PROJECT HISTORY

Kevin Weiderstrom and Malcolm Keithley separately envisioned a full-length documentary about the Wellington Disaster. Weiderstrom is a Great Northern railway historian and Keithley is a media specialist. After they met in 2018 and discovered their mutual interest, they started serious discussions about the project and studied its feasibility. Weiderstrom proposed the creation of a production company under the umbrella of the Great Northern & Cascade Railway Company, a nonprofit organization that operates the ride-on miniature railway in Skykomish, Washington. The popular attraction operates out of the historic Skykomish Railway Depot. In September, 2019, the Great Northern & Cascade Railway authorized the creation of a production group to proceed with a professional production of the story of the Wellington Disaster, along with related media products. The intent is to raise funds for the production. Pre-production officially began in late 2020. Research has been on-going for several years by both Weiderstrom and Keithley.

GREAT NORTHERN & CASCADE RAILWAY PRODUCTIONS
PHOTOREAL RENDERING, ANIMATION, PHYSICS, AI, AND MORE - IN REAL TIME.

The basic concept is to tell the story with highly realistic 3D digital models utilizing “Unreal Engine, the world’s most open and advanced real-time 3D creation platform for photoreal visuals and immersive experiences.” Excerpt from: Tragic Mountain by Louise Jarvis Flynn The New York Times

Natural disasters follow a script in America, a maddening, though some might argue reassuring, drama that taps into our puritanical righteousness, our legacy of entitlement and our compulsion to right wrongs with regulatory legislation. Whether a hurricane is to blame or a blizzard, as in “The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America’s Deadliest Avalanche,” by Gary Krist, our outrage in retrospect seems matched only by our lack of foresight at the time. Set in 1910 on elegant Pullmans and drab boxcars held hostage by snow in the Cascade mountains, Krist’s account of an avalanche — which struck early on the morning of March 1 and killed 96 men, women and children — resonates because the particulars of such national tragedies have not, in fact, changed much.

The Great Northern Railway’s Cascade line, completed in 1893, was considered a marvel. The switchbacks and tunnels that cut through the snowiest region in the lower 48 were the handiwork of John F. Stevens, who would later become chief engineer of the Panama Canal. For the first time, Seattle, Spokane and Everett were efficiently connected to the rest of the country, allowing mail and other goods to travel from St. Paul to Seattle in just under 48 hours.

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Arriving at the Skykomish Depot

Watching over this line was James O’Neill, a 37-year-old golden boy whose career on the rails started at age 13. He became a favorite of the Great Northern’s owner, James J. Hill, a tycoon who once said, “Give me enough Swedes and whiskey and I’ll build a railroad to hell.”

O’Neill had been superintendent for three years when at the end of February 1910, an enormous snowstorm socked in the mountains and he was forced to shut down the lines until the weather improved. Six trains were on the tracks, but O’Neill’s main concern quickly became the two already deep into the Cascades, the time-sensitive Fast Mail train and the stately Seattle Express. Weather Krist notes was not the only villain here. As the hours and days passed, telegraph lines snapped and coal supplies dwindled. There were honest miscalculations, good intentions gone awry and corporate hubris aplenty, giving the story complexity and relevance.

The Great Northern & Cascade Railway is a one-eigth scale ride-on railway created by Kevin Weiderstrom. Located in the historic railway town of Skykomish, Washington, it is operated by volunteers – giving free rides on the nearly one-mile tracks from May until October. The miniature railway attracts thousands of riders and visitors. A museum and gift shop are housed in the original Skykomish train depot. The organization is a 501C-3 non-profit, managed by a board of directors. The Great Northern & Cascade Railway Productions was established for the creation of a full-length documentary about the 1910 Wellington Disaster, and other related products and productions.