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The never-before-told story of one of the worst rail disasters in U.S. history in which two trains full of people, trapped high in the Cascade Mountains, are hit by a devastating avalancheIn February 1910, a monstrous blizzard centered on Washington State hit the Northwest, breaking records. The world stopped--but nowhere was the danger more terrifying than near a tiny towThe never-before-told story of one of the worst rail disasters in U.S. history in which two trains full of people, trapped high in the Cascade Mountains, are hit by a devastating avalancheIn February 1910, a monstrous blizzard centered on Washington State hit the Northwest, breaking records. The world stopped--but nowhere was the danger more terrifying than near a tiny town called Wellington, perched high in the Cascade Mountains, where a desperate situation evolved minute by minute: two trainloads of cold, hungry passengers and their crews found themselves marooned without escape, their railcars gradually being buried in the rising drifts. For days, an army of the Great Northern Railroad's most dedicated men--led by the line's legendarily courageous superintendent, James O'Neill--worked round-the-clock to rescue the trains. But the storm was unrelenting, and to the passenger's great anxiety, the railcars--their only shelter--were parked precariously on the edge of a steep ravine. As the days passed, food and coal supplies dwindled. Panic and rage set in as snow accumulated deeper and deeper on the cliffs overhanging the trains. Finally, just when escape seemed possible, the unthinkable occurred: the earth shifted and a colossal avalanche tumbled from the high pinnacles, sweeping the trains and their sleeping passengers over the steep slope and down the mountainside.Centered on the astonishing spectacle of our nation's deadliest avalanche, The White Cascade is the masterfully told story of a supremely dramatic and never-before-documented American tragedy. An adventure saga filled with colorful and engaging history, this is epic narrative storytelling at its finest....

Title : the white cascade the great northern railway disaster and america s deadliest avalanche
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ISBN : 6624735
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 279 Pages
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the white cascade the great northern railway disaster and america s deadliest avalanche Reviews

  • Tracy
    2019-03-24 01:06

    Every time we drive over Steven's Pass, I can't help but think about this, the deadliest avalanche in the history of the United States. My goal for summer 2011 is to hike the trail, look in the tunnel, and think about the factors that lead to this disaster. I first heard of this when we visited the North Central Washington Museum in Wenatchee, and can't believe we didn't learn about this as kids when we had to take Washington State History. This story would have sucked me into learning more about local history!

  • Carlos
    2019-03-25 18:14

    More like a 3 1/2 star book for me , and that is assuming you like trains, train history and its logistics, because if you don't and you are reading this book because of the snow avalanche and the horror that followed it then you are for a disappointing surprise, the book mentions the tragedy but uses as a prop to talk more about train logistics in the late 19th and early 20th century , if I had to use percentages to describe this book I would say that only 20 % of it is about the snow avalanche, 50% is about train logistics, 10% is train history in the USA , another 10 % is about the effects this tragedy had on the train business and the last 10% would be personal details about the characters involved in this national tragedy. Recommend it to anyone who is into trains and natural disasters. But if you don't like trains then I don't think it's worth it for you to read this book.

  • Chris
    2019-03-31 21:22

    So this is what good non-fiction should be. A gripping story told with vim and vigor. Krist keeps the editorializing til the end and simply presents the story of two trains caught in a snow storm in the Cascade mountains. Really good book about a forgotten event.

  • Jeanette
    2019-04-02 17:04

    This was an incredible historical record for this most dire tragedy of avalanche in the state of Washington. It reminded me of a minute to minute (but in this case day to day) record for another horrific catastrophe in Chicago when I was young on the Our Lady of the Angels fire that I read years ago. Two completely different kinds of horror but told in the same way and objective "eyes" style. Witness "eyes" and follow up research of their tales for the "afterwards" as well. And they are similar in another way, as well. In that being patient because the authority on the scene and off was trusted to "know better"- and so obeying and waiting as told heralded a demise in both events, in great majority. This also gives the history of the line, the CEO, the man in charge for these right of way and directional positions for the trains on the line, Jim O'Neill. And many geographic and logistical facts upon Wilmington, Everett, Spokane, Seattle - and many other entities and positional realities upon the Cascades lines. It's at least a 4.5 star (I wish the liability issue would have been addressed a bit more than it was) but you can't help but round that up when an event such as this is recorded in such an excellent and non-opinionated matter. And also such a reveal too for so many personalities involved, considering that it is over 100 years since this occurred. The photos are phenomenal. 1910 and weather intervened in human affairs to an outcome that is hard to envision without the photos.

