Facebook Page

The Southern Appalachia Railway Museum Rare Mileage Trips 2004

Trips on the Wallowa-Union Railroad Authority, Pend Orielle Valley Railroad and Central Montana Rail

by Chris Guenzler

I got an e-mail from Bart Jennings of the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum about the trip on the Wallowa-Union Railroad Authority on May 22nd, 2004. He had ideas for some other trips so I paid for that one. Next came an announcement of two trips on the Central Montana Rail May 24th and 25th 2004. I sent off a check for those trips. Now I was waiting for a trip in between and a few weeks later came a trip announcement of a trip on the Pend Orielle Valley Railroad on May 23rd, 2004. I asked and received permission to take my vacation so I sent off for that last trip. I next called Mike at the Auto Club of Southern California for a rental car and he got me a car with Enterprise with an excellent rate. I went on-line to get a Southwest Airlines Ticket and called the hotels I needed to use. With that all set I did my other rides but could not wait for that day to take off on this trip.

Metrolink 681/901 5/21/2004

I awoke at 3:00 AM and turned on the computer to print my Southwest Airlines Boarding Pass prior to packing. I drove my Mom and I in her van to Santa Ana and following goodbyes used an old Metrolink Ticketing Machine that only took cash. My Metrolink Train 681 to Los Angeles Union Station came in right on time and I was off towards Burbank Airport. I slept the miles to LAUPT which we arrived early and easily walked from Track 8 to Track 6 to a waiting Metrolink Train 601 to Burbank Downtown where I would connect to a shuttle van to the Bob Hope Airport. No one could tell me why this first Metrolink Train does not go to the Burbank Airport Station? That trip went really quickly and I soon detrained at Burbank to a waiting Super Shuttle Van that took me to the airport. I arrived at the terminal at 6:15 AM and walked through Security with no delay what so ever. I was soon waiting at Gate 6 for my 7:45 AM flight.

Southwest Airlines Flight 2675 5/21/2004

Following the advice of others who had flown Southwest when you see the line form for A, B or C get in it. I had an "A" so I was third onto the plane. They boarded the "A"s at 7:35 AM for the flight to Portland via Oakland. We departed and once at cruising speed I listened to Chicago 13 along with orange juice that got me to Oakland at 8:50 AM. We laid over in Oakland until we departed the gate at 9:20 AM. It was great to see the Sacramento River Canyon, Mt Shasta and all the peaks of the Oregon Cascades from the air. We landed at Portland at 10:55 AM on a rainy morning. I was first off the plane at Gate C-15 and my next plane was at Gate C-16 right next door. I got my "B" Boarding Pass and waited for Flight 131 to board.

Southwest Airlines Flight 131 5/21/2004

The "B"s were boarded at 11:30 AM and I managed to get a window seat in the fourth row of another Boeing 737 Aircraft. We backed out of the gate at 11:47 AM. As we left Portland heading east a westbound BNSF freight with a DPU on the rear end was seen before we climbed over the deck of clouds. Once east of the Cascades the clouds broke apart with several outstanding cumulonimbus clouds towering in the sky. We touched down at 12:40 AM and I was now in Spokane.

Drive 1 5/21/2004

I walked over to the Enterprise Rental Car Counter and received a Mazda Protege. I headed east on US 2 to Interstate 90 to the US 195 exit which I took south heading to Oregon.

I crossed the ex Milwaukee Road grade and arch bridges outside Rosalia. I am going to try to shoot as many pictures as possible on the former Milwaukee Road on this trip.

In Colfax I found the Union Pacific Depot before stopping at Arby's for lunch and a break. Remember I am on vacation! I drove on to Lewistown, Idaho after a wonderful decent into town.

I found the engine facility of the Great Northwest Railroad formerly Camas Prairie Net. As I photographed the engines I watched a storm heading out of the west towards me with lightning and thunder booming across the sky. I crossed the Snake River back into Washington and started climbing the grade out of the bottom end of Hell Canyon. As I did that the rains started to pour down. That lasted only ten miles but it took some of my best driving to keep heading south. The rest of the climb to Rattlesnake Summit 3956 feet is easy, but I next twisted and turned down to the Grande Ronde River.

I climbed the grade out of the river valley twisting and turning into Oregon reaching the summit at 4693 feet. From there a tired Chris drove the rest of the way to Enterprise.

