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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Make Her Mother’s Day Special – Brunch on the Train

June-25-2011-cropArea residents and visitors looking for a fun way to celebrate Mother’s Day should consider taking a ride on the Eagle Cap Excursion Train. The popular Mother’s Day Brunch Train kicks off the 2014 excursion season with a combination of delicious food from Ten Depot Street, exceptional spring canyon scenery and a special gift for the mothers on board.

The Mother’s Day Brunch Train departs at 10 a.m., Sunday, May 11, from the Elgin Depot. Brunch is served during the 3.5 hour ride beside the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers. The meal includes a selection of breakfast and lunch entrees, pastries, fruit and beverages. Passengers can relax in their seats or move about the train. Car hosts answer questions and encourage conversation among passengers. The spring scenery is perfect for photographers.

Tickets are available through Alegre Travel, the excursion train booking agency, train@alegretravel.com or 800.323.7330. Agents can also, upon request, book motel rooms and offer advice on other activities and attractions in the area.

“This is one of our most popular trips of the season” said Peggy Weishaar of Alegre Travel. “We always sell out, so don’t wait to reserve your seats.” Weishaar noted the train robberies are also very well received, as are the Fall Foliage trips in October. “We are offering more variety this season, so that is getting lots of attention from a wide range of ages and interests.”

Volunteers from the Friends of the Joseph Branch are busy getting the train ready for the season.

“We are pleased with the increase in volunteers who want to help prepare for the season and host on the train,” said Ed Spaulding, Friends of the Joseph Branch President. “There is a long list of tasks to accomplish, so the more hands to help, the better.” Volunteer wannabes can contact Peggy at Alegre Travel. Car hosts are especially needed.

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Planning a Visit? Subscribe to the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association Blog

The Eastern Oregon Visitors Association is the regional destination marketing organization for all of Eastern Oregon. Working closely with Travel Oregon (the state tourism agency) and the region’s chambers of commerce, visitors associations, tourism businesses and major attractions, the EOVA gathers and distributes all kinds of information, stories and ideas to help you make your vacation and weekend travel plans come to life. The EOVA recently added a new feature on their website, www.visiteasternoregon.com. You can now sign up to receive the Visit Eastern Oregon Blog via email!

The feature allows subscribers to receive new content on the EOVA blog directly in their in-box. We’re hoping this will enable folks to stay informed when the region posts stories about the great communities, events and businesses in Eastern Oregon. Included in recent news is the inclusion of two Eastern Oregon natural wonders, the Wallowas and the Painted Hills, in the new 7 Wonders of Oregon campaign, just launched by Travel Oregon. You will certainly want to check this out!

Please take a minute to sign-up by visiting: www.visiteasternoregon.blogspot.com (the subscription feature is on the right hand side of the page) and encourage folks in your region to do the same.

Residents will find the blog a handy source when looking for weekend fun, as well.

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2014 Excursion Schedule Announced!

Robbers escape with outlaw.

Robbers make their escape.

The year is young, but the Friends of the Joseph Branch are already busy planning the 2014 excursion season train rides. In 2014, we are offering an expanded schedule that has more variety, including some mid-week and evening trips, trips to and out of Minam and more choices in the length your train ride. Some trips are designed with families in mind. We’re excited about the schedule and anxious to book your ride. We recently confirmed our partnership with the Wallowa Union Railroad, which owns the line and rolling stock, and are now working with them to get the equipment and track ready for the season.

Tickets are selling now, so contact Alegre Travel and book your seats. The Mother’s Day Brunch Train and the Elgin Stampeders’ Train Robbery are especially popular. Following are descriptions of those two trips. Click here for the complete trip descriptions list.

 Mother’s Day Brunch, May 11

Treat the mothers in your life to a fun and relaxing train ride and a delicious brunch. A wonderful array of pastries, eggs, meats, breads, and fruit is served on the train as you ride along, enjoying the spring scenery. Prepared and served by Ten Depot Street Restaurant of La Grande, the meal always earns high marks from passengers and the view of the river and mountains is unforgettable. Our friendly volunteers make sure you are comfortable and answer questions about what you are seeing along the way. It’s an experience that will prompt fond memories for years to come. Reservations are required. Departs from the Elgin Depot at 10 a.m. and returns at about 2 p.m. Limited to 100 passengers. Adults = $80 / Seniors 60+ = $75 / Youth, 3 to 16 = $40 (under 3 ride for free!) Miles traveled = 40.