  • Rebecca Huston
    2019-04-18 19:30

    A well-written account of an avalanche in the Cascade Mountains in 1910 that destroyed two railway trains. Those interested in natural disasters or railroads will find this the most interesting, and while the narrative does get dry in spots, it is worth reading. Krist draws on the narratives left by the survivors and the rescuers, along with a great deal of information about the expansion of railroads and how railroads were run and organized. Three and half stars rounded up to four stars overal. Recommended.For the longer review please go here:

  • Carrie
    2019-04-19 01:29

    My reading patterns have become somewhat eclectic -- I don't even remember where I heard about this book, and nonfiction is not my typical genre, but what a read! Bringing to life the Wellington train tragedy of 1910 (which I didn't even know had occurred) Krist paints with broad strokes to show the political climate of the time (progressive) as well as the financial boom of the Railroad Era, in particular the rise of the Great Northern Line under James J. Hill from MN. Lesser known than the era's other Robber Barons, Hill forged a railroad with sheer grit and now-embarrassingly cheap labor through the formidable Rockies and even more daunting Cascades to reach Seattle. Jim O'Neill, the superintendent of this particular tough stretch of mountain passage through the Cascades began work on the railroad at age 13: "What fetched [boys who went to work on the railroad] were the sights and sounds of moving trains, and above all the whistle of a locomotive. I've heard of the call of the wild, the call of the law, the call of the church. There is also the call of the railroad." (9) Quoting Miles C. Moore, an early governor of the Washington territory he notes: "Railroads are not a mere convenience. They are the true alchemy of the age, which transmutes the otherwise worthless resources of a country into gold." (15) Krist captures well the romance of the Iron Horse and the immense growth and progress in the country at this time. " the final victory of man's machinery over nature's is the next step in evolution" (5) and "It was ... a time when mankind's technological reach had profoundly exceeded its grasp, when safety regulations and innovations in fail-safe communication and operations technologies had not yet caught up with the ambitious new standards of speed and efficiency...." Think of the Titanic 2 years later. So the stage is set for a tragedy: a monstrous late-winter storm that started with temps in the single digits that progressed to thunderstorms and rain within days. More than 12 FEET of snow fell and the mountain wind whipped some drifts even higher and 2 trains: The Seattle Express and the Fast Mail Train (an innovation of its day) became stranded when they were sidelined in Wellington to wait out the storm and wait for the tracks to be cleared. Here, Krist skillfully fills in the details for the trip from boarding to disaster, with fascinating information about many of the passengers, the workers and the "town" of Wellington -- a handful of buildings on a single street. He is very sympathetic to James O'Neill, the man in charge of the entire situation, and rightfully so, for he was out there in the storm on the tracks, personally running some of the rotary snowplows and shoveling to try to get passage through for his passengers and cargo. He is a man of action and a leader by example. In general, the hardiness of people at this time was amazing -- some passengers chose to hike out the 5+ miles through the storm and fallen snow to a lower station. Slide after slide blocked the throughway in one direction then the other as men worked round the clock to try to fee the line and get the trains moving again. Meanwhile, avalanche conditions worsened in the area where the trains were parked, culminating in the final fall that wiped out the trains, track and killed 96 people. Though I knew the outcome, this was still a page-turner -- I became so invested in the people and the action. Krist seamlessly wove together facts from exhaustive research and good storytelling that followed through to the subsequent inquest and civil trials. If you like Jon Krakauer or Erik Larson, this is on par! Also includes authentic photos from the time period, which are fascinating.

  • Koren
    2019-04-06 18:26

    Interesting story of an incident that took place in the early 1900's. At least 100 people died in an accident that may have been preventable. I would have liked to have found out more personal information about the people that were on the train but I'm sure that information was not available. Even so, to have felt more like I knew the characters would have made it more enjoyable.

