ELGIN — A minor mishap on the Wallowa Union Railroad topped the discussion when the track’s governing body met Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Elgin Depot.
Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts, who co-chairs the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority with a Union County commissioner, said that on Saturday, Sept. 4, a brake on the trailing engine of the train had not been released, causing it to heat up, which caused a portion of the track to lay down flat. That led to a minor derailment of that locomotive between Minam and Elgin.
She said none of the passengers was injured and all were safely evacuated from the train.
“That was a minor derailment,” Roberts said Monday. “They just jacked it up, put her back up and replaced the brake pad.”
The authority also discussed maintenance issues, which included repairing the area where the train derailed. Also discussed were work to keep the rails in good shape, brush-cutting during the coming winter and keeping the railroad right-of-way open for the future.
“That’s what we started it for in the first place was to keep that right-of-way open, not to run an excursion train,” Roberts said.
The commissioner said that during the financial report, she noted that the authority was running a bit short because it had to close down the excursion train last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Although the train has been operating this year, finances are still a bit short.
Without any income to do that, in becomes a bit untenable,” she said.
Roberts did say an Oregon Short Line tax credit had been applied for and received.
The authority replaced the Howard Creek Bridge in Minam Canyon early this year. The commissioner said the authority will be reimbursed $23,000 through the tax credit.
In other business, the authority:
• Heard a report from the Joseph Branch Community Trail that the city of Elgin applied for a state grant to do a feasibility study on the first mile of track out of Elgin.
• Considered a proposal by the Eastern Oregon River Outfitters, which in the past, had asked about doing fishing trips in the area and returning rafts and equipment on flatcars pulled by the train. Roberts said no one from the outfitters attended the meeting, so the matter was tabled.
• Set its next meeting for 5 p.m. Nov. 9. Roberts said it is hoped the meeting will be held in Wallowa, but the location has yet to be decided and will be announced prior to the meeting date.