Enterprise, Oregon 5/21/2004

On my way to the Best Western Rama Inn and Suites I stopped by Safeway for some chicken to have for dinner. I checked in and finally settled a slight financial problem that I been having over the phone. Now in total relax mode, I watched the first game of the NBA Western Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-88. I called it a night so I would be well rested for the first of the rare mileage trips I would be taking tomorrow.

For more pictures of the drive to Enterprise click here

The Eagle Cap Limited on the Wallowa-Union Railroad Authority 5/22/2004

After a continental breakfast and another stop at Safeway for snacks for the trip today, I drove the six miles to Joseph. I found the grain elevator with the train parked waiting for us all to arrive for the first of the Rare Mileage Trips for 2004.

I parked the Mazda and met with Bart Jennings, our trip's organizer, before I started to photograph our train for today. Our trains consist for this trip was Wallowa Union Railroad Authority GP-35 4508, Baggage Car 6741 ex Southern Pacific, Coach 3241 ex Santa Fe later New Jersey Transit {NJT} 2408, Coach 2636 ex Illinois Central and Table Car 1120 ex Great Northern {Coach} 1120 later NJT 5309. Our train is named after the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area in the Wallowa Mountains. These mountains are over 10,000 feet high featuring glaciers and wild rivers. I settled into the ex Santa Fe car before buying this year's T-shirt featuring all of the rare mileage trips that I will be taking on this trip.

The history of this line was that the Oregon Railway Extension Company built the first segment from La Grande to Elgin in 1890. Construction from Elgin into the Grande Ronde River Canyon started in 1905. The railroad finished into Joseph on November of 1908 building a 83.8 mile branch line. The Union Pacific operated the line into Joseph until November 15th, 1993 when the line was sold to the Idaho Pacific and Northern. They operated the line into Joseph until their last train ran on March 26th, 1996 when the line was closed by slides and washouts. In November 2003 the Wallowa-Union Railroad Authority acquired the right to operate the line between Elgin and Joseph 62.6 miles. The railroad, as part of the deal, acquired two ex Idaho Northern and Pacific GP-35s. Their 4507 is ex IPNR ex WE 2656 ne NS 2656 nee Southern 2656 and the 4508 is ex IPNR ex WE 2657 ne NS 2657 nee Southern 2657.

Our trip originated under the Wallowa Grain Growers Elevator which sits in the middle of the wye here. At 8:00 AM we started our trip in the Enterprise Valley by heading west to cross the Wallowa River for the first of many crossing before turning north. Here we spotted the first animals of the trip, a heard of deer running away from the train. The Wallowa Mountains were shrouded in clouds as we passed the remains of the Joseph Forest Product Mill. It was a chilly morning as I was riding the vestibule which I did for most of the trip today. Off to the west was the Joseph Airport as we proceeded north across the valley towards Enterprise. Our train crossed an irrigation canal at MP 81 before crossing the spread out Wallowa River on three separate trestles as the river has a very wide path at this point. After turning to the west we made our way into Enterprise which has a grain elevator and ex CNW wedge snow plow.

West of Enterprise the Wallowa River is again crossed using only two bridges this time. Next at MP 76.79 we crossed Hurricane Creek before crossing the Wallowa River again this time on a single bridge at MP 75.22. We entered a short canyon then passed the former siding location of Freel. At MP 72.62 it took two bridges for our next crossings of the Wallowa River.

Next we rolled to the north of Lostine and further Wades Point, a rocky point, sticks out into the valley to the south. Over on the Highway 8 Evans is seen before another crossing of the Wallowa River this time on three bridges as the river has spread out over a third of a mile. Beaver Creek was next crossed at 64.74 followed three miles later by our crossing of Whiskey Creek as we rolled down this valley.

At MP 57.56 we bridged the Wallowa River once more followed shortly by Mill Ditch before we rolled into Wallowa with its grain elevator for a photo stop while the engine was watered.

Leaving Wallowa we passed the wye where another GP-35 rested between jobs. I learned that the GP-35s on this railroad days are numbered as the railroad is about to trade for three GP-9s in the near future. West of town we crossed Bear Creek and then passed the main revenue producer on the railroad the lumber mill near Sevier with its own gasoline switcher. From Sevier we entered the beautiful Wallowa River Canyon with outstanding vistas to behold on the east wall of the canyon.

