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The White Cascade: The Great Northern…
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The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's… (2007)

by Gary Krist

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
This is a fascinating book about a subject I knew nothing about. I went into this book knowing nothing about mountain railroading, the Great Northern railroad, avalanches, or the Cascade Mountain range. I learned a great deal about all of those topics.

The book is well organized and easy to follow - we learn about the Cascades, the history of railroading in the Cascades, the backgrounds of some of the key passengers and railroad employees, the conditions that led to the trains' being stranded, and the conditions that ultimately caused the avalanche. This is followed by a description of the various civil lawsuits that faced the Great Northern railroad after the avalanche, some of the subsequent safety measures put in place as a direct result of the avalanche, and details about the lives of the people who survived and the families of those who didn't.

I am giving the book four stars because I felt that it dragged a little bit. The lead-up the avalanche itself took up more than half of the book. The background is necessary to understanding why the trains were stranded in such a hopeless position, but it did get pretty dry in a few spots.

However, that being said, it is still, overall, an interesting thriller, and it is a lot more than just a disaster story. It is a disaster story in the context of rapidly changing times in a rapidly changing area. It's got a little bit of everything: labor relations, changing attitudes towards railroads, the role of the railroad tycoon, the beginning of a regulatory environment for an industry that previously operated unchecked, and even, to some extent, a look at how women and foreign laborers were perceived. All of this was interspersed throughout the story, compensating for some of the dry spots in the book and making me really excited to get back to the book once I put it down.

Also - two recommendations: 1.) Bookmark the pictures in the middle of the book and go back to them - they are all clustered together and if you look at them all and read the captions, there are some spoilers. 2.) Google the old Cascade tunnel and the Wellington snow shed when you are done with the book - there are some interesting pictures of it as it stands today, and it is interesting to view 1910 structures as they exist today. ( )
  slug9000 | Jul 23, 2014 |
Long, detail-rich account of the 1910 avalanche that swept two trains off their tracks. I liked the follow up with the survivors. ( )
  lesmel | Apr 19, 2013 |
A few weeks after driving over Stevens Pass, my book club decided to read this book about a railroad disaster that took place there in 1910. I particularly appreciated how well researched and narrated this book is, but one of the best things about it is that Krist, the author, takes time to explore the aftermath and ultimate impact of the incident. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
A vivid look at the havoc wreaked by the deadliest avalanche in the United States. Living in King County, I had heard of the disaster, but not ever read anything in depth about it. Well worth reading. ( )
  MsMixte | Jan 2, 2012 |
What can I say? For a railroad buff who is also fascinated by books about disasters, this was the perfect read. It's utterly amazing that I had never heard about this tragedy until I found this book.

In late February of 1910, an almost unprecedented late-winter snowstorm hit the US Pacific Northwest, causing massive disruption to transportation throughout the region, and utterly crippling the Great Northern Railroad in the vicinity of Stevens Pass, the railroad's Cascade Mountains summit crossing. Two Great Northern trains, the #25 Seattle Express (filled with passengers) and the #27 Express Mail, were eventually stranded on passing tracks at Wellington Station on the western side of the GN Cascade Tunnel. There they sat for days, while railroaders worked round-the-clock in abysmal conditions to clear the snow-drifted tracks so that the trains could move again.

The trains sat on a narrow ledge -- with a steep, snow-covered mountainside rising above them to one side, and a deep precipice falling to the other side . The treacherous and isolated terrain made evacuation of the trains by foot seem a less-than-viable option. As temperatures fluctuated and the precipitation continued falling, in varying mixtures of snow, ice, and rain, the snowpack on the slope above them became more and more unstable . . .

This is Gary Krist's first venture into non-fiction, and he brings the full storytelling skills of a novelist to this true story of a railroad under siege by Mother Nature. The narrative is well-paced, vividly (but not luridly) presented, never dry. Yet his research seems thoroughly done, too, with solid endnotes explaiing his sources and how he put the story together from the historical record.

I highly recommend this book, especially to lovers of railroad history. ( )
4 vote tymfos | Sep 7, 2009 |
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The difference between civilization and barbarism may be measured by the degree of safety to life, property, and the pursuit of the various callings that men are engaged in.

  - James J. Hill
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For Jon
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The last body was found at the end of July, twenty-one weeks after the avalanche. (Prologue)
District weather observer G. N. Salisbury delivered the bad news early Monday morning: It was going to snow -- again.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805077057, Hardcover)

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, 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:55 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In February 1910, a monstrous blizzard centered on Washington State hit the Northwest, breaking records. Near the tiny town of Wellington, high in the Cascade Mountains, two trainloads of cold, hungry passengers and their crews found their railcars gradually being buried in the rising drifts. For days, an army of the Great Northern Railroad's most dedicated men 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. Food and coal supplies dwindled. Panic and rage set in as snow accumulated on the cliffs overhanging the trains. Finally, just when escape seemed possible, 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.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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