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Soliloquy of a Minor Poet
By C. L. EDHOLM
This bloodless Age!
So placid, cool, encompassed by the laws
The good old days!
Our century was young then, (now so gray,
WHERE ONE HUNDRED'PERSONS LOST THEIR LIVES. Building concrete sheds to protect from snow slides fit Wellington. Washington,
IN June 1910 the Technical World Magazine told of one of the most tragic and remarkable railway disasters ever recorded in the United States; how an avalanche swept down the precipitous sides of the Cascade mountains at the little town of Wellington, Washington, and carried a Great Northern passenger train with almost one hundred passengers aboard, to a terrible fate in the depths of the canyon below. To prevent the recurrence of such a catastrophe was the problem that confronted the Great Northern's engineers, and spurred on by
James J. Hill, who declared that the tracks must be rendered absolutely safe no matter what the cost, they finally determined upon the erection of reinforced concrete snowsheds protecting all the Wellington danger zone. These have just been finished at a cost of $500,000.
Construction of these solid masonry structures for a distance of 3,300 feet is regarded as a great accomplishment in the engineering world, for they are not merely coverings built over the tracks— they are indestructible hoods set into the mountain side. Future avalanches may thunder into the canyon, far below, all
they please, but they will slide right over the concrete tubes, and trains may pass back and forth within them as safely as passenger traffic is carried on beneath the Hudson river in the McAdoo tunnels, or beneath the Detroit river.
It was a west bound passenger train stalled at Wellington by snow-blockades that was swept to destruction at the beginning of last March, together with four electric locomotives used in the Cascade tunnel, which had been recently electrified, and a part of the town of Wellington. For weeks and weeks workingmen continued to take out the bodies of the victims, some buried under fifty feet of snow and debris. Soon after traffic was resumed Mr. Hill, chairman of the Great Northern board of directors, with L. W. Hill, his son, president of the road, L. C. Gilman, assistant to the president, and A. H. Hogeland, chief engineer of the system, visited the mountain division, and studied the problem from all angles.
Observation convinced the officials that
the only way to render the tracks immune from such disaster was to set the rails back into the mountain, and erect coverings that no avalanche could budge.
"We must make the mountain district impregnable against snowslides, even if an outlay of millions of dollars is necessary," declared Mr. Hill emphatically, and aside from the concrete sheds the railway magnate ordered more than $1,000,000 spent in an effort to prevent blockades and delays to through trains during the winter months. Two miles of the main line near Berne, east of Wellington, are in process of rebuilding, new buildings were erected at Wellington, a water supply system is being installed between Wellington and Scenic, and at Wellington a rendezvous has been made for the scores of men that each winter fight the snow king in the Cascades. From this point men may be rushed down the west side of the mountains or through the Cascade tunnel to the eastern slope.
Not before in the world have reinforced concrete snowsheds been constructed to protect a long stretch of track, as in the Cascades. Preparatory to the building of them and the erection of some wooden sheds the Great Northern placed orders for 11,000,000 feet of lumber. In the concrete work 30,000 barrels of cement were used, with 2,400 tons of steel as reinforcement. Relays of men worked night and day rushing the construction, as haste was necessary if the great task was to be completed before the winter snows again brought danger.
The mountain side of solid rock was excavated for fifty feet back from the old tracks. For most of the 3,300 feet the concrete construction rests against the mountain wall. The concrete roof, ten inches thick and sloping one foot in five, is twenty-two feet above the double tracks of the main line. Reinforced concrete pillars set ten feet apart in the walls give additional support.
Great Northern engineers declare that these so-called sheds will last for all time to come, and that danger is virtually eliminated. Each year snows and blockades made traffic extremely difficult to maintain through the Cascade district, but next winter with the improvements that have been made the operating officials expect less trouble than ever before.