track. She loved watching the trains go by her house. Rosy loves operating the Coast Star Light train by the Pacific coast. If she knows she's having a good time in the locomotive, the people in their cars are too. LeVar tells the viewers that trains were one of the earliest modes of transportation. They've been around longer than planes and cars. The first trains didn't go as fast as they do today and they looked a bit funny. Soon, the faster and most popular trains were the steam locomotives. Settlers couldn't travel westward by train, so people began constructing the Transcontinental Railroad. One team of spikers layed down track starting in the east, and another team layed tracks from California. The two railroad lines were connected in Utah in Spring 1869. A song all about the Transcontinental Railroad is heard to show the whole picture. Since then, train travel became very popular. Steam-, electric-, and diesel-powered trains were faster and cleaner than the streamline ones that burned coal. Trains had cars with all the amenities one can wish for like restaurants to bedrooms. Trains are like mobile hotels. LeVar looks through the train to find his bedroom. The first car he explores is the observation car. It's where you can get a good view of the scenery during your ride. LeVar goes through another car, but still no bedroom. The next car LeVar passes through is a restaurant on rails. Finally, LeVar finds the train car where his sleeping compartment is. LeVar looks about and sees that it looks like a small hotel room. It has a little sink, little soaps and cups, and even a shower and toilet together. LeVar looks around for his bed, and he finds that it's a pull-down type of bed. LeVar says that there's nothing like a goodnight sleep on a train. He loves listening to the rhythm of the rails and feeling the motion of the train, that it soothes him to sleep. LeVar is never too tired for a good bedtime story. He shows the viewers three stories to keep them on the right track. The first reviewer shows the audience a book called The Train to Lulu's. It's a story about two sisters who go on a train to their aunt's all by themselves. In the story, they learn that getting to another place by train is half the fun. The second reviewer talks about a story that's an old favorite called The Little Engine That Could. In the story, a big train has to deliver toys and food to children on the other side of a mountain. When the train gets stuck, the little engine comes to the rescue. The third book is especially the perfect story to read during the Christmas holidays. It's The Polar Express, about a boy who waits for Santa Claus to arrive. He rides on a train that goes all the way to the north pole. When the Coast Star Light arrives at the train station in Seattle, LeVar gets off. LeVar tells us, "Trains are so much fun to ride on, you're almost sorry to get where you're going." LeVar is lucky though, because he gets to go back home, and guess how he's going. He's taking the train home! A reprise of the song about the Transcontinental Railroad is played during the credits.