The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche
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The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  510 ratings  ·  82 reviews
“Krist does wonders . . . [He] describes the frantic rescue efforts . . . and the malevolent, unending storm. In a thrilling, climactic chapter, he conjures forth the avalanche.”—The New York Times

In February 1910, a monstrous, record-breaking blizzard hit the Northwest. Nowhere was the danger more terrifying than near a tiny town called Wellington, perched high in the Cas...more
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Published (first published 2007)
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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 abou...more
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 c
This is a fantastically interesting book about an event that no one remembers having happened--at least, I had never heard of the "Avalanche that Changed America" (a description which the author dismisses out of hand, stating instead that it was more like the "Avalanche that Heralded the Eventual End of the Railroads").

Basically what went down was this: There is a massive storm in the Cascade mountains, and two trains (a passenger train apparently 3/4ths full of lawyers, and a mail train) end u...more
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...more
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, a...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...more
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 ra...more
On March 1, 1910, during one of the worst winter storms to ever hit the Pacific Northwest, a massive avalanche tumbled down the mountains of Stevens Pass, Washington, sweeping away a passenger train and a mail train that were stranded in its path, ultimately killing approximately 96 people.

In his book The White Cascade, Gary Krist very ably tells the story of that terrible avalanche which remains, to this day, the deadliest in the United States.

I found Krist's writing very readable, neither dry...more
Ruthie Jones
Gary Krist delivers a well-written non-fictional account of a tragic event in American history that includes the inevitable blame game that nobody can ever truly win. Foresight is tricky and often elusive, and hindsight is a ghastly burden to the soul. This story is about a terrible weather/railroad event that killed many and physically and psychologically scarred many more. This story, however, is also about rapidly advancing technology, big business, greed, passengers' rights, incredible human...more
Jenny Karraker
Having just visited the Northwest over Christmas and traveling through many of the areas mentioned in the book, this was an interesting read. The book reminded me of the importance of the railroad back in the early 20th century, when it was the only reliable and practical way to travel. The author brought the story to life w descriptions of the hot tunnels filled w poisonous fumes that made it impossible to seek shelter in them, the steep grades over the higher passes in the Cascades that the Gr...more
Bonnie Gayle
Nov 05, 2007 Bonnie Gayle rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of disaster non-fiction
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, S...more
If you are from the Pacific Northwest and interested at all in some of the early history of the area then I would recommend this book. My knowledge of the region at this time is very minimal and likewise my exposure to the history of railroads in this country is minimal. Which is all to say that in addition to reading a well-put together, journalistic-feeling story, I learned quite a bit throughout the whole thing.

The title pretty much tells you the what of the book so the tragedy itself is no s...more
If you like trains and history, this is a great read! Gary Krist tells the story of the worst avalanche disaster in America that killed over 60 people and injured many others when a train stuck in a Cascade snow storm was toppled off the side of a cliff after an avalanche hit it. The first part of the book details what led up to the mishap-- the design of the track, the equipment involved in plowing snow and moving trains over this trecherous section of track, and the many lives involved in the...more
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 wi...more
This is the story of the Great Northern Railroad, the Cascade mountains, and weather - all things I find quite fascinating. The author tries to stay carefully within the written record and does pretty well - when he ventures into his own descriptions he is a bit florid. I was captivated by the story and the attempted and successful rescues (at least 96 people died). I found the trials a bit trying. I guess I don't care about assigning blame for the incident.

