Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Train Disaster at Wellington

This doesn't look like a train disaster card, does it? It's a perfect example of a relatively plain card with a very poignant message. It hardly matters what's on the front. I was looking for cards to post for St. Patrick's Day when I came upon this one. The news is not very cheerful, so I thought I'd post it on a day other than the holiday.

Grace sent this card from Seattle to Miss Sara Clark in Dexter, New York on March 10, 1910.
The message reads:

Dear friend, - You had all better come west here to live. Although we have had a very bad winter. Suppose you have read of that awful avalanche on the Great Northern. It seems terrible here, for we are so close. They are bringing many of the bodies here. Love to all,

It reminded me of the tragic Washington avalanche this last weekend that killed three skiers at Stevens Pass. The 1910 avalanche was also near Stevens Pass, but was much more severe and much deadlier. It swept away two Northern Pacific trains and claimed the lives of 96 victims. You can read more about the disaster at HistoryLink. You may also want to look at the Wellington Avalanche website.

Afterwards, the small railroad town of Wellington changed its name to Tye (after the Tye river) because of the negative association with the disaster. Tye became a ghost town after the second Cascade tunnel was opened in 1929.

Here's a photo of the aftermath of the avalanche, with blanket-wrapped bodies being prepared for transport. The photo is courtesy of Paul Dorpat, a historian who writes for the Seattle Times Sunday Magazine and has a superb website.



  1. What a sad message, I'm sure the recipient and family didn't feel encouraged to move West by the news on the card. Very interesting history.

  2. I Wonder.Did Postmen Ever Read The Cards They Delivered?If So, This One Would Have Been Delivered Tear-Stained.

  3. As you say, very poignant.
    Thank you for the history links too.

  4. such a beautiful postcard for such a very sad message..however.." come home" does fit ,doesn't it.
    thanks for sharing and for the history!! ( it's what i love about your share so much info about the postcards!).

  5. So interesting that you have a link to the disaster. I have been privileged to have met (and played host to) Martin Burwash, who has written some railroad books about Stevens Pass, including two on the Wellington Disaster. Before the Cascade Tunnel was made the route the trains had to take to make the grade were amazing. Perilous, yet amazing.

  6. A timely post... It reminded me of my years living in Colorado, when I would get a little nervous driving the hairpin roads over the passes after a big snow, since cars would get swept away every now and then. Skiers have been thrilled to finally be getting some snow here in the NW this winter after a very dry start, unfortunately, the unstable snowpack has also created some treacherous conditions.

  7. Snow was usually not the magical precipitation of storybooks. Roads and rails were primitive in so much of the west, it made travel in winter a serious and risky decision. A Great find!



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