Cap Excursion Train
Photo / Linda Eytchison
Cap Excursion Train Offers Rare Sightseeing Opportunities
riding a train through some of Oregon's most beautiful scenery.
Rumble at a leisurely pace beside two Wild and Scenic rivers,
through rugged roadless canyons, past the green meadows
of Chief Joseph country to the base of the magnificent Wallowa
a lapse of 40 years, passenger service between Union and
Wallowa counties is once again available and interest in
the railroad is high.
The historic "Joseph Branch" of the Wallowa Union Railroad
was within days of being dismantled for salvage in 2002.
The 60-mile section from Elgin to Joseph had been abandoned
for several years and the right-of-way itself was in jeopardy.
and Union Counties, with a combined population of barely
more than 30,000 people, couldn't sit by and watch a vital
piece of their history and hope for the future disappear.
The two county governments formed the Wallowa Union Railroad
and purchased the railroad and limited freight and passenger
rolling stock in May 2003.
Union Railroad and the Friends of the Joseph Branch have
released the new schedule for the Eagle Cap Excursion Train
in northeast Oregon. The new schedule includes all of the
proven favorites from the last two seasons, plus some new
twists on the tried and true. Train officials and the volunteer
organization that helps with passenger and excursion management
say they are pleased with the variety and type of trips
they will offer.
"We are happy with this year's schedule and think it
will prove popular with visitors and residents alike,"
said Mary Ann Keyser, excursion train coordinator. "Each
season teaches us more about what our passengers want. That
seems to include variety in the length of trips and what
can be seen along different portions of the railroad."
A complete description of the trips is available on the
site or by calling Union County Tourism, 541-963-8588,
or the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce, 541-426-4622.
The first two trips of the year will be holiday brunches.
The Easter Sunday Brunch will leave the Wallowa boarding
site at 10 a.m. and follow the route of the "Canyon
Cruise," going as far as Kimmell, a siding down river
from Minam, before reversing direction and returning to
Wallowa. This trip takes about four and a half hours and
offers all of the dramatic and beautiful valley, river and
canyon scenery passengers love. The brunch buffet will include
a huge array of breakfast and lunch items including everything
from sliced baked ham and scrambled eggs to pastries, lunch
meats, fruit and salads. A similar buffet will be served
and the same route will be travelled for the Mother's Day
Sunday Brunch trip.
"The holiday brunches are wonderful ways to treat your
loved ones to a relaxing and scenic train ride and a delicious
meal that Mom doesn't have to prepare," said Keyser.
Tickets are available through Alegre Travel, 1-800-323-7330.
Other special trips for the new year are the Palmer Junction/Lookingglass
Fish Hatchery trip which includes a field trip off of the
train for a special guided tour of the hatchery - and new
slants on the previous "Valley Voyage."
"There was a lot of interest in taking the train back
to Joseph," Keyser said. "And the idea came up
to make them one-way train rides instead of our usual round
trips. So, passengers will have the option of boarding at
Wallowa in the morning and riding across the valley to Joseph,
then taking a motor coach back to Wallowa, or, boarding
the train in the afternoon at Joseph, riding to Wallowa,
and taking a motor coach back to Joseph." These trips
will include about 2.5 hours on the train and a 30 minute
motor coach ride. The morning trip will include a light
lunch while the afternoon passengers will enjoy a dessert
buffet. Both trips feature the outstanding Wallowa Valley
scenery for which the area is known. Look for the Valley
Voyage Express on the schedule for the dates and details.
"The new schedule has lots to offer and it's time to
spread the word and begin selling tickets," said Keyser.
"With our limited marketing budget, we need the help
of area residents in telling their friends and relatives
about the excursions and helping us promote riding the train."
Ticket prices range from $25 to $90, depending on the trip
length and the passenger's age. Reservations for all trips
can be made through Alegre Travel in La Grande, 541-963-9000
or 1-800-323-7330. Alegre Travel can also assist with lodging
and travel arrangements.
The Eagle Cap Excursion Train is operated by the Wallowa
Union Railroad, with assistance from the Friends of the
Joseph Branch. It runs on the sixty miles of track between
Elgin and Joseph in scenic northeast Oregon, and is owned
by Wallowa and Union Counties through an intergovernmental
agreement. WURR also operates a freight train.
Through a partnership with the Minam Motel and the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wallowa Union Railroad
also offers train rides to fish steelhead on the Wild &
Scenic Wallowa River. The "fishing train" travels
several miles into roadless country down the Wallowa River
from Minam, to a point where fishermen can fish all day,
then board the train for the trip back to Minam. The ticket
price is $50. Contact the Minam Motel for reservations or