On March 1, 1910, a westbound Spokane Express was stranded at Wellington Station along the Great Northern Railway due to severe snow slides. As conditions worsened, a catastrophic avalanche struck the region, washing away the entire station, the Spokane Express, and a mail train standing at the station, throwing both into a nearby gorge.
With nearly 100 people killed, it went down in history as one of the country’s worst railroad disasters. The incident emphasized the need for better planning and infrastructure in the Cascades ranges, and by 1929 the original Cascade tunnel, which had opened in 1900, was abandoned after a new tunnel was built at a lower elevation (which is still in use).
Today, the site makes for a unique and chilling scene, with crumbling concrete snow sheds, partially collapsed tunnels, and a railroad grade slowly being reclaimed by the forest. Metals, cables, as well as the site of the accident can be seen along the Iron Goat Trail, a roughly 5.6 mile-trail northeast of Seattle, stretching between the Scenic and Martin Creek trailheads.
The trail, which is quite eerie due to its tragic past, is named after the mountain goat that was the logo of the Great Northern Railway, the northernmost transcontinental line in the country in its day. Kiosks and signs explaining the trail’s connection to railroad history and the Wellington disaster dot the trail, which runs along the ferny evergreen forest and offers stunning views of mountain vistas.
Know Before You Go
East on Highway 2, there is an exit to the Old Cascade Highway. Heading east on this will take you to a small parking lot with restrooms and signage. The trail itself is a sort of loop to the west of this parking lot with a low trail and high trail. From the parking lot there are switchbacks to get up to the top but if you head west, you can go up elsewhere. To the east of the switchbacks is a single trail to a snowshed tunnel.