  • Becky
    2019-04-02 21:08

    How puny is man in the face of angered nature! And yet how indomitably and hopefully persistent. He is swept from the earth like the wheat before the sickle or the chaff before the wind. His toilsome labors are made nothing of; the greatest achievements are crumbled to dust. Yet, driven by that impulse within him, he buries his dead, clears up the debris, and returns to his task, even while he can yet feel the wings of Death hovering overe him.- Seattle Tribune "All wiped out! he cried before collapsing in exhaustion"I am truly stuck between 3 and 4 stars. The execution of the novel was textbook. The beginning gave perfect insight to the culture of the railway men, personal insights to those that would soon become our main characters, and a proceedure for operating a rail line in one of America's last untamed places: the Cascades. The climax was so good I couldnt put the book down; each day you draw closer to the event, but you've been so well placed with the passengers that you, too, feel the women are being hysterical, and feel a bored sort of tension like the men. Meanwhile you have a window that the passengers lacked to the trials and tribulations of the workers deserately trying to shovel themselves and the train out of the mountains, working 90 hours without sleep ceaselessly fighting a storm tat was dropping 3 feet of snow a day by some estimates. All this followed by the trial of the people vs. the great evil railroad, and an objective and brutally honest look back that I wont spoil for you.Still though the book was technically perfect, it lacked any sort of drive, ambition, or emotion. I felt like a passenger on a trolley, kind of along for a slow but bumpy ride, whereas I should have felt like I was on a train that was about to be knocked into a steep ravine by one of the greatest forces of nature. The beginning was too pragmatic to make for interesting reading. I learned a lot but it was very easy to put the book down and walkaway, only by determination did I actually make it through, and I am GLAD that I did, because pages 150-240 were absolutely riveting. I just dont feel that most people will give you the good graces to build a history novel up for 150 pages before succumbing to boredom.A 3.5 for sure for a great narrative, but a 3.0 rating on Goodreads because outside of the knowledge on avalanches, I dont think any particulars will continue to haunt me the way that Children's Blizzard or the Hinckley Forest Fire books did.To read my review of my Natural Disaster Themed read which included 10 different disaster books click link: Here!

  • Heidi
    2019-04-14 19:07

    I have this strange attraction to books about natural disasters. I think this is for a couple of reasons. First, I'm always in awe of Mother Nature's power and second, I'm always interested in the ways people respond. Almost always there are courageous people who help others unselfishly, and usually there are others who are pretty self-centered, but most people fall somewhere in between. Krist does a fantastic job of setting the scene for the disaster by describing some of the people involved as well as giving background on the railroad and how they managed to build a line through the Cascades in the first place. As one might expect, there was plenty of blame to go around, but nobody could have predicted the severity of the storms that moved through leading the the numerous avalanches that stranded the trains in the first place. Despite the best efforts of the area train superintendent and his crews, they just could not keep up with the amount of snow that accumulated and then slid blocking the tracks in both directions several times. Experiences like this one almost always lead to changes in policies and procedures and this disaster was no different. And of course lawsuits and other things happened afterward as well. Krist is careful to cover the aftermath as well as the disaster itself, giving the reader a chance to see the changes that disasters bring about. Krist has written a very engaging book about a horrible event.

  • Kirsten
    2019-03-28 00:09

    Somehow, I managed to read this month's book selection with a week to spare! I had already had this on my to-read list, so I was happy to read it. I especially like reading books that are regional. I vaguely remember this disaster from a show I'd seen a few years back on the History Channel. The book really fleshes out the details; it really amazed me that the author could find such testimonials. He really gave life to the different characters and you could even feel the chill of the snow and wind coming off the page. Also, like many books I've read recently, you could see similarities between then (1910) and today, just over a century different. In 1910, the Gilded Age was just starting to tarnish. Today, we are in a new Gilded Age, I am rapidly becoming convinced. Let's hope progressivism will take hold as it did then.

  • Caroline
    2019-03-25 21:16

    This felt a lot like an Erik Larson book, which I liked. Very well-researched with pages of notes and direct quotes from eyewitnesses, alternating chapters of play-by-play life on the train and general background on key decision makers and the GN railroad. Compelling book even though the event initially may not seem to lend itself to such a novel.

  • Fishface
    2019-04-04 19:16

    A good read about a very ugly disaster. Reads like a novel. The author traces the progress of the situation through the letters and court testimony of the people who were there. The only drawback to his approach is that you don't realize the true scope of the avalanche's outcome until he lists all the dead and injured at the end of the book. The way the author put this story together makes you understand that everyone else on the two trains,, the ones you never heard about, were going through exactly the same anxiety, cabin fever, anger and finally devastation.

  • Bob
    2019-04-13 19:11

    A gripping, non-fiction account of a disaster I had never heard about. Fascinating and highly detailed, with great reliance on the historical accounts. A true tale of man vs nature, and as usual nature wins. A series of events leads to the ultimate disaster, but the circumstances almost made the outcome a foregone conclusion. The amounts of snowfall are just incredible and with steam power the primary source available, in combination with the geography of the Cascade Range it is not unsurprising. I have flown over the Cascades and was struck then by their ruggedness. Impressive.

