"America's Worst Train Disaster may be about a terrible event back in 1910, but it makes wonderful reading for lovers of steam railroads. It tells of the business pressures driving decisions, decisions that ultimately resulted in over 96 deaths when an avalanche swept a mail and a passenger train down a deep gorge in Washington. According to the author, the trains were trapped in a snowstorm because the railroad undergoing evaluation for a mail contract. Besides that, the railroad also failed to move the trains to a siding which would have saved them from the avalanche.
You will find a lot of description of railroad equipment. For example, ever hear of an articulated engine?- one that had a pivot to let it bend in the middle on sharp curves. Of course, there is considerable discussion of equipment and techniques of snow removal. Perhaps you have forgotten that not only passenger trains carried conductors, and the size of snow shoveling crews will amaze you. The book also contains news stories about the trapped trains, the disaster and even good quality photos taken during recovery operations by a newspaper photographer covering the sensational accident.
The book contains a view of politics in the days when railroads had the power to mold laws to their liking. Moody obviously feels some of the animosity most people felt toward railroad tycoons. He particularly takes James J. Hill, the founder of the Great Northern Railway to task and suggests that Hill that arranged for the death count to be misstated on the low side.
Moody lets no one off the hook in his discussion of the tragedy. He details wild stories newspaper reporters made up about the accident scene in an attempt to stimulate circulation. He tells of social biases against immigrants and uncomplimentary names used to describe foreign workers - not in private conversations but in newspaper columns too.
The book does contain typos and errors that may distract the reader, but all in all, Moody did a good job. If railroads are your thing, this book belongs in your collection. -- True Rail Stories
From the Publisher
Lots of books cross my desk, but this had a deep affect on me. While reading it, I felt immersed in the 1910 era - and now I have a new concept of what life back then involved. I not only learned about railroads, but also how the people thought about railroads, immigrants, other races. I found that many of the things we struggle with now, those folks also had to struggle with. If you'd like to get the feel of the times, learn about railroading, or just have an enjoyable read, I recommend this book.