Joseph Branch Railriders on track

Steve tool/Chieftain Joseph Branch Railriders employees, from left, Haley Rygg and Kagan Coehn, enjoy a Saturday morning on the job, making sure the railriders are in working order.

Joseph Branch Railriders, a local business specializing in Joseph Branch Railroad tours in pedal-driven cars, is thriving in its second season at 304 N. Main St. in Joseph. JBR owners, Kim and Anita Metlen, are pleased with their success. The couple originally owned Mountainworks Bike Shop in La Grande.

“Things are going well this year. In our opening year last year, our best day was maybe 42 people, but we’ve expanded this year,” Kim Metlen said. The business expanded in 2015, with a new journey: a 26-mile, round-trip tour from the confluence of the Minam and Wallowa rivers to the town of Wallowa. Still on offer is JBR’s original journey, a 13-mile round trip from Joseph to Enterprise and back.

“We’re running basically full pretty much every day. That amounts to 60-70 passengers,” Metlen said. The business is also contributing to the local economy, hiring three employees for the season.

In a show of Old West resourcefulness and ingenuity, Metlen independently designed, and with the help of Barreto Manufacturing in La Grande, built the special rail units, simply called railriders. JBR owns 18 of the vehicles.

Each tour is guided by employees. “We’re there to make sure everyone gets back safely and take care of anything that happens along the way. It’s like the military: We guide from the rear,” Metlen said with a laugh. He added that he follows in a motorized railrider and can push a few, but not all, tour participants back if need be.

The Joseph/Enterprise trip is a two-hour journey while the Minam/Wallowa trip leaves Minam at 9 a.m., arrives in Wallowa at noon, and returns to Minam around 3 p.m.

JBR is open for business from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Monday and will run through the summer, shutting down operations on Oct. 1. Metlen added that he and his wife are contemplating holding a New Year’s Day run.

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