Riding the Iron Goat
Author: Steven Shaw
In the dead of the 1910 winter, our nation suffered one the worst railroad disaster in its history. Nearly 100 people were killed by a massive avalanche near Stevens Pass, Washington. Today all that remains is a hiking trail, and the souls that fell victim to a violent death.
In later winter of 1910, the sleepy Washington town of Wellington was hit with a monstrous blizzard for nine days and nine nights. The snow fell so furiously that two trains; one passenger and one mail had to take shelter at the town’s railroad depot, high in the Cascade Mountains. With more than a foot of snow falling every hour there was simply no possible way to keep the tracks clear and safe.
Finally a break in the weather. Late on the evening of February 28th, the snow finally stopped and was replaced with a warm breeze and showers of rain. Snow plows were to have the tracks cleared in a day so that both trains would be set to make their way to Seattle.
That leg of the trip was never to be - instead, in the dead of night at 1 a.m. on March 1st, a lightning strike would rewrite history. The devastating bolt struck the slope of Windy Mountain and triggered a massive avalanche that’s said to have been 10 feet high, a half mile long, and quarter mile wide. Worst of all, it was racing towards town as the unsuspecting victims slept peacefully.
In an instant the deadly slab of snow slammed directly into the railroad depot where the passengers and railroad employees slumbered, unknowing that many of their lives were about to be cut short.
The impact violently threw both trains 150 feet down the mountain, 96 people were killed and only 23 survived.
Rescue crews immediately rushed to their aid, but it soon became clear their efforts were in vain. It would take 6 weeks before all of the bodies were removed from the wreckage.
Today, brave hikers can walk through the location of the disaster along the Iron Goat Trail. But beware, many hikers have reported hearing the echoes of the victims scream as they suffered on their way to a chilling end.