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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

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  669 ratings  ·  93 reviews
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 tow
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ebook, 336 pages
Published January 22nd 2008 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,707)
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Tracy
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
Becky
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
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Monica!
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
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Bob
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
Carrie
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
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Mary Christine Delea
I enjoy reading books about disasters, which sounds fiendish. I feel like a learn a lot from them; namely, what to do and what not to do. Plus, the good ones provide historical insight, which is always fascinating. I come away from reading these books with a sense of that time period.

I read this book as part of a Public Library Book Club about 5 years ago. I love trains, and the events of this book took place in this region, so I was very much looking forward to reading it.

It did not disappoint.
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Denise
This was an amazing book about a long forgotten American train disaster. The author has covered the tragedy with a depth of feeling and respect for the victims by bringing them back to life and allowing the modern reader to grieve their loss. I was impressed by how the author was able to give the reader an unbiased account of the disaster. He outlined the events that led up to it and gave us an account of the aftermath, not only with the trials of key characters in regards to the accident, but a ...more
Troy Heerwagen
Much like Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, The White Cascade tells the story of dozens of people trapped on a mountainside who encounter either the defining or the concluding episode of their lives. However, rather than climbing a mountain as in Into Thin Air, the people in The White Cascade are stranded on a train on the mountainside.

In a matter of days, the weather turns from a cause for slight delay to a bludgeoning force that wipes out nearly 100 lives.

The site of the avalanche now marks a tr
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Cindy
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, peo ...more
Marc
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
skein
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
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Jim
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
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Jan
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
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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
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Jacob
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
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Kim
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
Cindy
I wasn't sure what to expect but it sounded interesting. It was definitely an interesting read. I recently traveled through the Cascade Mountains (in summer), so it was nice to be able to identify a little with the area, although not the season. The history was fascinating, not just about the disaster itself, but some of the history of railroading. I thought I might be bored through a lot of it since it is completely non-fiction with no fluff added in to make it more readable, but that was not t ...more
Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated"
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
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Diane
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
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Sasha
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
Ice
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
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Todd Stockslager
Very good retelling of the 1913 avalanche, with nearly 100 killed the worst in US history, involving social, technical, and political crosscurrents which Krist turns into a compelling and inexorably chilling story.
Christiane
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
Brian I
Good book

I enjoyed reading the book -- the author does a good job telling the story of those involved in a factually correct context without being dry or boring.
Marilyn
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
Mary Farrell
Excellent! Great research. Especially enjoyed the details of this story having driven over Stevens Pass so many times. Nature bats last as they say.
Robin
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.
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