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All aboard for some rail fun

The slogan 'Go by rail' is back in vogue, and the Portland-based travel agency RailsNW works with trainspotters from across the globe to book and arrange day- and weeklong train trips passing through cities as disparate as Sydney, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; and Calcutta, India.

Closer to home, it organizes scenic rides using restored cars and tracks rarely used by passengers. One such train - they're calling it the Oregon Coastal Crawler - will make two day-trips this year (Saturday and Sept. 23) from Banks to Tillamook, passing through 10 tunnels and over high trestle bridges.

Tickets are $185 a person and include a barbecue dinner at the Tillamook Air Museum. Call RailsNW, 503-292-5055, or 1-800-717-0108, or visit www.railsnw.com.

Cutting loose for the Palouse

Is Walla Walla, Wash., the new Bend?

It's booming, though Southeastern Washington's popularity is being driven more by wine than water - that is, the snow and rivers of Central Oregon. The wines of Washington deserve the attention, and the area's food scene has been earning accolades as well.

Two-year-old 26 Brix (www. twentysixbrix.com) is the most mentioned and acclaimed restaurant, though diners can taste the whole city scene at the Taste of Walla Walla on Aug. 19. For lodging, the Marcus Whitman Hotel (www.marcuswhitmanhotel.com) is the poshest big place and hosts numerous special weekends with winemakers throughout the year; in nearby Dayton, Wash., the historic 15-room Weinhard Hotel (yes, it's that Weinhard) offers a more secluded, romantic setting (www.weinhard.com).

If you can make it out there this weekend (July 14-16), you can take in the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival (www.sweetonions.org), featuring plenty of ways to taste the mellow onion as well as other festivities, including the Hells Canyon Horse Show, pancake breakfast and 5k and 10k fun runs.

For information on visiting Walla Walla, go to www.tww.travel.

- Audrey Van Buskirk

Getaways is a new monthly feature of the Portland Tribune. It will appear the second Friday of every month in Weekend Life. Send suggestions to audreyvanbuskirk@portland tribune.com.