I always find it fun to read books th...more
I just finished this book- it is for my book club. I had a hard time getting started on this one- putting down Twilight and then jumping into this was tough. The beginning starts a little slow with the history of the railroads and intro on the characters and places but it gets really good leading up to the disaster and really formats it as a story rather then a non-ficton book. The book did intrigue me to do further research on Wellington and found out it was a 9 mile hike up there! YIKES! I fel...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leslie Mesmer
This read drier than a text book.
I was look forward to reading of an event I had never heard of before but after 50 pages and several jumps forward I just could not take it anymore. I'm also sure there is no need to keep the book to try again later. The writing will be just as boring then.
This is about 2 trains that were caught in an avalanche in the Cascades in 1910.
Originally marooned due to a record breaking blizzard the train after days of workers and townspeople trying to dig them out th...more
It's hard to maintain suspense when you already know the ending (avalanche knocks two trains off mountainside, killing lots of people) but Gary Krist managed to keep me reading. I feel a little ghoulish enjoying disaster books so much! But---this is local history (trains leaving Spokane must cross Cascade Mountains to reach Seattle) that I hadn't read about before plus a fascinating account of railroads and some of the larger than life people who built/ran them. Though the accident happened in 1...more
A full-blown examination of a famous disaster (which I had never heard of). The author does an interesting and thorough job of examining the rugged Cascade mountain passes, the development of the railroads, the big, rich railroad bosses, the economy of the area, the historical weather patterns. He introduces all the important people. And then the drama plays out. Bad weather. Bad luck. Some guesses and assumptions that turned out to be wrong. But basically a man against natural disaster story. L...more
Interesting book on the train system back in the 1900s and the snowstorm from hell. The writer did a great job of detailing the events and even though I knew the outcome before reading it I was holding my breath at some parts of the book. Since I live in the area will be making a trip to visit the site.
Karen & Gerard
The White Cascade--The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche by Gary Krist is the second captivating book I've read by this author and both are fantastic reads! This non-fiction book is about two trains that were stuck in a huge snowstorm and were eventually hit by an avalanche! The writing is what makes this book so good. You hear from the people on the trains, the people trying to help, and the one person in charge of the railroad at the time. I got the sense I was...more
Apr 10, 2008 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Washington State residents, railroad buffs
I didn't have a clue that there had been an avalanche disaster at Steven's pass, just a few miles from where I live, until I first heard about this book, about an avalanche that took out two trains during a several days of snow storms in 1910.

About 100 people died. Reading about the experiences of some of the survivors, and the speculation about what it was like for the people who didn't die instantly, I felt pretty guilty for my morbid curiosity.

However, it was interesting to read about, and it...more
This was a very good book. I never read any books on trains or train history. Being a fan of natural disaster stories I figured I that I would give it a try. This book was well written and well researched. All the bases are covered as far as cause and results. This was a event that easily could have been lost with the passing of time. I am very glad that someone took the time to bring this tragic event to life for us. I will admit I didn't really expect much out of this book... but was very plea...more
This true tale had my adrenalin pumping, I could' t stop reading.
A reasonably lively account of a train trapped in the North Cascades by a snowstorm in 1910. After several days of fruitless work to try to clear the track, the train was hit by an avalanche and scores of people were killed. The narrative gets a bit slow in the middle as each day of plowing, digging, and strategizing is recounted, but those details are important to the overall story of how hard people worked to get the train moving before the tragedy and just how many things went wrong simultane...more
As I may have mentioned earlier, I have gotten really interested in the Wellington avalanche that occurred in Stevens Pass in 1910. This book is a non-fiction piece about the avalanche - the events leading up to it, the people involved, etc. This is in opposition to Vis Major which is a fictionalized account of the train workers perspective regarding the disaster. I found both books intriguing. This one was better written, but Vis Major was more engaging.
I enjoyed this book. I am not sure if it because it took place in my home state so I knew where the places were he wrote about or just the human factor of the story. I think the author does a good job of bringing to life the actual people who were involved in this and how awful it must have been to have been there when this happened. It was also interesting to see how much the train industry has changed since this time frame.
OK I'm a homer.I live a couple hours from where this occurred. I liked the book and have driven by the house that O'Neill lived in (the author listed the street address). It is a reconnection to history of a time past. I was reading this after reading about Monte Cristo, WA mining in the same time period and the subsequent attempt to locate a railroad there. Maybe not on the scale of an Everest disaster but compelling nevertheless.
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