The train passed through a rain shower as some passengers were on animal alert hoping to spot big horn sheep, elk or even bear along our route or on the canyon walls. As the train wound through the canyon we passed beneath Minam Point before we crossed the Wallowa River one last time on a deck bridge. We now had reached Minam where the tracks crossed Highway 82 and the Minam River joined the Wallowa River Canyon from the west.

We were about to leave the roads behind us as we entered the Minam State Recreation Area. About a mile later we passed a campground across the Wallowa River where a young boy was waving his heart out at our train. From here on it would be the train and the few white water rafters out on the river through the rest of the Wallowa River Canyon.

The train crossed Fisher Creek at MP 42.33 as we continued to curve through the canyon. The train rolled by the retired station at Vincent before crossing Howard Creek at MP 40.28. We continued to curve along the river to Kimmel with its 3940 foot passing siding. Two miles later we passed Rondowa, a made up name meaning the junction of the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers.

We crossed the Grande Ronde River at MP 36.85 on a four deck plate girder bridge and turned back southeast now following that river. Three curving miles later we passed through Looking Glass before crossing the creek of the same name at MP 33.13. At MP 32.55 we crossed Schotte Creek then had a grade crossing with Yarrington Road with the truss bridge across the river. A little while later at MP 30.85 we bridged Cabin Creek before passing the site of the former Cabin Creek siding and then Mill Creek was crossed. Three miles further we crossed Partridge Creek at MP 26.51 before we rounded a pair of 16% curves with the wheels screeching at MP 27.1 and 26.0. That brought our train to the 1650 foot siding of Gulling the westward end of our trip today.

At Gulling they allowed us off the train as the engine ran around the train. We discovered some 1888 and 1889 rail in the Gulling siding made by the Joliet Rail Company. There was some disappointment among our group that we did not run the rest of the way into Elgin but I was glad just to have gotten this far. We started back to Joseph with GP-35 running long hood forward. I worked on the story for a while until it was announced that we would do a photo runby at the Grande Ronde Bridge. I enjoyed some Coca-Cola as the train made the way to the bridge as the rains began. Some of us detrained for our next Photo Runby in the rain.

As the train backed up onto the bridge for a static picture it started to rain harder.

The passengers who had stayed aboard stared at all of us as we returned being amazed by the conditions the photographers were in. I even managed to keep my camera dry during that exercise. We headed up the Wallowa River Canyon as the rains stopped and the sunshine returned. We stopped at the Highway 82 crossing to drop off the caterers.

We made our last Photo Runby of the day at MP 48 and this one was done under sunny skies.

The train looked very good rolling by the photo line. I enjoyed more Coca-Cola and photographed the few things I missed the rest of the trip.

This is Joe Harper who I met at Safeway this morning. He was going to photograph the train today and then ride the extra trip tomorrow. I bet you he had a lot of fun for these two days.

It had been a real fun day of railroading as we pulled back into Joseph at 5:40 PM ending an exciting trip on the Eagle Cap Limited.

I drove back to Enterprise and had dinner at the Plush West Restaurant having a rib steak served by Kayla.

I photographed the CNW snow plow before gassing up the Mazda and returning to the hotel for a good night rest.

For more pictures of the Eagle Cap Trip click here

Drive 2 5/23/2004

Up early at 5:30 AM and following check out with a quick continental breakfast I was off to Newport, Washington.

I stopped at a viewpoint under construction for pictures of Hell Canyon the same canyon Evil Knievel tried to jump years ago on September 8th, 1974.

At Lewiston I found a Heisler locomotive in a park before I headed north up US 95 to Coeur D' Alene to Interstate 90 then Idaho 41 to Rathdrum. I took a rest break at a bridge over the BNSF Funnel of course with no trains running while I was there and then had lunch at an A&W. After lunch it was back on Idaho 41 to Newport where I gassed up. I found the former Great Northern Depot with the former Milwaukee Road Depot behind with the Pend Orielle County Historical Society Museum inside.

The Pend Orielle Hiawatha on the Pend Orielle Valley Railroad 5/23/2004

Arriving early allowed for me to have a good look around at both stations before the Pend Orielle Valley Railroad GP-10 1745 arrived from Usk to switch our train. This gave the few of us who had arrived early several runbys before the train was spotted at the depot. Our train for this second rare mileage trip of 2004 consisted of GP-10 1745 ex BN, POVA 205 open car, POVA 256 open car, POVA 207 open car, Coach 960 ex Great Northern {GN} owned by the Inland Empire Railroad Historical Society {INRHS}, Coach 970 ex GN, Coach MW 204 and Caboose 2004.

