Excursion Train starts extended season on Cinco de Mayo
ELGIN — The Eagle Cap Excursion train has built a reputation for starting its season with a Mother’s Day Brunch train ride, but this year will celebrate a different holiday to kickoff the 19-ride season.
“Cinco de Mayo happens to fall on a Saturday this year, so we thought ‘Why not,’” Janet Dodson said during a season preview on April 21.
The preview train ride consisted of more than 45 tourism industry professionals who took advantage of the opportunity to connect with one another. Some of the passengers traveled from as far as Milton-Freewater, Pendleton and Condon to enjoy the scenic Two Rivers tour.
This preliminary tour also gave the Excursion Train volunteers a chance to ensure everything runs smoothly. A broken hose, for instance, was quickly discovered in one of the bathrooms that will be repaired before the season officially starts on May 5.
The Cinco de Mayo train ride will feature food catered by La Grande’s Cinco de Mayo Restaurant. The authentic Mexican meal will include chips, salsa, beans, rice, coleslaw, flan, beverages and a choice of beef, chicken or vegetarian entrée.
The ride, complete with festive decorations, will depart from the Elgin Depot at 11 a.m. and return around 2:30 p.m.
Also new to this season is a second veterans’ train ride. Similar to past years, the Excursion Train is offering a free ride to veterans and their plus ones. Due to the high demand, this year’s season will feature two of these trains on the weekends preceding and following Independence Day. The trains will depart at 10 a.m. and return at about 1:30 p.m. June 30 and July 7. Known as the “I Love America” train, the ride will include a box lunch provided by Ten Depot Street in La Grande. Additional passengers are welcome to ride these trains at the standard ticket rate.
Also new this year is a Bigfoot Train.
“There is an increasing amount of interest in the Bigfoot Legend,” said Ed Spaulding, volunteer engineer and president of the Friends of the Joseph Branch. “People are fascinated by stories that go back centuries, about a giant primate in the Blue Mountains.”
Spaulding said the ride will be fun and informative. A Baker City scientist who makes a living searching for Bigfoot will be aboard the July 28 train, which departs at 10 a.m. and returns at about 2 p.m.
Other highlights this season are the Mother’s Day Brunch, History and Mystery Tour trains.
The always popular Mother’s Day Brunch ride will be the second excursion of the season. Departing at 10 a.m. May 13, the train will include a variety of breakfast and lunch entrées, salads, fruit and pastries. The food will be provided by Chuckwagon Sisters of Joseph. Mothers receive a corsage to take home.
The Sept. 1 train will include a discussion of the area’s history from a guest historian. The train will include a box lunch and departs at 10 a.m.
Although the train’s departure and destination are no mystery, all other elements of the Sept. 8 ride will be a surprise. The theme, meal and additional entertainment are designed for “passengers who like a little bit of mystery in their day,” according to the Excursion Train’s schedule.
Back by popular demand is the Wine and Chocolates Train, an evening ride on June 2. The trip features a tasting of wines from Echo Ridge Cellars of Echo, paired with chocolates from Arrowhead Chocolates of Joseph.
Wine lovers may also be interested in the Sept. 29 wine and cheese train with Copper Belt Winery, of Baker City, and Umapine Creamery, near Milton-Freewater, serving samples of their specialties.
Train robberies fill the train with passengers who love the added fun and excitement provided by bandits on horseback, who board the train and leave with glittering gold. The Gold Rush Bandits have nefarious plans for June 16 and 17, Oct. 6 and Oct. 13.
Also returning in the autumn is a ride designed with photographers in mind. With a brief workshop in one car, led by respected photographer Eric Valentine, this trip makes special stops to let photographers off the train for run-bys, giving them excellent views of the train as it passes.
Tickets are available online at www.eaglecaptrain rides.com or through Alegre Travel, 800-323-7330. Seats fill up fast, so be sure to register in advance.