  • Jim
    2019-04-12 18:13

    Well-told, for the most part, story of the worst avalanche disaster in US history, in which a 100 (possibly more if you count nearby deaths) perished. More of a tragedy as well because betterdecisions could have been made. He did a good job with presenting the overall picture of railroad work, the culture of railroading at the time (from top to bottom).

  • Eileen
    2019-04-09 20:10

    What a lucky coincidence that this book fell into my hands. Last month, my daughter, her friends and I went on the Wellington Ghost Town hike on the Iron Goat Trail up at Stevens Pass, Washington. It is the site of the deadliest avalanche in US history, where two stranded passenger & mail trains were swept down the mountain by an avalanche at Wellington Station in 1910, having been stuck in a precarious position during an extraordinarily severe winter storm in the Cascades. A few nights after the hike, I mentioned to a friend at dinner that we had been on the hike. Her eyes lit up as she explained she had just finished this book on the Wellington disaster, and so of course, I immediately borrowed the book from her. So glad I did.This is a very well-written account of the deadly avalanche and the circumstances leading up to the event, with just enough background on railroad history, logistics, and operations to provide context for the huge dilemma facing the Great Northern Railroad when caught in this deadly convergence of events. The fear of the passengers after days of being trapped and isolated on the mountain was palpable, as was the determination of the railroad superintendent and workers to continually try and clear the tracks when slide after slide came down during that terrible winter storm, creating more and more obstacles. The account of the avalanche itself was heartbreaking as the author had introduced us to many of the passengers and workers through their recovered letters and diaries as well as eyewitness accounts of the survivors. Many of those killed seemed to be real people we knew, thanks to their letters to loved ones left behind in the wreckage. Interestingly, the book also covers the period after the disaster through the coroner's inquest and a civil suit brought against the railroad by a victim's survivor and finally wrapping up with the opening of the new Cascade Tunnel in 1929 at a much lower altitude, making the route over Stevens Pass much safer.Having recently been to the isolated site of the avalanche and reading about what those poor souls went through during those terrible few days was especially heart-wrenching. Staring down into the gulch where the trains finally came to rest after tumbling down the mountainside was eerie and sobering. I definitely want to go on that hike again now that I've read this book and have so much more information about the horrible avalanche all those years ago. Standing at the western opening of the old abandoned Cascade Tunnel, but not knowing at the time how desperately the passengers wanted the trains moved into that very tunnel for safety instead of remaining exposed on the side of the mountain is a surreal experience I'd like to experience again after reading this book.

  • Amanda
    2019-04-05 17:18

    Well researched and well told story of train disaster in 1910 Washington Cascade Mountain range. 2 trains were trapped by continuous bad weather, then hit by an avalanche days later. A tragic story with no one truly coming out as a hero or villain. The most that can be said is that everyone was trying their hardest, except maybe the railroaders who walked off the job.I always enjoy these kinds of stories because they make me think, what would I have done in these people’s situations? In this instance, what if I had been the railway superintendent, or a passenger or a lowly employee just doing what he was told? The lines are not clear at all as to what the best option would have been. Clearly those who walked away and managed to ride to safety made the obvious right choice, but they could just as easily been killed by a slide in another location as they tried to escape. I found it an interesting read about a topic I’d never known about before.I recommend this book to those interested in weather disasters, early America and other non fiction fans. If you enjoyed books such as The Worst Hard Time, Isaac’s Storm, or The Children’s Blizzard, you’ll find this book a quick, informative read as well. It is not overtly graphic in depicting people’s deaths either.

  • Wayne Jackson
    2019-03-31 19:15

    An absolutely incredible read.There is much rich and detailed information in this book that will educate the reader on many interesting facets of history; from the early search for a safe route through the young Cascade Range by an Army officer who would have a key role in the future Civil War, a civil engineer who would help to open those mountains and go on to build the Panama Canal, to the nature of railroads and railroaders at the turn of the century, the ongoing conflict between industrialists and unions and the raucous early days of a booming Seattle.Gary Krist walks us through the physical and human events leading up to the disaster, the moment in the middle of a stormy night when a thunder clap released millions of tons of snow, the ensuing rescue efforts and the years of legal maneuvers that read like a John Grisham novel.Beyond that is the very real human element where the author's talent really shines. He succeeds in bringing back to life many of the people who were on that snow-covered mountainside over a hundred years ago; their very real personal stories of triumph and tragedy.