Elgin Stampeders’ Train Robbery, June 28

There are bandits out there in the hills, and they are looking for an excuse to flag down the train and climb on board. As it happens, the sheriff is transporting a notorious villain on this train and that can lead to mayhem and mischief. It’s hard to tell who is friend and who is foe. So, hide your valuables and keep your camera handy! Lunch is served during the return leg of the trip. Departs from the Elgin Depot at 10 a.m., Saturday, June 21, and returns at about 2 p.m. Adults = $70 / Seniors 60+ = $65 / Youth, 3 to 16 = $35 (kids under 3 ride for free!) Miles traveled = 40.    (The Elgin Stampeders host the Elgin Stampede Rodeo every July.)

Here is a tip for those who like to plan ahead and save! Pick up a 2014 Elkhorn Media Group coupon book at a participating business and look inside for a coupon to save on your family’s train ride. The coupon is good for any scheduled train ride (excluding the Mother’s Day Brunch), when booked before June 30.

We’ll see you on the train!

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2013 Season Ends With a Full Train

The 2013 excursion season came to a close with our October 19 ride. We carried over 200 passengers – full capacity – on that beautiful fall day!

We thank everyone who rode the train or helped with operations and car hosting over the season. It was a great year for the railroad and for the Friends of the Joseph Branch, the non-profit organization that managed the excursions and operated the train.

We will be working with the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority over the next couple of months, reviewing our season and putting together the 2014 season schedule. Please watch this website for an announcement of the schedule and for other news and updates.

The Friends of the Joseph Branch Annual Meeting will take place at the Elgin Depot, November 16, 2013. If you are not yet a member or have let your membership lapse, please consider joining the organization and attend the meeting and free lunch. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the people who are running the train and a chance to get involved in the way that best suits your interests.

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October 5 is Unique Opportunity for Camera Buffs and Rail Fans Alike

Eric Valentine, a well known professional photographer from La Grande, will be our guest photography expert on the October 5 excursion. He will be on hand to offer tips for taking great photos, answer questions and inspire passengers to make exceptional photos of and from the train. With fall colors at their peak, this trip is a great one for taking photos of the gorgeous scenery surrounding the train. But it gets even better! The train will stop at the bridge at Rondowa, let the passengers off the train, then back up and do a drive-by, so you, the passengers, can photograph the train in the dramatic setting. Eric’s photos have graced the cover of several regional and local visitor guides and been published in numerous travel and lifestyle magazines. He is also known for his beautiful calendars.

If you’ve been looking for the right opportunity to ride the Eagle Cap Excursion Train, consider this trip and contact Alegre Travel today!

Rondowa - the confluence of the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers.

Rondowa – the confluence of the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers. (Not Eric’s photo – his are better!)

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Fall is Busy Time for Excursion Train

The Eagle Cap Excursion Train has a busy schedule under way through September and October, with plenty of opportunities for passengers to enjoy the beautiful and ever-changing fall colors along the route. Departing from the Elgin Depot Saturdays, September 14, 21, and 28, and October 5, 12, and 19, fall trips are our most popular. Some trips have guest experts on railroad history, photography or wildlife.

The train travels beside the Grande Ronde River downstream to its confluence with the Wallowa River, then follows that Wild & Scenic river a few miles upstream. A brief stop at Vincent (Howard Creek) allows passengers to get off, stretch their legs and breathe the fresh, piney air, before the return trip to Elgin.

While all of the train rides are highly scenic and provide lots of great opportunities for photos, the October 12 trip is a rare opportunity to capture the scenery in the soft evening light. The trip follows the grand opening celebration at the new Elgin Depot, departing at 2:30 p.m. and returning to Elgin right at sunset. This trip is certain to sell out quickly, so make reservations as soon as possible.

The public is invited to the grand opening celebration at the depot, October 12, which includes an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., historical displays, a model railroad and a ribbon cutting. Lunch will be available for purchase, served outside if weather permits. Free cupcakes and beverages will be served following the ribbon cutting. Watch this blog for more on the depot grand opening as plans take shape.

For most trips, the Eagle Cap Excursion Train departs at 10 a.m. from the Elgin Depot and returns around 2 p.m. For those trips, 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. However, as mentioned above, for the train ride on October 12, boarding begins at 2 p.m. and departs at 2:30. Passengers on this trip receive a dessert sampler on the return leg of the ride.

To reserve your seat and ensure your lunch is on the train, make your reservations by 4 p.m., the Friday afternoon prior to the trip. The train can handle some last-minute walk-on passengers, subject to seat availability. Those waiting to purchase tickets at the depot Saturday morning should arrive at the depot by 9 a.m. and be prepared to bring their own lunch or snack. Nearby restaurants in Elgin offer lunches to go.

Ticket prices are: youth, 3 to 16 = $40 / adults = $75 / seniors 60+ = $70. Lunch is prepared by Ten Depot Street of La Grande and included in the ticket price. For train tickets, details on the excursions and lodging options, contact Alegre Travel, 1.800.323.7330 or travel@alegretravel.com. When purchasing your tickets, you will be asked to choose a sandwich, salad or vegetarian lunch, which includes a dessert and beverage.

