Eagle Cap Excursion Train
Oregon Railway and Navigation Company(OR&N) began construction on a branch line north to Elgin that was opened in December 1890. The OR&N itself was dissolved and its assets taken over by both the UP and the Northern Pacific Railway(NP) with the line from La Grande to Elgin transferring to the UP. UP extended the line over the next two decades north and east to Wallowa by 1908 and eventually to Enterprise and Joseph. Under UP operation, the line was commonly referred to as the "Joseph Branch".
UP identified the Joseph Branch for divestiture or abandonment in the late 1980s or early 1990s. In 1993, the line was sold to the railroad holding company
Rio Grande Industries(RGI) of Fort Worth, Texas. RGI created the Idaho Northern and Pacific Railroadto operate over the Joseph Branch as a subsidiary to RGI's Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroadand the Southern Pacific Railroadoperations.
In 1996, RGI was purchased by Union Pacific Railroad, thus the Joseph Branch once again came under UP ownership. UP ownership was short-lived as the enlarged company sought to reduce money-losing lines and the Joseph Branch was identified for abandonment later that year from Elgin to Joseph.
The county governments in Union and Wallowa counties wanted to preserve this important transportation link and put together a proposal to purchase the 63 miles of abandoned railroad. After acquiring the line in 2002, the counties and their respective economic development agencies and chambers of commerce sought potential operators of either a short line (class III) railroad or a heritage railroad, which would offer tourist excursions.
The latter option was successful and the Eagle Cap Excursion Train began on
August 3 2002six years after abandonment. The 2003 season began on May 17 2003and continued in the fall of that year. The first full season of operation began in May 2004. The excursion trains are powered by diesel locomotives.
List of heritage railroads in the United States
* [http://www.eaglecaptrain.com/ Eagle Cap Excursion Train] (official website)
* [http://www.wallowacountychamber.com/ece/index.html Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce: information on the Eagle Cap Excursion Train service]
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