Texas Train Rides
A few years ago I took a vacation to Colorado and experienced my first train ride. It was an oil burning vintage steam train that ran on a narrow gauge track. With some of the cars being completely open you were able to get the full sensory experience. The rhythmic sound of the steam engine, the metallic utterances of the cars rolling on the track and the occasional lonesome howl of the whistle made you feel like you we're in another time. It was an awesome first train ride. I would certainly do it again.
Texas does have a few options for experiencing a train ride. Since I have not experienced any of these rides, yet, I sought out opinions on the typical review sites. Like most things that are subjective, opinions varied wildly.
Not all train rides are created equal. It all boils down to what you want out of the experience. If you are planning your Texas vacation in the area of any of these railroads, a Texas train ride would be a great addition to your vacation experience.
The Texas State Railroad
The Texas State Railroad is located in east Texas. The railroad provides vintage train rides between the towns of Palistine and Rusk. The train ride is a round trip which takes 1.5 hours each way, with a 1.5 hour layover.
They have two steam engines and two diesel engines that are currently operating.
Background on the Railroad
The Texas State Railroad is a segment of track that had its beginning in 1881. The railroad was created in order to bring hardwood to the prison-operated iron smelter at the Rusk Penitentiary. The smelter supplied iron products to the State of Texas. Some of the iron was actually used in the construction capitol building in Austin.
The railroad was given to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1972 for the purpose of creating a state park. The park and railroad were opened to the public on July 4th, 1976, as part of the nation's Bicentennial Celebration.
Austin Steam Train
Although the website is called Austin Steam Train, the steam train has been undergoing major restoration since 1999. The steam train is known as the Southern Pacific 786 and it has quite an interesting background. The steam train was built by the American Locomotive Company in 1916.
The current train, known as the Alco Diesel 442, is a diesel-electric RSD-15 six-axle road-switcher built by the American Locomotive Company in 1960. This type of train has the nickname of alligator due to its long and low nose.
Austin Steam Train Destinations
Most of their rides depart from Cedar Park and either go to Burnett or Bertram. The Cedar Park to Burnett ride is approximately 2 hours each way. The shorter trip goes to Bertram (home to the annual Oatmeal Festival) where there is a short 15 minute stop to visit of the 1912 train station (a relocated Orange Grove station).
They have several themed rides available that include plays and even a wine tasting trip.
We took a ride on the train in July 2014 and I enjoyed it. The all volunteer staff were professional and friendly. See a few photos here.
For more information see the Austin Steam Train website listed below.
Austin Steam Train Association
401 E. Whitestone Blvd., Ste C-100
Cedar Park TX 78613
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
The Grapevine Vintage Railroad travels along the historic Cotton Belt Route between Grapevine and the Fort Worth Stockyards. The ride is 1 hour and 15 minutes one way. You can do a one way or round trip.
The Railroad is serviced by two vintage locomotives. One is an 1896 Steam locomotive, nicknamed "Puffy", and the other is a 1953 GP-7 diesel locomotive. The coaches are authentic 1920s and 1930s with Victorian style.
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
705 S. Main Street
For more information see the Grapevine Vintage Railroad website listed below.
Historic Jefferson Railway
All aboard for a train ride takes you through the beautiful woods and wetlands along the Big Cypress Bayou!
The train is currently powered by a gas-powered Plymouth Locomotive, nicknamed Critter, first put into service in 1964. The train rides on a narrow gauge track. The ride lasts approximately 40 minutes.
They are a pet friendly business and welcome well behaved pets on their trains.
400 East Austin
Jefferson, TX 75657
For more excursions see our list at the link below.