The Texas State Railroad was established in 1881, built by Texas prison inmates to transport harvested hardwood. Since 2007, the American Heritage Railways has owned and operated Texas state railroad trains. The Palestine train depot in Texas is the western-most point of the line. There are fifteen small depots in total, running west to east and ending at the Rusk Train depot southeast of Dallas. Texas state railroad trains run several excursions along the tracks that include vintage diesel trips, excursions via steam engine, and many special events throughout the year. It is a great thing to do if you are just south of Dallas, and also includes the Texas State Railroad Museum for a bit of history.
The Pinewoods Excursion is a round-trip affair with either diesel or steam engine departing from both ending points of the track, at the Rusk and Palestine depots. The Texas railroad trains travel a total of four hours, stopping at the opposite depot for a meal break. Dogwood Steam Engine Excursions are seasonal, and also depart from either station at the track’s final points for a four and a half hour journey during the month of March to view blooming dogwoods. A number of affiliated Texas hotels also offer ticket holders great vacation deals for those planning an extended stay.
Maydelle Turntable Excursions are the most popular of all things to do via the Texas State Railroad. They run on specific dates in April, June, September, and October. This special trip means a visit to the historic and revered nineteenth-century Maydelle Turntable where many special events are celebrated throughout the year. Fun activities, signature Texas dining, and a visit to the Maydelle Corn Maze are all included. Texas state railroad trains also host a trip called the Jarvis Wye Special. The diesel trains run in May from the Palestine Station to the Jarvis Wye Depot. Tickets include lunch.
Scores of special events can be celebrated aboard the Texas state railroad trains. Polar Express trains, dinner trains, Railfest, The Valentine’s Express, and the Pumpkin Patch Express are a few of the many fun-filled theme rides offered. The main Rusk and Palestine depots are located roughly 35 minutes from each other and both host all of the excursions and special events available. Each of the depots also offer excellently equipped campgrounds with showers, cooking grills, restrooms, and pavilions. Texas fishing, hiking, swimming, and many other outdoor activities are available at both.
When exploring all the train excursion possibilities in Texas, don’t forget to plan a visit to a Texas State railroad Museum. The Railroad Museum in Galveston exhibits a host of historic artifacts that relay all developments in the age-old mode of transportation. The train yard holds many historic railcars, mailcars, and locomotives. Antique dining ware from the railroads is on display as are model trains, original station waiting rooms, and much more. In Dallas, the Texas state railroad museum is called the Museum of the American Railroad. It exhibits the heritage and history of state railways as well as passenger trains, freight trains, and both heavy and lightweight trains.