Unique Train Ride Includes Hatchery Tour

1407007833151 The Eagle Cap Excursion Train is offering an unusual train ride Saturday, August 29. The train operates on a remote stretch of track between Elgin and Wallowa, Oregon, in the state’s scenic northeast corner. As was typical when railroads were constructed early in the twentieth century, the track follows the shores of two rivers, the Grande Ronde and the Wallowa, and crosses tributaries along the way. Both of these rivers are known as outstanding fisheries, particularly for steelhead and Chinook.

Lookingglass Creek joins the Grande Ronde several miles downstream from the town of Elgin and a few upstream from the confluence of that river with the Wallowa. Lookingglass Fish Hatchery, operated by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, is located just two miles from the railroad, making it a very handy side trip for outdoor enthusiasts and rail fans alike.

Saturday, August 29, the Eagle Cap Excursion Train will once again offer its annual combined train ride and fish hatchery tour. The tour is timed to give passengers a look into how the hatchery works to maintain and improve the population of Chinook salmon in the waterways of northeast Oregon. Participants will watch hatchery staff extract eggs from spawning salmon and see how juveniles are raised in hatchery ponds for eventual release.

“We are pleased the public has an interest in coming to visit the facility and see what we are doing,” said Diane Deal, Lookingglass Fish Hatchery Supervisor. “Participants always seem to enjoy the tour and the beautiful setting. And we value the opportunity to engage with the public.”

The train ride departs from the Elgin Depot at 10 a.m. and returns around 2:30. Passengers will ride the train 11 miles to the old Palmer Junction mill site, where they will board a bus for the short ride to the hatchery. After the tour, passengers return to the train and are served lunch during the return to Elgin.

The depot offers a gift shop, historical displays, public restrooms, indoor or covered outdoor waiting areas and ample parking for passenger cars and coaches. Completed in 2012, the depot was designed to reflect the style of the depot that earlier stood on the site.

The Friends of the Joseph Branch, a non-profit organization, manages and operates the train for the Wallowa Union Railroad, with certified members volunteering as car hosts, engineers and conductors. The volunteer organization has also been responsible for the passenger car renovations. Lookingglass-Creek-ES-for-FB

See the 2015 fall train schedule www.eaglecaptrainrides.com. For tickets, call Alegre Travel, 541.963.9000 or 800.323.7330, or reach them by email to train@alegretravel.com.


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August 15 Train Ride Cancelled Due to Wild Fire Hazard

Due to the high risk of fire in our forests and range land and corresponding fire restrictions put in place by the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Eagle Cap Excursion Train has cancelled its August 15 train ride. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and disappointment this causes our passengers. Unfortunately, the conditions and weather are beyond our control. With the hot weather and extremely dry conditions, the risk is too high for Wallowa Union Railroad. The cost of putting out a fire caused by the train would prohibitive, not to mention the environmental devastation.

Agents at Alegre Travel are calling the 130 passengers with reservations. They are booking the passengers on other trips when possible and those who can’t re-book will have the ticket cost refunded.

This cancellation doesn’t affect the August 29th train ride and Lookingglass Fish Hatchery tour, although there is a chance it could if the dry conditions don’t improve. We continue to book for the rest of the season and hope for better conditions soon. We will keep everyone informed of any new information through this website and on Facebook.

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7 Bikes for 7 Wonders Comes to the Wallowas

Custom made for the Wallowas!

Custom made for the Wallowas!

To celebrate the 7 Wonders of Oregon, Travel Oregon asked seven of Oregon’s best bicycle makers to create seven one-of-a-kind bikes. All this summer, the bikes will be hidden where they belong, at Oregon’s 7 Wonders, for lucky adventurers to find, own and ride. This week, collect the clues and start searching for the custom made Wallowas bike!

What is this all about? Watch the video to learn more about this promotion, introducing people to Oregon’s incredible cycling opportunities in each of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. TravelOregon.com/7bikes7wonders.   Wallowas Bike 2

This week, July 13, they’re hiding the Wallowas bike, also known as an “explorer machine,” for someone to find, own and ride. So get crackin’! What do you have to lose?

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Dinner and Music Accompany July 18 Evening Ride

Sunset on the Train - photo by Dunroven

Sunset from the Train – photo by Dunroven

People looking for a pleasant way to spend a summer evening will want to know about Dinner & Music on the Train, a special sunset train ride beside the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers. The Eagle Cap Excursion Train departs from the Elgin Depot Saturday, July 18, at 4:30 p.m., for this rare opportunity to see the river landscape at dusk.

