Big changes… Striving to be more inclusive we finally completed the installation of our full electric assist system for our Railriders on our Valley Sights trip out of Joseph. This will allow folks of nearly any fitness level to come out and enjoy Railriding. We also redesigned our Quad (four seat) Railrider Cars to be able to accommodate more weight and be overall more robust and stable. We accomplished those goals and they turned out beautifully. We also introduced Souvenir Photos included with each car on our Valley Sights trip. These are provided by Ashley Martin of Pioneer Portraits. With a year of Covid-19 under our belt we are confidant that we’ll have another healthy Railriding season in 2021.
Joseph Branch Railriders is under new ownership. Manager Robert Nichols and his wife Tia purchased the Eastern Oregon portion of the Railrider Cycling organization in January of 2020. The Nichols family consists of Robert, Tia and their six children. Robert managed Joseph Branch Railriders for three years prior to purchasing. Covid-19 brought a lot of unknowns to the season but we were very grateful that it ended up being a safe, healthy, and fun season overall.
A new Railriding location was established: Vance Creek Railriders in Shelton, WA. This year also brought the addition of the Wheeler location; an extension of the Oregon Coast Railriders.
Joseph Branch relocated it’s office to the departure site at 501 W Alder Street. Also Robert Nichols a new onsite Manager was hired allowing the owners to focus on family, support, and expansion.
A brand new offering opened up on the Oregon Coast in Bay City, OR. The Oregon Coast Railriders (Not currently operating) began offering 2 hour round trip tours between Bay City and Tillamook. Also – Joseph Branch Railriders expanded the schedule to five days a week, Thursday through Monday, to accommodate it’s growing popularity.
A grand opening was celebrated on May 23, 2015, and was the launch of a busy second season.
Kim and Anita Metlen lifelong active cyclists, involved with the development of bicycle tourism in northeast Oregon and across the state started Joseph Branch Railriders. They were leaders in the development and designation of the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway, under a program of Travel Oregon and the Oregon Department of Parks & Recreation. Admired nationally, the Oregon Scenic Bikeways Program is unique to Oregon and patterned after the state’s acclaimed scenic byways program. The couple owned and operated Mountainworks Bike Shop in La Grande for several years, before selling the shop to their daughter and her husband, Mavis and Whitfield Hartz. Advocates for fitness and fans of history and nature, the Metlens admired the scenic beauty of the Wallowa Union Railroad (Historically known as the Joseph Branch), a 63-mile line that connects Elgin with Joseph and links the communities between. They wondered how they could follow their passions while utilizing a section of railroad that was not currently used for excursion train rides. After researching about Railrider type attractions in other parts of the world and discovering a similar business in the Eastern United States, the idea for Joseph Branch Railriders was born. With help from local manufacturing companies, Kim Metlen designed and fabricated the rail units and they were first tested on the rail line in the fall of 2013. After acquiring permission from the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority and setting up a base of operations in Joseph, the business began offering (dress rehearsal) rides in May of 2014.