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 avalanche
In 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, Gary Krist's 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.
In a briskly paced and vividly written account, novelist Krist (Bad Chemistry) relates the tale of two trains, trapped on the tracks in Washington's Cascade Mountains in February 1910, that were subsequently swept away by the deadliest avalanche in American history. With a wealth of end notes attesting to the scope of his research, Krist complements his thorough recreation of events with telegrams, journal entries and newspaper clippings. He also does an elegant job of evoking the hubris that led to the crisis, the claustrophobia and panic of those who endured it and the misery of those left to deal with its aftermath, from the devastated relatives to the Great Northern Railway officials whose trains, Krist writes, were supposed to be "the ultimate symbols of twentieth-century America's new mastery over its own geography and climate." The tragedy gains resonance from Krist's avoidance of hyperbole, as he chooses instead to draw out the emotional toll by focusing on individual stories like that of Ida Starrett, who was the last person to be rescued but who was trapped in the snow atop her own dying baby. As a novelist, he also displays a keen sense for the telling of the story itself and the importance of balancing detail with pace.
The white cascade
Great book. Well written enjoyed it thoroughly.