Passengers will be treated to acoustic fiddle and bluegrass tunes, performed by Carla Arnold, Erin Morgan and Mike Evans. The meal, prepared by Ten Depot Street Restaurant of La Grande, is served as the train winds in and out of shadow, beside the sparkling waters. The twilight scenery is especially beautiful in the canyon, when the light is long and golden and wildlife ventures out of hiding. The ride returns to the Elgin Depot at about 9:30 p.m. Even if the day is hot, riders are advised to bring a jacket in case the evening mountain air feels chilly. Prices range from $45 to $80.

The excursion train was given lots of TLC during the off season. Having received an exterior paint job last fall, this spring the interiors of two passenger cars were painted, seats were reupholstered in the coach car, and tables were replaced in the dining car. Volunteers say the train equipment is in the best condition since it came with the railroad when the latter was purchased in 2004 by the governments of Wallowa and Union Counties.


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Train Robbery Expected This Saturday!

Robbers escape with outlaw.

Robbers escape with outlaw.

Riders on the Eagle Cap Excursion Train, June 20, should hide their valuables and have their cameras ready, as the train winds its way along the Grande Ronde River in northeast Oregon. The Saturday before Father’s Day is a favorite for bandits to come out of the forest on horseback, flag down the train and climb on board. Passengers can expect plenty of bad behavior, as the nefarious rascals make demands and brandish the weapons of their trade.

There is no reason for fear, however. These bandits are just out to steal a few laughs and have a good time. They are also on board to draw attention to the Elgin Stampede, a fun and family-oriented PRCA rodeo that takes place July 8-11, in Elgin. The Stampeders provide quite the show, with a story line and some pretty sketchy characters. Don’t trust anyone!

The annual Elgin Stampeders train robbery has become so popular, the morning trip sold out early. To accommodate the additional passengers, excursion managers have added a second run in the afternoon, which will be robbed by the Gold Rush Bandits – another band of outlaws, which is also known for robbing the Sumpter Valley Railroad on occasion.

The train follows a route that is almost entirely roadless, offering views of a landscape that can’t be seen from an automobile. Highlights also include the Rondowa Bridge, where the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers converge and continue their journey to join the Snake River.

Tickets for the afternoon ride are available through Alegre Travel, the excursion train booking agency, 800.323.7330 or marie@alegretravel.com. Agents can also, upon request, book motel rooms and offer advice on other activities and attractions in the area. A season schedule and trip descriptions are available at www.eaglecaptrainrides.com.


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Elgin Depot Open House

382The Friends of the Joseph Branch invite you to an open house at the Elgin Depot, Saturday, June 13, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tour the train with an engineer. Tour the depot, stop in the gift shop and talk to our agent about this season’s schedule. Enjoy the historical photos and railroad artifacts. The depot is cool and refreshments will be offered, so stop by and get to know more about the publicly owner operation.

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Train Featured on Grant’s Getaways


Grant McOmie (left) visits with local photographer Eric Valentine and Grant’s Getaways videographer Jeff Kastner.

The Eagle Cap Excursion Train was recently featured on Grant’s Getaways, a television show hosted by Grant McOmie and produced for Travel Oregon and KGW TV.

We were very pleased to welcome Portland television host Grant McOmie on the train Saturday, September 27, to tape a segment for his television show, Grant’s Getaways. Grant’s wife, Chris, videographer Jeff Kastner and his wife, Jean, accompanied him on the trip. He interviewed passengers and members of the crew and shot lots of footage of the scenery and wildlife, which included bears and bald eagles this trip.

Grant’s Getaways is produced through a partnership of KGW Television in Portland and Travel Oregon, our state tourism marketing agency. The program is aired every Saturday evening on KGW News Channel 8 and they can be seen any time on TravelOregon.com, including back episodes.

Grant has been traveling around Oregon, hosting programs about the wonderful outdoor recreation adventures and other travel experiences in our beautiful state for 26 years. His voice and friendly presentation have made him a familiar visitor in our living rooms as we travel along, exploring Oregon. Learn more about his book, 101 Oregon Adventures.

Thank you, Mr. McOmie, Travel Oregon and KGW! We look forward to your future visits to northeast Oregon.

Enjoy the video! Then give us a call to book your 2015 train ride!

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Fall Season Gets Under Way Saturday

Our fall season starts this Saturday, September 13, on what promises to be a beautiful autumn day. Passengers have the pleasure of being the first to ride the train since painting the exterior was completed over the last few days. The results of all of the efforts and contributions to the project are just amazing! The train looks terrific! Thank you to all who helped make it happen.

