Gary Krist couples his first attempt at non-fiction with great storytelling to recount the gripping incident known as the Wellington Disaster in The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche. In 1910 the driving force of rolling snow and wreckage demolishes two snowbound trains. An estimated death toll of 96 passengers and crew litter the area with bodies.
Buried in snow at the top of the Cascade Mountains, surviving passengers first passed the time by writing letters to friends and loved ones, then complaining and taking care of the children. Some of the lucky passengers slid to the safety of the next station. After a freak thunderstorm in the early morning hours of the sixth day, a dislodged and massive swath of hard-packed snow and ice slam into the stranded trains, leaving behind a mess of dead and mangled steel and wood.
Faint cries for help and excruciating rescues make this a non-fiction story of mammoth proportions. The vivid picture Krist paints of the scene makes you feel like you’re there in the cold, stacking the bodies for identification with the rest of the workers.
All in all this was a good read. The White Cascade is packed full of informative descriptions of the era, which I like in a book of this caliber. The story drags a bit at the front but quickly picks up. The history and descriptions of what it was like to work on the Great Northern rail makes this a railroad gem any person interested in this type of memorabilia and area of interest will want to get for their collection.