The conductor on a slow-moving freight train spotted a toddler lying on the tracks just ahead, so he dashed to the grille at the front of the locomotive and kicked her out of harm's way, he said Wednesday.
"I just had to try something. It had to be just all adrenaline," conductor Robert Mohr said.
Nineteen-month-old Emily Marshall was bumped Tuesday by part of the locomotive and was hospitalized with just a cut on her head and a swollen lip. She was released Wednesday.
There was no comment from Emily's mother, Tila Jo Marshall; calls to her home were not answered.
Mohr spotted Emily when she was still about a block ahead of the Norfolk Southern train, which was going 24 mph. The girl had wandered away from home while her mother planted flowers in her yard, authorities said.
Engineer Rod Lindley said he thought it was a dog on the tracks until Emily raised her head at the sound of the train's whistle.
"That's a baby!" Mohr hollered.
Lindley hit the brakes and Mohr bolted out the door of the cab, racing along a ledge to the front of the engine.
He said he realized there was no time to jump ahead of the train and grab the baby, so he went down a set of steps, squatting at the very bottom and hanging on.
As the train neared Emily, slowing to 10 mph, the little girl rolled off the rail onto the outside of the roadbed but was still in danger of being hit.
So Mohr stretched one leg out to kick her away.
"I don't even remember going out the door and down the steps," Mohr said from his home in Denver, Ind. "I don't even remember the engineer blowing the whistle. Everything was on that baby."
Mohr jumped off the train and ran to the girl.
He picked Emily up and cradled her in his arms, and when paramedics arrived and tried to take her, she clung to Mohr.
"She didn't want me to let loose of her," he said.
Mohr, 48, who has four children of his own, said he didn't feel like a hero.
"I did what anybody would have done," he said.