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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Excursion Train Offers Two More Rides in July

There are two more choices for experiencing the Eagle Cap Excursion Train this month.

On Saturday, July 19, an afternoon trip provides a taste of train travel and beautiful scenery, but leaves plenty of time to pack more adventure or relaxation into the day. Riders can board the train at Minam at 1:30 p.m. The train follows the Wallowa River downstream to the bridge at Rondowa, where the Wallowa and Grande Ronde join, then continues up the Grande Ronde River to Elgin (26 miles on the train). A short, 15-minute bus ride taking passengers back to Minam is included in the ticket price. Passengers arrive back at Elgin at about 4 p.m.

Sunset on the Train - photo by Dunroven

Sunset on the Train – photo by Dunroven

Thursday, July 31, the Summer Sundowner is another opportunity to enjoy a scenic evening train ride, but with a sweet delight at the end. The train leaves the Elgin Depot at 6 p.m., when the scenery is exceptional and wildlife comes out of the shadows, and arrives at Minam just before the sun sets. There, passengers can create a frozen yogurt treat from Tropical Swirl and eat it on the lawn of the Minam Store & Motel. A short, 15-minute bus ride takes passengers back to the Elgin Depot by 9 p.m. Even if the day is hot, riders are advised to bring a jacket in case the evening mountain air feels chilly.


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I Love America Train – July 5

ALERT! Here is a new announcement concerning this Saturday’s train:

The I Love America Train runs this Saturday, July 5, and the Friends of the Joseph Branch think that is a great opportunity to say “Thank you!” So, the Eagle Cap Excursion Train is offering, for this trip only, United States veterans and active military a free train ride, and they can bring one guest for half price. If you are a veteran, you and a friend or spouse can take the two-hour ride along the Grande Ronde River for just $25! Others passengers are most welcome at the regular price of $20 for youth and $50 for adults and seniors. Bring your instrument, as there will be a jam session and sing-along in the dining car. The train departs from the Elgin Depot at 10 a.m. and will travel 22 miles, round trip. We will stop at Palmer Junction and let passengers off to enjoy the river and stretch your legs.

Tell your veteran friends and come join us for a fun trip. Call now for reservations and ask the ticket agent for the Veteran’s Special. 800.323.7330 or train@alegretravel.com.

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Fourth of July Weekend is coming and you are looking for some family fun. The I Love America Train is a great way to celebrate our freedom and honor those who have made our lifestyle possible. Bring your patriotic spirit and enjoy a ride along the Grande Ronde River, where the scenery is exceptional this time of year.

This train ride departs from the Elgin depot at 10 a.m. and follows the Grande Ronde River north. At Palmer Junction, site of a former lumber mill, passengers can leave the train to stretch their legs and enjoy the river. Then, “All Aboard!” for the ride back to Elgin. You will cover 22 miles, round trip, in about two hours. Kids receive a souvenir. Bring your own lunch and purchase beverages on the train or at the depot before the trip.

Price Code C: Adults & Seniors = $50 / Youth, 3 to 16 = $20 (kids under 3 ride for free!)

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Train Robbers Expected During Next Ride

Robbers escape with outlaw.

Robbers escape with outlaw.

June 27 – There is still time to get tickets for this trip. Call Alegre Travel today! A few seats may be available at boarding, as well. 800.323.7330

Train robbers will strike the Eagle Cap Excursion Train Saturday, June 28. Passengers are warned to leave their valuables at home but bring their camera and a sense of adventure on the ride.

It happens every year, about this time. Bandits stop the train and reinforcements ride out of the woods to board somewhere in the canyon of the Grande Ronde River near Elgin. It’s all for fun and excitement and the costumed characters of the old west follow a loose story line when entertaining the passengers.

The robbery is performed by the Elgin Stampeders, the organization responsible for putting on the annual Elgin Stampede PRCA Rodeo in mid-July. They use the annual train robbery to promote the rodeo, and to show off their horsemanship skills.

The Eagle Cap Excursion Train departs the Elgin Depot at 10 a.m. and returns around 2 p.m. Passengers have plenty of time for relaxation, visiting and enjoying the view as they travel down the Grande Ronde River and a few miles up the Wallowa River. On this trip, lunch is served on the train after a brief stop along the river to let passengers stretch their legs while the crew prepares for the return trip to Elgin.

Ticket prices are: youth, 3 to 16 = $35 / adults = $70 / seniors 60+ = $65. Lunch is prepared by Ten Depot Street and included in the ticket price. This is one of our most popular trips, so book early. Reservations are recommended to ensure you get a seat and the lunch of your choice.

For train tickets, details on the excursions and lodging options, contact Alegre Travel, 1.800.323.7330 or travel@alegretravel.com. When you purchase your tickets you will be asked to choose a sandwich, salad or vegetarian lunch, all of which include a dessert and beverage.

