Welcome to the Iron Goat Trail Website

History of the Iron Goat Trail

HistoricalThe 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 storms.

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

This site is maintained by Volunteers for Outdoor Washington (VOW)

www.trailvolunteers.org 12345 30th Ave NE, Suite I- Seattle, WA 98115 (206)517-3019 info@trailvolunteers.org