Nearly 150 people with ties to the military, police or fire departments availed themselves of a free ride on the Freedom Train, held Saturday on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon. The Wallowa Union Railroad offered the free ride from Wallowa down the Wallowa River Canyon to Minam and on to Kimmel.
The ride was open to everyone from senior citizens to infants and nothing but positive comments were heard about the trip.
Ron Arthur of Wallowa has a grandson in the Navy and was making his first trip on the WURR excursion train. "I have been in the county a long time, but this is country I have never seen. I have been meaning to take a rafting trip down here, but have never made it."
Retired Navy veteran Harold Silvernail of Elgin said he read about the trip in the newspaper and was making his first trip. Asked what was the best part of the trip and he responded, "All of it."
Roger and Gail Eagan of Wallowa earned their way on to the train from a number of different ways. After serving in the Navy from 1966 to 1970, Roger Eagan is currently employed at the Union County Sheriff's Department and their son Dan is in the Army at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Gail described the trip as "beautiful and relaxing."
Peggy Thompson-Hackett of Prescott, Ariz. described herself as a "county kid" who, though enjoying her first trip on the WURR, is a veteran of excursion train rides in other locations. "We have been talking for 30 years that they should be doing something like this," she said. "Having a train ride like this for veterans is fantastic and fabulous," said a lady whose husband was in the Navy.
Joseph fire chief Herman Ortman took his young son Matthew on the four and a half hour train ride and said, "I love it. It's great. It is cool that they opened the train to everybody like that. I like getting to see everything from the other side of the river."
Excursion Train Coordinator Mary Ann Thornburgh was pleasantly surprised by the response to a Sept. 11 train that had only been planned and advertised about one week in advance.
Note: This story was corrected. See below.