2020 Schedule has been altered

Please see the SPECIAL NOTICE concerning booking reservations for the 2020 season, updated May 17, 2020, and announcing the cancellation of train rides until September and October.

“The Friends of the Joseph Branch Board of Directors has agonized over whether to cancel all of the train rides previously scheduled for May through August. The concern over the COVID-19 virus has led to an aggressive social distancing policy in the State of Oregon, in order to reduce the spread of the virus. With this in mind, the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Joseph Branch has cancelled all rides until fall,” said Ed Spaulding, Board President. “A majority of our passengers and volunteers are among the most vulnerable to the virus and it would be difficult to keep the social distance protocol during the trips. We hope things improve and the social gathering and travel restrictions can be safely removed soon. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy. Thank you for your understanding and support.” 

The rest of this article has been edited accordingly since it was posted earlier in the year.

The Eagle Cap Excursion Train has an expanded schedule for the upcoming season, building on the success of 2019, which saw an average of over 100 passengers per ride. The schedule was approved by the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority and reservations can be made through the online booking service at www.eaglecaptrainrides.com or by calling the Elgin Depot, 541.437.3652, during business hours.

The schedule is full of fun opportunities for a train ride beside the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers on the Wallowa Union Railroad, historically known as the Joseph Branch Railroad. Season highlights include train robberies, rides that feature regional wines and cheese, mounted bandits, a few mid-week runs and many wonderful chances to enjoy the colorful fall foliage.

Cab Rides Are New in 2020

New in 2020 is the opportunity to reserve a ride in the cab of the engine during the return leg of the trip. This is available to only one passenger each train ride and by reservation, only. Get the unique perspective from sitting in the engine, high above the track, and visit with the engineers for the entire ride back to Elgin. Your cab ride includes a special railroad cap, along with lunch and a seat in the passenger car during the first leg of the trip, from Elgin to where the train reverses direction. Cab rides are the cost of a ticket for the specific train ride, plus $200.

“Passengers have so much fun with the Gold Rush Bandits train robberies, we have included two in the fall schedule,” said Ed Spaulding, president of the Friends of the Joseph Branch, the non-profit organization that manages the excursion business for the railroad. “The beautiful horses and train-stopping action provide lots of photo opportunities.”

Regardless of the theme for the day or when they are riding, passengers always have high praise for the scenery, the food, and the fun, relaxed atmosphere. Members of the Friends of the Joseph Branch serve as the all-volunteer crew of engineers, conductors and car hosts. Ten Depot Street, a La Grande restaurant, prepares the popular boxed lunches served on Two Rivers and Two Rivers Bonus trips, and the Wine & Cheese Train. Chuckwagon Sisters Catering, from Enterprise, caters the trips with special themes.

Go to Ride the Train, Trip Descriptions and Schedule for more information. Then go to Book Online and follow the links to purchase tickets through our online booking service. Call the Elgin Depot, 541.437.3652, if you have questions.

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2020 Season Available for Booking

Photo by Ed Spaulding

Our 2020 season schedule and trip descriptions are posted and booking for all rides is available. We have put together a great season, with more opportunities to ride the train and enjoy the scenery. Come ride the train and have a wonderful day in beautiful Northeast Oregon.

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We are planning the 2020 season!

Eagle Cap Excursion Train
Beautiful colors are a highlight of fall trips.

We enjoyed many great trips in 2019, beginning Mother’s Day and continuing through October 19, including train robberies, a ride honoring Veterans, and the popular Bigfoot Train. Our volunteer car hosts and crew had fun meeting passengers from around the world and across the country, as well as next door neighbors and friends who have ridden numerous times.

We thank the passengers and volunteers for another terrific season. We will create the 2020 schedule over the next few months and hope to announce the new season in February. Certain dates may be available for early booking, so keep an eye on the website. In the meantime, check with the Union County and Wallowa County chambers of commerce for tips to round out your vacation planning. Whether it’s a day trip, a weekend getaway, or a week-long vacation, there are fun events, interesting attractions and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation to enjoy through the season.

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Father’s Day is Coming! What do you have planned?

The bandits are back in the woods north of Elgin! They are hiding in the trees, waiting to flag down the train and climb on board – waiting to entertain passengers on Father’s Day weekend. Saturday, June 15, and Sunday, June 16, the Gold Rush Bandits will saddle their horses and dress in their Western best, ready for action!

If a ride on the Eagle Cap Excursion Train is part of your Father’s Day celebration, be sure to hide your valuables when you find your seat and keep your camera handy! Enjoy the amazing scenery, visit with fellow passengers and be prepared for excitement just down the track.