  • Olga Levin
    2019-04-14 23:34

    This is one of the best nonfictions I've read in a long while. Gary Krist sure knows how to write nonfiction that I think will fascinate even those who are not nonfiction centered. You get a nice visual into the corporate world of the early 1900's with a history of the railroad industry leading up to the disaster at Wellington and the trials that took place afterwards. It was also cool to read about some of the victims of the tragedy and some of the survivors as well. Now I want to visit the former railroad town and see what's left of its ruins (especially those from the 1910 avalanche disaster) even MORE.

  • Thomas S. Duncan
    2019-04-20 23:23

    I thought the author did and exception job of carrying me through all of the issues, tensions, suspense and the human side of what occurred on the mountain in 1910. He did this without inundating the reader with details and at the same allowing the reader to understand the complexity and politics. In many ways it read like historical fiction only it chronicled real individuals and their individual situations. The disaster follow up was very touching and, again, cast the human side at the ultimate forefront. I enjoyed it immensely.

  • Penny Brumbaugh
    2019-04-13 20:19

    This was very informative. Knowing what was about to happen created a great sense for foreboding, while reading the events that led up the tragedy. They say hindsight is 20/20. Had they only known was was in store for them, they could have escaped.

  • Angela Greven
    2019-03-30 17:16

    This is a tedious book to read. A little too much background, but it is a true story.

  • Tami
    2019-04-13 21:25

    The captivating, but tragic story of America's deadliest avalanche to date, occurring in the early 1900's. Krist does an excellent job separating fact from fiction and weaves an informational, and compassionate, narrative without overdoing it.

  • Kel Swanson
    2019-04-01 19:20

    Very detailed book. Well researched but brought the people involved alive for me.I am a great lover of history but some can be very dry, filled with facts and dates but you can't really connect with the people involved. This book kept me at the edge of my seat even tho I already knew the outcome. I felt I was there.

  • Comtesse DeSpair
    2019-03-22 20:31

    The White Cascade takes us back to a different America: an America before the automobile, where railroad companies held incredible power as the primary transit and shipping vessels in our vast country. The locomotive, more than any other invention, opened up the United States, allowing for relatively easy cross-country moves to otherwise extremely remote locations along the West Coast. And the Great Northern Railway was the company that opened up the Pacific Northwest by running a track directly over the imposing Cascade Mountains.The Great Northern was the creation of entrepreneur James J. Hill and was the only major American railroad system that was created entirely from private funds rather than government land grants. And the man who was superintendent of the Great Northern's Cascade Division in 1910 was James H. O'Neill. He was a born railroader that had been working for the Great Northern since he was a 13-year-old water boy. He was directly responsible for the fate of all trains that traveled through the hazardous Cascades.In February, 1910 two trains left Spokane on their way to Seattle via the Cascade route. Great Northern had a fleet of rotary snow plows - immense trains that could easy clear away most of the snow drifts along the tracks - and a wealth of experience in fighting the winter weather that would otherwise cripple the line. There was little concern when the trains left Spokane in the midst of a typical February snowstorm. However, along the way the storm gained strength until it piled on 11 feet of snow in one day. The rotary snowplows became overwhelmed and stuck at various points along the track and, without them, the trains had to stop near a the little railroad town of Wellington, Washington. While the passengers were stuck, O'Neill was kept up every night trying to get the snowplows moving again. He sent troops of men in to dig out the plows but as soon as one would get dug out, an avalanche would bury another portion of the track and they'd have to start all over again clearing debris and snow. The passengers sat for a day, then two days, then three days, then four. By the fourth day, the minor annoyances of boredom and missed engagements began to be superseded by fear as they heard avalanches in the mountains around them. The passengers suggested that the trains be moved from their vulnerable position along the tracks below bare, fire-ravaged slopes to a tunnel a few hundred yards away. However, the engineer explained that they would be unable to heat the cars in the tunnels due to the certainty of asphyxiation. Despite the pleas of the most fearful of the passengers, the trains would stay put. On the sixth night, March 1, 1910, the snowstorm changed to a violent, warmer thunderstorm. In the darkness of the early morning, amid violent thunder, lightning, and rain, the snowfield above the train collapsed sending an enormous wall of snow down the hill. The avalanche engulfed the trains and sent them tumbling into the canyons below. Ninety-six passengers and crew would die in what became known as the Wellington Train Disaster.Krist does an excellent job of retelling the various aspects of the story, from the lives of O'Neill, Hill, and many of the doomed passengers, to the difficulties of train travel through the Cascades, to the legal battles that dogged Great Northern after the disaster. When all is said and done, you're left sympathizing with beleaguered O'Neill and yet feeling like perhaps there was something more that could have been done to protect the passengers. The legal decisions were just as varied, with some holding the railway responsible, and others considering it an "act of God" that was handled as adeptly as possible.Today, the town of Wellington and the wreckage of the trains are long gone, but a disused railway tunnel and immense cement snow shelters that were built over the rails in the years following the disaster to prevent a repeat still stand as memorials to a train that sat in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • Bonnie
    2019-04-04 00:27