Excursions travel 38 miles, round trip. Friendly volunteer car hosts answer questions and point out landmarks or wildlife along the way.

 

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Gold Rush Bandits Expected to Rob Train

The Gold Rush Bandits make a habit of robbing trains in northeast Oregon.

The Gold Rush Bandits make a habit of robbing trains in northeast Oregon.

Summer is almost over and families are looking for one last fun activity with which to build lasting memories. The Eagle Cap Excursion Train has a bonus planned for fans of Western history and trains during their August 31st train ride. The Gold Rush Bandits will rob the excursion train in a remote area near Elgin. The robbery takes place while the train is passing through a section along the Grande Ronde River. Passengers can expect lots of excitement and laughs as horseback-riding robbers stop the train and climb on board. The Bandits are a seasoned group of outlaws who are known to hassle the Sumpter Valley Railroad in neighboring Baker County.

“With summer winding down and the holiday weekend, we thought it would be a good time to bring back the excitement of a train robbery,” said Peggy Weishaar of Alegre Travel, the booking agency for the train. Weishaar said young passengers will receive a free bandanna and sheriff’s badge souvenir to take home. There is a gift shop in the Elgin depot for additional souvenirs.

To reserve your seat and ensure you will have a lunch on the train, make your reservations by 4 p.m., Friday afternoon. However, the train can handle last-minute walk-on passengers, subject to seat availability. Those waiting to purchase tickets at the depot Saturday morning should arrive at the depot by 9 a.m. and bring their own lunch or snack.

The Eagle Cap Excursion Train departs at 10 a.m. from the Elgin Depot and returns around 2 p.m. After the robbery, passengers still have time to relax, visit and enjoy the scenery as they travel down the Grande Ronde River and a few miles up the Wallowa River. A brief stop along the river allows passengers stretch their legs, visit the engine and take photos while the crew prepares for the return trip to Elgin. Lunch is served on the train during the return trip.

Ticket prices are: youth, 3 to 16 = $40 / adults = $75 / seniors 60+ = $70. Lunch is prepared by Ten Depot Street of La Grande and included in the ticket price. For train tickets, details on the excursions and lodging options, contact Alegre Travel, 1.800.323.7330 or travel@alegretravel.com. When purchasing your tickets, you will be asked to choose a sandwich, salad or vegetarian lunch, which includes a dessert and beverage.

The scenic train season continues through mid-October, with colorful fall excursions especially popular with photographers. Excursions travel 38 miles, round trip. Friendly volunteer car hosts answer questions and point out landmarks or wildlife along the way.

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A Taste of Alpenfest

Alpenfest logoElgin, Oregon__The Eagle Cap Excursion Train has announced their July 20 train ride will give a taste of the annual Swiss-Bavarian event known as Oregon’s Alpenfest. The cultural festival takes place at Wallowa Lake, Joseph and Enterprise, September 26-29. A Taste of Alpenfest train ride departs from the Elgin Depot July 20 at 10 a.m.

Excursion Train planners are working with the organizers of Alpenfest to incorporate Alpenfest food, entertainment and ambiance into the July trip. Surrounded by high ridges and fragrant pine trees, the setting is ideal for thoughts of Heidi and her home in the Swiss Alps. Wear your dirndl or lederhosen and you may win a prize!

Bavarian costumed volunteers will greet passengers at the Elgin depot, to the sound of alphorns and polka music. The lunch menu on the train will reflect the theme, featuring the official Alpenfest Bratwurst from Mt. Joseph Family Foods and sauerkraut. Passengers can expect the same attentive volunteer train crew, beautiful scenery and friendly, relaxing atmosphere for which this excursion train is known.

The Eagle Cap Excursion Train operates on a highly scenic and roadless stretch of railroad along the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers in northeast Oregon. The train departs at 10 a.m. on selected Saturdays from the new depot in Elgin, travels 21 miles, then reverses direction and returns to Elgin. The trip averages 3.5 to 4 hours. Go to www.eaglecaptrainrides.com for a season schedule and additional information.

Taking place in late September, Oregon’s Alpenfest is a four-day celebration of Swiss and Bavarian culture and cuisine in the majestic Wallowa Mountain country known as Oregon’s Little Switzerland. Featured are polka bands, yodeling, alphorns and locally crafted bratwurst, beer and wine. Other popular attractions are the Alpine Art, Antique and Craft Fairs, shopping in local art and sculpture galleries and picturesque shops, and Alpenfest specials in local restaurants. Details are available at oregonalpenfest.com.

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