On March 1, 1910, one of the deadliest avalanches in U.S. history struck the small town of Wellington, Washington. The disaster occurred just east of the Cascade Mountains, where the Great Northern Railway had constructed a tunnel through the mountains in 1900. At the time, the railway was one of the main modes of transportation for people and goods between the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the country.
The disaster began when a blizzard hit the area, dumping several feet of snow on the surrounding mountains. The snow was so heavy that it caused a massive avalanche that buried the train tracks and two passenger trains that were trapped in the tunnel. In total, 96 people lost their lives in the disaster.
The Wellington disaster was particularly tragic because many of the victims were immigrants who were traveling to the Pacific Northwest in search of a better life. The trains were packed with people and their belongings, including many children. The disaster was a shock to the entire country, and it led to significant changes in the way that railroads were operated and maintained.
One of the main factors that contributed to the disaster was the lack of communication between the train crews and the railway company. The trains were operated by the Great Northern Railway, which was known for its high-speed trains and advanced technology. However, the company failed to provide adequate warning to the train crews about the dangers of the weather conditions in the area.
After the disaster, the railway company was forced to make significant changes to the way it operated its trains. The company invested in better communication systems, including telegraph lines and weather reporting services. It also implemented stricter safety protocols for train crews and introduced new technology to help prevent future disasters.
The Wellington disaster was a tragedy that shook the entire country. It was a stark reminder of the dangers of operating trains in harsh weather conditions, and it led to significant changes in the way that railroads were operated and maintained. Today, the site of the disaster is a memorial to the victims and a reminder of the importance of safety in transportation.
In the summer of 2022, Dustin Gebhardt, Bobby Ward and I camped several nights in the train debris field. Soon, we will have a video of this amazing place. The people of Wellington, and the lessons they taught us should never be forgotten.