    This book is super popular at my library. I had to read it in a rush because there were 7 requests for it after me, and the library has had it since February! This is partially explained by the fact that it takes place in Washington, so a natural audience is my library. I wasn't in awe of it, and in fact it made me do my review of The Children's Blizzard, even though I read that almost a year ago, because I kept thinking, 'man, that book did it so much better!' The setting of the book is 1910, Steven's Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, during a freak March blizzard. An express train of passengers, going from Spokane to Seattle, is trapped on top of the mountain by avalanches on either side. Each chapter = a day, leading up to the 6th night they were trapped when an avalanche swept down the mountain taking the train cars along with it down into the gulley below. The rest of the book is the fallout afterward. Who or what to blame was questioned. Was it an act of nature, or was it preventable? In fact, the main focus of the book, in my mind, is the decisions that each of us make in a life or death situation that either lead to death or survival. Do you hike out and save yourself? Do you stay on the train and try to convince 'the powers that be' to move the train somewhere safer? Or do you act hysterical? These were the decisions that everyone on the train faced. The chapters are periodically punctuated by chapters of background information on the railroad, the mountains, and the key players. Actually, until the avalanche occurs, the info interested me more.Gripe time! I found the author very biased. O'Neil, the man in charge of the tracks, who came up to the pass when the blocking slides occured, was the one responsible for the people on the train. The author decided to make him into a hero, despite his several glaring errors in judgement. Despite that, I found him unlikable, and wondered what my impression of him would have been if the author hadn't been making such a concerted effort to portray him favorably. Generally, I don't think I would like the author if I met him. He seemed so enamoured of the big railroad barons, who really just did not care whether their employees and passengers lived, died, or were destitute. Additionally, I feel that the author wrote the book for men. All of the people on the train that were followed throughout were well-to-do men. Despite the fact that there were several interesting progressive strong women, the main portrayal had women crying manipulatively or complaining. I think the author seriously mistook his audience, because out of the 7 requests at my library, 4 of them were women.He also totally missed out on something that The Children's Blizzard did beautifully, which was explain the weather more. Why was this massive snow occuring? Why was there thunder and lightning, which the author says never happens?Now the good. The climax of the story is in the title. You know before even opening the book that the avalanche is going to happen, and that people are going to die. You would think that would be a buzzkill wouldn't you? Well, the author used the knowledge of what the book was leading up to remarkably well, and in fact, it gave a sense of urgency. He would give a little hint of what was to come in the next chapter, at the end of the one you were reading, and several times it kept me going. Another good thing is that there's really interesting information contained in the chapters that alternated with the main story. I especially enjoyed them because they had to do with my state. For example, did you know that the Cascades are the snowiest place in the continental U.S.? I do now.P.S. Because of the requests, I read this right after The Egg and I, which I normally would not do. I like switching genres book to book, and after reading 2 historical non-fiction stories that took place in Washington back-to-back, I was "blah" by the end of this book.

