Summer rail season went full steam ahead on Saturday, May 26. The rare steam locomotives of the historic Golden Age debuted alongside Texas State Railroad’s vintage diesel brigade throughout the summer season.
Steam trains will continue to run out of the Palestine train depot through July and then start departing from the Rusk depot in August and September. Excursions run through the summer every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Celebration of Steam at the Official Railroad of Texas began with a display of TSRR’s notable steam and diesel engines at the Palestine depot. The property was open to guests at 8:00 a.m. and the inaugural steam run departed the Palestine depot at 10:00 a.m. The static locomotives were lined up on the wye, offering photo opportunities to capture and epitomize the summer opener.
Engine No. 28 has a unique history. It is one of two surviving U.S. Army’s “Pershing” engines named after General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing; famous as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) on the Western Front from 1917-18 during World War I. Fortunately, the locomotive remained on U.S. soil, primarily serving the Camp Polk Army Base in Leesville, Louisiana. The steamer is a 2-8-0 (2 wheels in the front, 8 drivers, no wheels at the rear of the engine). The wheel arrangement is commonly referred to as a “consolidation.”
Brought to the TSR in 1976, it remained dormant until the late ‘80s because of budget restraints and boiler issues. After obtaining a new boiler for the old warhorse, all running gears and appliances were completely reworked or replaced. From its humble origin of hauling freight, lumber and munitions to its present occupation of transporting tourists and railfans of all ages, the historic U.S. Army locomotive celebrated its 100th birthday in 2017.
Ambling through the Piney Woods of East Texas, this rail line is rich with history, linking our small rural towns to the world at large. Early on, there were no highways or interstates. Mail still arrived by horseback when the first tracks were laid. Although many of the towns along the route have diminished in size, or faded into vintage photographs, the rail line is still alive with personality and Piney Woods hospitality. Rail travel is classic; reminding us that the U.S.’s Golden Age is still viable through new adventures, innovations and connections. Keeping 100-year-old machinery running is no easy feat and, in the 21st Century, very much a labor of love.
Summer Means the Good Ol’ Gals Come Out to Play!