Boxed lunch is served during the return leg of the trip. Lunch choices are, Roast Beef Sandwich made with slow-roasted Northeast Oregon beef, homemade potato salad, grapes and a cupcake; or Chicken Almond Salad with fruit (strawberry, grapes, cantaloupe), crackers and a cupcake. The vegetarian choice is Taco Salad (with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, grated cheese) served with Ten Depot Street’s famous Green Goddess Dressing and salsa. This can be made vegan without the cheese.

Make reservations by clicking here, and follow the links to the ride of your choice.

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2019 Train Rides Announced

We are thrilled to announce our exciting 2019 season! The schedule is full of fun opportunities to enjoy a train ride along the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers of Northeast Oregon on the historic “Joseph Branch” railroad. The train winds along the shores of the Grande Ronde, into the ruggedly beautiful and roadless section of the canyon, crosses the bridge at Rondowa and continues a few miles up the Wallowa, before returning to the depot in Elgin. Schedule highlights include train robberies, rides that feature regional wine, beer, chocolates and cheese, a search for Bigfoot, a couple of mid-week runs in July and wonderful opportunities to enjoy the autumn colors. Food and beverages are served during the ride.

Following tradition, the season began with the popular Mother’s Day Brunch, Sunday, May 12. The trip sold out, as usual and passengers enjoyed gorgeous spring scenery and a wonderful meal, prepared by Chuck Wagon Sisters Catering of Joseph, and served by the volunteer cars hosts.

“We are looking forward to another year of entertaining area residents and visitors from across the United States and around the world, with the joy of riding a train through a beautiful and remote landscape,” said Ed Spaulding, President of the Friends of the Joseph Branch, the non-profit organization that manages the excursion business for the railroad and provides the all-volunteer train crew.

“Passengers and crew had so much fun with the Bigfoot Train last July, it was an easy decision to bring it and Scot Violette of Blue Mountain Bigfoot Research back in July 2019,” Spaulding added. Don’t delay in making reservations for this trip, as we anticipate it will fill quickly. Spaulding noted that, regardless of the theme for the day or when they are riding, passengers always have high praise for the scenery, the volunteers and the fun, relaxed atmosphere.

Please see the Trip Descriptions and Schedule pages to see what trips work with your calendar. See you soon! Call the Kori at Alegre Travel, 541.963.9000, or Sundae at the Elgin Depot, 541.437.3652, if you have questions.

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What are your doing for Father’s Day?

Here are the descriptions of this weekend’s rides. Don’t delay – get your tickets before it is too late!

Saturday, June 16 / Spring Train Robbery
There are bandits out there in the hills, and they are looking for an excuse to flag down the train and climb on board. It’s hard to tell who is friend and who is foe, so, hide your valuables and keep your camera handy! Boxed lunch is served during the return leg of the trip. Lunch choices are, Roast Beef Sandwich made with slow-roasted Northeast Oregon beef, homemade potato salad, grapes and a cupcake; or Hummus  & Vegetables sandwich on a wheat bun with grapes, vegan potato salad and a vegan cupcake available upon request. Departs from Elgin at 10 a.m. and returns at about 2:30 p.m.  Miles traveled = 38
Adults = $70 / Seniors 60+ = $65 / Youth, 3 to 16 = $35 (kids under 3 ride for free!)

Sunday, June 17 / Two Rivers Father’s Day
Passengers can count on a great meal and making lasting memories with the honored men in their lives, as we celebrate Father’s Day. But be aware, there are bandits out there in the hills, and they are looking for an excuse to flag down the train and climb on board. Lunch is prepared by Chuckwagon Sisters and is a plated dinner, featuring smoked beef brisket, sides and strawberry shortcake for dessert. A vegetarian/vegan lasagna option is available. Departs from Elgin Depot at 10 a.m. and returns at about 2:30 p.m. Miles traveled = 38
Adults = $80 / Seniors 60+ = $75 / Youth, 3 to 16 = $40 (kids under 3 ride for free!)

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Excursion Train to Feature Wineries and Other Artisan Producers

The 2017 season of the Eagle Cap Excursion Train launched Sunday, May 14, with the annual Mother’s Day Brunch. Now we settle in for an active season that includes sixteen trips. Ed Spaulding, volunteer engineer and President of the Friends of the Joseph Branch, the non-profit organization that manages the excursion train, expects a busy year for the train, as Oregon is receiving a lot of additional attention due in part to the solar eclipse in August. “People are planning trips to our area who may have never thought of visiting before,“ said Spaulding.