  • Cindy
    2019-04-09 21:05

    In 1910, in the midst of innovation, industrialization, and conversely, strikes, there occurred a "great northern railway disaster and America's deadliest avalanche." Though not the greatest tragedy, by number, of the era, it is certainly a heartbreaking story of poor decision making and terrible weather conditions. During a late, terrible storm, two trains became trapped in Wellington, a small nearly non existent town, more a stopping point than anything else. Over the course of a few days, people and goods traversed the snow deep mountain but, due to experience, probability, and availability of goods, few decided to venture forth and stay in Wellington. In fact, most stayed on the train as it became the victim of an avalanche that claimed 80+ lives. Whether they should have stayed, moved under the snow sheds, or moved to the spur lines, or whether the Great Northern railroad should have been strikers demands, is a matter of debate but there is no doubt this story is just sad and, thanks to primary written sources found, we know the last hours of the victims, which is just heartwrenching!*I was shocked by a brakeman's job. "Early 'brakies' had to crawl onto the roofs of moving trains, in all kinds of weather and in any kind of terrain, to apply and release each car's individual hand brake; when assembling trains in a rail yard, they had to stand between converging cars and deftly slip a metal pin into the primitive link and pin couplers...'What're brakemen for anyway...Nothing but fodder for cars 'n' engines to eat up.' This was not an exaggeration; it was a rare brakeman who still had all ten of his fingers."-p80*"As historian Robert H. Wiebe has written: 'By the eighties [the railroads] had alienated a remarkable range of Americans: the farmer saw them as the arrogant manipulator of his profit, the small town entrepreneur as the destroyer of his dreams, the city businessman as the sinister ally of his competitors, the labor leader as a model of the callous, distant employer, and the principled gentleman as the source of unscrupulous wealth and political corruption."-p117"How puny is man in the face of angered nature! And yet how indomitably and hopefully persistent. He is swept from the earth like the wheat before the sickle or the chaff before the wind. His toilsome labors are made nothing of; the greatest achievements are crumbled to dust. Yet, driven by that impulse within him, he buries his dead, clears up the debris, and returns to his task, even while he can yet feel the wings of Death hovering over him.--Seattle Star editorial"--p191"...the Wellington Disaster was not...the 'Avalanche That Changed America.' It was instead more a symptom than a cause of the great transformation then occurring throughout the country. The decades right around the turn of the twentieth century, after all, were plagued by industrial and transportation disasters of the Wellington type. The newspapers of 1910 were full of such horrors-sinking steamships, exploding factories, devastating fires-culminating in that most famous of all disasters, the 1912 sinking of the Titanic. It was, in short, a time when mankind's technological reach had profoundly exceeded its grasp, when safety regulations and innovations in fail-safe communication and operations technologies had not yet caught up with the ambitious new standards of speed and efficiency required by American big Business."--p238

  • skein
    2019-04-22 00:12

    Uniformly enjoyable, but never great.(But enjoyable!) Krist obviously has a crush on O'Neill, the train superintendent, who apparently worked tirelessly, even obsessively, to guard his trains from harm and keep 'em running on time. But even the great O'Neill was unable to stop AN AVALANCHE.The storm had raged for days, trapping the passenger train on the edge of a mountain. Meanwhile, the passengers sat in the cars (and occasionally wandered out to have lunch at the local greasy spoon), writing letters that grew more and more cranky as the week passed. (Man to daughter: "You're crippled inside your head where you can't use crutches." Ouch.)Meanwhile, worker crews (composed of itinerants, immigrants, and anyone else desperate enough to do filthy, dangerous, backbreaking work for 10c. an hour) dug out the tracks.Meanwhile, the blizzard dumped another four feet of snow. The crews dug out the tracks. The passengers grew irate. The mountain sent down a little avalanche over the nearly-clear tracks - just to rub it in.Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Until the mountain sent down a massive wave of snow directly on top of the train, knocking it off a cliff and killing a hundred (or so) passengers and crew and untold numbers of workers, most of whom were not documented ... I have a great deal of admiration for how Krist handled this story. It may be unduly sympathetic to O'Neill - but the passengers are treated both as individuals and as a group, with letter and journal extracts, personal recounting, photographs. The background information on weather, life in 1910, sufferings of train crews, life of O'Neill and his wife - well, there were some graceless transitions, but the information was relevant and interesting.And there are PICTURES. And CONVERSATIONS. (What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?)And! the author's brief preface of 'I was scrupulous in my research and included no speculation, except where noted within the text' made my little black heart beat fast. This, ah, this is what non-fiction should be.Best part: the commission tries to lambaste O'Neill for not, you know, preventing an avalanche by sheer force of will. Paraphrasing of cross-examination:(Commission): Didn't you know there was a possibility of avalanches?(O'Neill): There had been six avalanches just that week, on other parts of the mountain. So, yeah. It had crossed my mind.(Commission): Why didn't you try to do something?(O'Neill): I'm not going to dignify that with a response. (aside: ... you silly ass.)Ahh. Disaster non-fiction. So good for making you grateful to be - you know - alive, and not slowly suffering under ten feet of hard-packed snow.