Railroad and local history experts Ed & LaVeta Botz will be on the train to answer questions and discuss the history of the rail line historically known as the Joseph Branch and its importance to the development of the area. We celebrated the centennial anniversary of completion of the line to Wallowa in September 2008.

The train departs from the Elgin Depot at 10 a.m., covering about 40 miles, round trip and returning at about 1:30. Tickets for the fall excursions are $70 for adults; $65 for seniors (60 plus); $35 for youth (3 to 16); kids under three ride for free. The price includes a delicious box lunch from Ten Depot Street Restaurant, served on the train during the return to Elgin.

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Excursion Train Gets New Paint!

painting-the-train painting-the-train-accent-stripeDuring the recess between summer and fall seasons, the Eagle Cap Excursion Train will receive a long-awaited paint job. The stripes on the passenger cars, currently a dingy black, will be painted bright blue with yellow accents to match the engines and the silver will be freshened.

Crisp Colors of La Grande is doing the masking and fine work at a discounted rate. Volunteers with the Friends of the Joseph Branch will assist with prepping and painting the silver portions of the cars. In addition, Mike Hillecke will acid wash the cars and engines.

The project is being coordinated by the Friends of the Joseph Branch, with board member David Arnold heading up the project committee. Funds have been donated from private and business sources, including generous gifts from Anderson Perry & Associates, Bearco Enterprises, Stephen Adams and Baretto Manufacturing. Also helping fund the project are the Friends of the Joseph Branch and a grant from the Union County Discretionary Fund.

“Our organization has been working toward the goal of painting the train for many years. We have done a lot of work inside the cars, so repainting the exterior will better reflect what is inside,” said Ed Spaulding, President of the Friends of the Joseph Branch. “The train will be much more attractive in photos – a favorite pastime of rail fans from all across the continent. It will draw more attention in advertising and marketing materials and on the Internet, as well, and ultimately bring more passengers.

“We invite people to come out to the Elgin Depot and watch the project as it progresses,” he said. “And, plan to come on one of our popular fall excursions! Be among the first to photograph the train in its beautiful new colors.”

The fall season will get under way September 13, with guest historian Harlan Scott on board to share the history of the Joseph Branch and its surrounding countryside. On September 27, highly regarded local photographer Eric Valentine will be on board to offer tips and advice for taking great train and scenic photos. Passengers will have the opportunity to get off the train and photograph a “drive-by” at the Rondowa Bridge. The October 11 train is a target of the notorious Gold Rush Bandits and the October 18 train ride features the amazing fall foliage along the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers.

Get your tickets by calling Alegre Travel, 800.323.7330 or 541.963.9000, or by email to train@alegretravel.com, or stop by the office at 1307 Adams Avenue, next to JC Penney’s in downtown La Grande.

Donations for the project are welcome and tax deductible. The Friends of the Joseph Branch is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization that manages the excursion train business and depot, works to promote and facilitate enjoyment of the Historic Joseph Branch Railroad (now called Wallowa Union Railroad), and preserves and presents the history of the Joseph Branch. Wallowa Union Railroad is owned by Wallowa and Union Counties. Contact David Arnold, pickandbow@aol.com to contribute.

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Unique Train Ride & Hatchery Tour!

Lookingglass Hatchery - photo by Jim Ward

Lookingglass Hatchery – photo by Jim Ward

Saturday, August 2, the attention turns to steelhead and fall Chinook, when a train ride from Minam delivers passengers to Lookingglass Creek for a guided tour of the Lookingglass Fish Hatchery.

This train ride departs from Minam, taking passengers down the Wild & Scenic Wallowa River, an acclaimed steelhead fishing river, then up the Grande Ronde to Lookingglass Creek. Near Lookingglass Creek, passengers board a bus for a two mile trip to the hatchery. A guided tour of the hatchery informs participants about the fall Chinook salmon recovery program and raising winter steelhead. You’ll see how they collect eggs from adult fish and raise juveniles for release in area rivers and streams. You will gain a whole new perspective on these beautiful rivers and the wildlife they nurture. Board the bus for the ride back to the train and the return trip to Minam. Lunch is included. 27 rail miles are traveled on this ride, round trip. The train departs from Minam at 10 a.m. and returns at about 2:30. Tickets prices are: Adults, $70; Seniors 60+, $65; Youth 3 to 16, $35 (kids under three ride for free).

For tickets, call Alegre Travel, 541.963.9000 or 800.323.7330, or reach them by email to train@alegretravel.com. Book today – Reservations for this trip must be made by 3 p.m., Thursday, July 31.


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