The 2017 season includes some new trips. A Wine & Chocolates Train, leaving the depot at 4 p.m., June 10, features a tasting of wines from Tero Estates Winery, expertly paired with chocolates from Petits Noirs Chocolates. Both businesses are located in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, at the south end of the Walla Walla Valley. September 30, the focus shifts to wine and cheese, with Copper Belt Winery of Baker City and Umapine Creamery, located near Milton-Freewater, serving samples of their specialties.

“We have created two train rides that call attention to the amazing food and beverages produced in our region,” said Janet Dodson, a board member who helps design the trips and schedule. “On the Wine & Chocolates Train, passengers will be served a light meal at the beginning of the trip and will have the opportunity to enjoy wine and chocolates during the return to the depot. During the Wine & Cheese ride, they enjoy and delicious selection of artisan cheeses, fruit and French bread, while tasting a variety of wines from the Keating Valley near Baker City.”

Also new in June is a train ride designed with train photographers in mind. The train will make special stops to let photographers off the train for run-bys, giving them excellent views of the train as it passes. This is a fun trip for all passengers, not just photographers.

August 5 and August 19, the route for the train rides will depend upon the weather which section of track is open. Watch for news on these two trips and check the trip descriptions and schedule pages for updates.

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Celebrate Mother’s Day on the Eagle Cap Excursion Train

Celebrity Inspired DressesSunday, May 14, is Mother’s Day, and the traditional opening day for the Eagle Cap Excursion Train’s 2017 season. The Mother’s Day Brunch is always a popular trip, as passengers find it a great way to celebrate the holiday while enjoying the beautiful spring scenery along the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers.

The Mother’s Day trip features brunch, prepared by Ten Depot Street and served on the train during the trip. The menu includes a wonderful medley of breakfast and lunch entrée items, salads, fresh fruit, pastries and beverages. The train departs at 10 a.m., Mother’s Day, from the depot in Elgin, and returns at about 2:30 p.m.

“We have small gifts to honor the oldest mother and the mother who has traveled the furthest to ride,” said Ed Spaulding, President of the Friends of the Joseph Branch. “Our volunteers decorate the cars to add to the festive atmosphere.”

Reservations are required and are available through the online booking service; select “Book Online” from the menu and follow the prompts to select the ride you want. Passengers who prefer to talk to an agent can call or stop by Alegre Travel, the excursion train reservations agency in downtown La Grande, 800.323.7330.

Spaulding said the 2017 season includes some new trips, including a Wine & Chocolates Train, which features wines from Tero Estates Winery and chocolates from Petits Noirs Chocolates, both Milton-Freewater businesses. Meet the owners and taste their delicious creations.

Also new is a train ride designed for railroad photographers, with special stops to provide photographers, with excellent views of the train as it passes by. See the trip descriptions and the full schedule for details.

Passenger train excursions use the section of track from Elgin to Minam.  Volunteers with the Friends of the Joseph Branch, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, manage the excursion business for Wallowa Union Railroad, operating the train and hosting passengers, as well as restoring the rail cars and preserving the history of the railroad. See the web site, www.eaglecaptrainrides.com for the full 2017 excursion schedule and information about how to join the Friends and volunteer to assist with train activities.

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The 2017 Schedule

The Eagle Cap Excursion Train thanks everyone who helped make the 2016 season a great success! During the off-season, we put together the schedule and trip descriptions for 2017, maintained equipment and made improvements. We announced the 2017 schedule in January and look forward to serving our passengers.

Take a look at the fun trips we have lined up and make your reservations!

In the meantime, the depot is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment. Stop by to enjoy the exhibits and visit with staff about the train and the railroad’s history.

 

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Friends of the Joseph Branch Plan Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of the Friends of the Joseph Branch, the non-profit organization that operates the excursion train business, upgrades the cars and manages the depot, takes place in the fall, at the Elgin Depot. Details of the meeting are announced here. It generally begins at 11 a.m. and lunch is served at noon.

The agenda for the meeting includes the election of members of the board of directors, a review of the year, recognition of volunteers, and the chance for members to exchange ideas and discuss plans for the following season.

The last few years have been a very successful year for the excursion train, with an average ridership of over 100. We thank the volunteers for all of their hard work and send our gratitude to the people who chose to ride the train. We invite anyone with a passion for trains, as well as those with special interest in the Joseph Branch Railroad, to become a member of the organization and to attend the meeting.

Please notify Sundae, eaglecaptraindepot@gmail.com or 541.437.3652, if you plan to attend. Lunch is free to members of the organization who have paid their dues for the current year and just $15 to non-members. Annual membership for individuals is just $30. You can join at any time.

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