History of the Iron Goat Trail
The story of
the Iron Goat began over 100 years ago when the last spike of the
Great Northern Railway was driven, completing one of the most
remarkable engineering feats of the nineteenth century. It marked
the crossing of the Cascades at Stevens Pass which helped
open the Pacific Northwest to settlement and trade with the rest
of the world. This feat was recognized by establishment of the
Stevens Pass Historic District in 1976.
The Great Northern route was the best engineered of the
transcontinental railways. The original route over the pass
consisted of an intricate set of switchbacks cut into the
mountainside. While the switchbacks were an engineering triumph,
they had serious disadvantages.
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
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.
There is much more to the story. If you're interested in
learning more, take a look at
Back to Life: The Iron Goat Trail, documentary by John De Graaf
The Iron Goat
Trail - A Guidebook
The White Cascade by Gary Krist.
Bob Kelly's Website on the Wellington Avalanche