The scenic train season continues through mid-October. Click here for the full schedule and trip descriptions. Follow us on Facebook for news and photos.


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Family Fun Day, June 14

After a very successful Mother’s Day Brunch, we are preparing for our next train ride on Saturday, June 14. Family Fun Day was created to appeal to families and younger passengers by offering a shorter train ride and lower fares. Tickets for this trip range from $20 to $50, depending on passenger age.

Choose the morning train from Elgin to Minam, with a bus ride back to the Elgin depot. Or, select the afternoon trip, riding a bus from the Elgin depot to Minam, where you board the train for a ride from Minam to Elgin. Either way, the combined train and bus ride takes about 2.5 hours. Young passengers will receive a souvenir gift as a memento of the trip.

“We created this ride because we want to give kids the opportunity to ride a train,” said Ed Spaulding, President of the Friends of the Joseph Branch, the non-profit organization that manages the excursion business and the depot for the Wallowa Union Railroad. “Many young people have never experienced the fun of riding the rails. This trip should be a hit with visiting and resident families in our area who are looking for fun things to do during summer vacation.” Spaulding noted the trip also marks the train’s return to Minam for the first time since 2012.

The scenery is beautiful this time of year as the train follows the shores of the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers. Wildlife is plentiful and recently included deer, a Bald Eagle, wild turkeys, heron and lots of ducks and geese. Passengers are free to walk through the train in transit and enjoy the view from the open vestibules or the half-screened bay doors in the baggage car.

The exciting and always popular train robbery by the Elgin Stampeders follows Family Fun Day, taking place June 28. Passengers can expect lots of excitement and laughs as horseback riding bandits board the train. The four-hour trip always sells out, so advance bookings are needed. The July 5 train celebrates America. Descriptions of all 2014 trips are available at the train website, www.eaglecaptrainrides.com.

The Elgin Depot includes a gift shop, rest rooms and ample parking. Reservations are recommended, but some seats may be available for last minute passengers. Tickets are purchased through Alegre Travel, train@alegretravel.com or 800.323.7330, or at the depot on train day. Ticket agents are well informed about the trips and can also book motel rooms and offer advice on other activities and attractions in the area.

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Travel Advisory from Department of Transportation

Travelers throughout Oregon should be aware that summer is not only a busy time for vacationers, it is also the season when weather permits the most opportunity for the Oregon Department of Transportation to repair and otherwise improve our highways. Below is information about  such a project on Interstate 84 near La Grande.

LA GRANDE, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is reminding travelers to plan ahead and be prepared for highway work zones as the summer construction season gears up. Motorists should watch for construction crews and equipment and be prepared to slow down and pay extra attention when they see orange cones, flaggers and/or construction signs. Distracted drivers are a primary cause of work zone crashes. A listing of major state highway projects in the eastern Oregon area and anticipated traffic impacts is posted on the ODOT Region 5 website at www.tinyurl.com/ODOT-region5.

One project that may impact some train passengers is just west of La Grande. Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) contractor Oregon Mainline shifted westbound traffic to the eastbound Interstate 84 freeway and closed two freeway ramps in mid-April to accommodate the multi-year highway improvement project between the Kamela Interchange at Exit 246 and the Second Street undercrossing in La Grande, near mile post 260. Most of the traffic impacts are between Hilgard State Park near mile post 252 and Exit 261 in La Grande where the freeway is being resurfaced with concrete in the slow lane and new asphalt in the fast lane.

On this section, travelers can expect traffic pattern changes, reduced speeds, narrow lanes with no shoulders, plus single lane eastbound and westbound traffic separated by concrete barrier. The westbound Exit 259 on-ramp at the west end of La Grande will be closed through the 2014 construction season. The westbound on-ramp at Exit 256 (west of Perry) will also be closed for about three months starting Monday.

One easily avoidable traffic mishap involves running out of fuel and becoming stranded in a work zone that has no shoulder space for emergency parking. This occurred three times in April along the seven-mile Interstate 84 work zone between Hilgard State Park near mile post 252 and La Grande at mile post 260. Road resurfacing has the freeway limited to one eastbound and one westbound lane separated by concrete barrier, with no shoulders. In all three cases, trucks ran out of diesel in the work zone, completely blocking traffic until fuel could be delivered.

All drivers are reminded to fuel up before heading towards this and other highway construction zones.

For more information about this or other ODOT highway projects in eastern Oregon contact Public Information Officer Tom Strandberg at 541-963-1330, Thomas.m.strandberg@odot.state.or.us, or visit the ODOT website at www.tinyurl.com/odot-region5. For statewide road conditions, check www.TripCheck.com.

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Please also be aware of the construction project on a 13-mile segment of the Forest Service 39 Road between Joseph and Halfway along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.  For a complete description of this project and frequent updates go to the Byway website and click Road Conditions.

Please travel with care and remember to keep it safe for our construction workers throughout the state.

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