The section of railroad that I rode on this trip was built by the Idaho and Washington Railroad between 1907 and 1910. The Milwaukee Road acquired the railroad in 1916. The Newport to Metaline Falls section was sold to the Port of Pend Orielle {pronounced Pond a Ray} following the Milwaukee Road downsizing and exiting the western USA in 1979. Shortline service began on October 1st, 1979. Motive power of this railroad is GP 9 1753 ex Northern Pacific 318, GE 70 Toner 103 ex Lafarge Cement Metaline Falls nee Leigh Portland Cement, SD-9 159 ex DMIR 1599, and the GP-10s 1745 ex CC 1745, 6042 ex IC 8042, 8310 ex IC 8310 and 8325 ex IC 8325. The North Pend Orielle Valley Lions Club started running passenger trains in 1981 for the Down River Days Celebration of that year and has been running Ione to Metaline Falls and return trips ever since.

Our trip started off in front of the Great Northern Depot on ex GN tracks at 2:06 PM. We immediately switched off the ex GN onto the ex Milwaukee Road tracks. I rode in the ex GN Coach 970 north to Ione. Our trip would follow the Pend Orielle River the entire way to Metaline Falls. This river flows north into Canada where it joins the Columbia River. We traveled up this river in a valley between the Calispell Mountains to the west and the Selkrirk Mountains to the east. We headed north out of Newport into the forests.

The river came into view as we passed Ashenfeller Bay and minutes later crossed Washington Highway 20 for the first of several crossings today. The river would be in my view for most of the trip today. Our train headed through Wolfred where the valley opened up. We crossed McCloud Creek followed by Kent and Breckett Creeks before we passed through Dalkena. Our special train next crossed Davis Creek before we passed through Usk with its lumbering industry.

The train rolled by the Pend Orielle Valley Railroad Shops. Other than a few car loadings north at Cusick, there is no revenue business north of Usk on this railroad. So from here to Metaline Falls only the Lion Club Excursions Trains ply the rails through the most beautiful part of the railroad between Ione and Metaline Falls. Our train ran next through Cusick which is another former lumbering town with a twenty car siding.

Calispell Peak to the west has a ski area on the slopes. There is a rock formation to the east that we shall call the "Calispell Indian Grotto". We later crossed both Trimble and Tacoma Creeks prior to running through Locke. The creek crossings continued with our train running over both Cusick and Parker prior to reaching Jared with its 13 car siding. As we continued north the train bridged Gardiner Creek before we arrived at Ruby. The excursion bridged Reynolds and Ruby Creeks before the valley narrowed into a canyon. We passed Blueslide siding a 7 car affair before we plunged into 1,100 foot Blueslide Tunnel in total darkness.

The train next trestled across Lost Creek then the South Fork of Lost Creek followed by another Lost Creek. I guess that Lost Creek is truly lost. We reached Tiger with the general store and siding. Renshow, Diamond, Big Muddy and Little Muddy Creek were all crossed before we reached Ione.

There we all detrained with me taking pictures of the train and the former Milwaukee Road Station a half block away. I reboarded the open car for the most scenic part of the trip. Free Hot Dogs were passed out to all of the train's passengers.

The train left Ione crossing Cedar Creek and Highway 20 for the last time as the canyon narrowed. The train made the way into Box Canyon with Box Canyon Dam below.

The bridge is 475 feet long and 156 feet high. I took many photos off the bridge before the train was backed off the bridge before it slowly pulled forward. There was an exclusive photo runby for just three people. The Lion Club has a no one off the train policy between stations for safety reasons. Once on the move again we ran through the 810 foot long Vail Tunnel in total darkness prior to crossing Sand and Wolf Creeks. We next ran through the short 90 foot long Wolf Creek Tunnel. We crossed Pocahontas Creek followed by six more timber trestles in the next two miles before we pulled into the yard at Metaline Falls where the old cement plant stands off to the northwest.

For Lions Excursion Train information click here.

We came to a stop at the north end of the railroad only ten miles from Canada. I almost crossed Washington from south to north border to border today. The engine ran around the train before we headed back towards Ione where we ended our second rare mileage trip of 2004. The buses soon arrived and took us all back to our waiting cars in Newport.

For more pictures of the The Pend Oreille Hiawatha click here

For the second part of the Rare Mileage 2004 Trips.