The First Excursion
It begins with simple curiosity—a tiny book in the Enterprise City Library titled The Train Comes To Wallowa County: A Brief History. It’s published by Bear Creek Press, which claims on the inside credits pages that its “world headquarters” are housed in Wallowa, Oregon.
Then, the hook is spotted—in this case, the story of September 20, 1908. That’s the day the new line finally opened to the public, transporting nearly 1200 passengers in 15 cars from La Grande, Oregon to Wallowa. Just as many county residents came out to greet the La Grande passengers, most of whom had never glimpsed “wilds of Wallowa” before.
Next, a question bubbles to the surface—What would it have felt like to be on that train? Surely it was exciting, but it sounds a little claustrophobic as well. And how did women wear heels and hats and layered dresses in those days, then walk down rickety steps and over rocks and never, apparently, fall down in public?
One dollar and seventy-five cents. That’s what the historical, fictional character in my mind is thinking. She has never spent $1.75 on anything before, but here she is, first child in tow and husband at her back. They’re each helping the other maintain balance and the valley is beautiful—when she can get a glimpse of it—but for the most part she’s pressed rather uncustomarily into the back of a total stranger. The excursion schedule set departure at 8:00 a.m., arriving in Wallowa at 11:30 that same morning. Hard to believe considering it takes three full days by horse. Could it really be possible? She waits, wondering, the gentle rhythm of the train rocking back and forth, back and forth.
And so a story begins…