  • Jim
    2019-04-14 21:05

    Living in the Northwest, and having learned to appreciate the dangers of the Cascade Mountains, finding this book was great. It takes you deep into the history of the Great Northern railway and the social and economics of the time — early in the 20th Century, when Seattle was longing to be a big city and the railroad was still king in western expansion.The book is about the tragic March 1, 1910, mountain avalanche in which snow carried two storm-stranded trains, one filled with passengers and railroad laborers, off the tracks, into a canyon far below. Some 100 people perished.This is a story built entirely on records, letters, court transcripts and other historical documents. It blends the passions of dealing with a storm in real time, the disaster itself and the second-guessing that come well after disasters are over. I would call this a book full of psychological, sociological and economical components of the nation’s deadliest avalanche.The events unfold in treacherous Stevens Pass through the Cascades, where the Great Northern had built an elaborate seven-mile stretch of switchbacks to get it trains through the mountains, the last obstacle for passengers, goods and mail to reach the upper Northwest. The disaster unfolds over a full week in which the two trains are stopped on a narrow ledge by a now-abandoned train station known as Wellington.Workers to the west and east try frantically to remove deep snow and avalanches that fell and occurred during what would be one of the worst late-season storms (three in succession) in the region’s history. The reader learns about the people on the train and the railway employees trying to get the trains moving again. Tensions grow, conditions worsen and the mountainside comes tumbling down at 1:30 in the morning of March 1, just hours after many of the passengers had decided to hike through the snow to safety after a good night’s sleep. For some, they never woke up again.Chapters 11-13 are riveting. Very hard to put break away from. “Last Chances,” “Avalanche” and “The Reddened Snow” also are sickening, often gruesomely detailed, but pull on your psyche. You really feel like you are right there — cold, injured, trying to cope.The aftermath chapters tend to be tedious, a much slower read, but you are taken into the period of second-guessing, shifting public attitudes toward the railroads and the changing minds of many of the people involved. And you are guided through what the disaster taught — and didn’t — both the Great Northern and the entire railroad industry.Author Gary Krist certainly hit a home run with The White Cascade, which was published in 2007.

  • Lea
    2019-04-05 01:34

    This was a very interesting book. It is well written and easy to read, I found it to be a page turner. If the railroad in the 1900s, natural disasters and history (with some public opinion thrown in) peak your interest, you will should read this book. The author uses historical records and personal accounts to weave a story of a deadly winter railway disaster.

  • Lance Brender
    2019-04-10 17:27

    The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America’s Deadliest Avalancheby Gary Krist In 1909 the small town of Leavenworth, Washington was a roughhewn train depot at the eastern foot of the Cascade Mountains. It was a dirty and dangerous place, only then barely established as the year-round home of 1600 railwaymen, loggers, and industrial workers, many of whom were somehow connected to the Great Northern railroad company. Twenty years later, the Great Northern completed the Cascade Tunnel, a nearly eight-mile long shaft through the very heart of the most dangerous peaks of the Stevens Pass route, a change to contributed to eliminating Leavenworth as a train hub forever. The tunnel, costing an astounding $25 million dollars at the time, and the livelihood of the aforementioned Leavenworth, existed for one purpose: to make sure that the worst train disaster in Washington State history would never occur again. The White Cascade, by Gary Krist, is a moving and important account of the worst train catastrophe in Washington history. In it, the author details the human tragedy that was the March 1st, 1910 disaster. On that day, the town of Wellington, a small railroad waystation deep in Chelan County’s Cascade Mountains, bore the brunt of the worst snowstorm in recorded Pacific Northwest history, killing 100 passengers, crew, and railway workers and prompting the rerouting of the Great Northern’s mountain line and the reinvention of one small, eastern Washington town. Through exhaustive research, Krist recounts the agony and deaths of the passengers, crew, and the workers trapped at Wellington Station. The author mingles human suspense with dispassionate history, providing a sober but very readable account of the calamity and human errors that contributed to it. For readers who enjoy railroading, history, or a peek into the factors that shaped important and famous Washington locales like Spokane, Leavenworth, and Seattle, I recommend The White Cascade. It is a well-written and compelling account of a fascinating period in Pacific Northwest history. With a local’s interest, and critical eye, I thoroughly enjoyed this his book and invite you to read for yourself about the worst avalanche catastrophe in Washington history—and how it affected places you have heard of.L. Burton Brender is the coauthor of In Cadence, a book of poetry from two Army officers. Follow his blog, Swords & Pens, at