Wellington Avalanche

The Cascade Tunnel, completed in 1900, bypassed the switchbacks.

Several snowsheds were also added for safety, but winter conditions still presented serious hazards. Trains were often stopped for days in winter storms.

In 1910, snowslides delayed two trains at the town of Wellington. A vast section of snow on Windy Mountain broke loose and crashed down, sweeping both trains off the tracks into Tye Creek below. Rescue efforts were quickly organized, but nearly one hundred lives were lost.

This single event made Wellington the site of one of the worst railroad disasters in the nation's history and also the most tragic snow avalanche. This prompted more improvements to avoid such tragedy striking again. As rail traffic increased, a "new" Cascade Tunnel was completed in 1929. This eight-mile tunnel is still in use today by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The opening of the new tunnel made the old grade obsolete and it was abandoned completely. It is this abandoned stretch that comprises the Iron Goat Trail today.

White Death moving down the mountainside above the trains. Relentlessly it advanced, exploding, roaring, rumbling, grinding, snapping -- a crescendo of sound that might have been the crashing of ten thousand freight trains. It descended to the ledge where the side tracks lay, picked up cars and equipment as though they were so many snow-draped toys, and swallowing them up, disappeared like a white, broad monster into the ravine belowā€¯

— Charles Andrews, Great Northern Railroad Employee

In the days that followed, news of the tragedy that reached the rest of the country was inaccurate. On March 1 there were reports of "30 feared dead." On March 2 there were "15 bodies ... recovered ... [and] 69 persons missing. One hundred and fifty men, mostly volunteers, are working to uncover the dead." On March 3 a headline stated, "VICTIMS NOW REACH 118."

The injured were sent to Wenatchee. The bodies of the dead were transported on toboggans down the west side of the Cascades to trains that carried them to Everett and Seattle. Ninety-six people died in the avalanche, including 35 passengers, 58 railroad employees sleeping on the trains, and three railroad employees sleeping in cabins enveloped by the avalanche.