At the Train Depot
Rusk and Palestine Depots
Whether departing from Palestine or Rusk, you will enjoy the historic surroundings and learn about the communities that built the railroad. Both depots have interesting storyboards and displays about the rise of railroading in East Texas. The gift shops have memorabilia, clothing and gifts exclusive to Texas State Railroad.
The depots are where the fun starts.
In the glory days of the iron horse, the train station was the bustling hub of every small town across America. Those days may have passed, but Texas State Railroad is doing its part to ensure that they are not forgotten.
An essential part of the Texas State Railroad journey is spending time at the Rusk and Palestine depot complexes prior to departure, at the turn-around and after the ride. Built during the middle of the last century, these edifices are every bit a part of the rail experience as the ride itself.
Peppering the depot are eye-catching storyboards, overflowing with details about the Texas State Railroad encounter, surrounding communities, pioneer spirit and railroad lore which set the stage for a memorable rail adventure. Each depot complex has its own identity and requires time spent to capture the essence of why this Piney Woods Route has been designated the Official State Railroad of Texas.
Palestine Train Depot
Inaugurated in 1976, this complex was built by the Texas State Parks & Wildlife Department. The attractive Palestine depot represents the Victorian era of architecture that was popularized when steam locomotives first crisscrossed the American landscape over a century ago.
Whistle Stop Café
Located inside the depot, light eaters as well as those with heartier appetites will find an entrée to whet a whistle and fill a growling belly. Covered patios with bench seating and picnic tables tucked under canopies of shade trees are ideal locations to enjoy a sumptuous lunch with family and friends.
Texas State Railroad – Whistle Stop Cafe Menu
Shopping at Roundhouse 1909 has never been more pleasurable. The quality selection of home décor, clothing, hats, accessories and souvenirs representing the Railroad, Palestine and East Texas is irresistible. Jewelry, sculpture, children’s toys, apparel and books round out a medley of merchandise to memorialize the ride.
Rusk Train Depot
Rusk is where the Texas State Railroad began. This beautiful rock structure is a compliment to the railroad route built by prisoners in 1883 to transport timber and ore from the penitentiary. In 1972, the area was designated a state park to operate tourist excursions between rusk and Palestine.
Not only is Roundhouse 1883 an unusual gift store, it’s a shopper’s paradise. Stocked with women’s and men’s apparel, accessories, children’s toys and clothing, books, jewelry, sculpture and memorabilia, there is something for everyone to take home to commemorate a great day on the train.
Mail Car Café
Built inside a 100-year-old Texas & Pacific mail & express car that straddles the rails alongside the depot, the Mail Car Café embraces mouthwatering regional favorites. Entrees, snacks and beverages may be savored in an outdoor setting with plenty of shade and cover. Texas State Railroad – Mail Car Café
Interesting side story –
In the United States, a railway post office, commonly abbreviated RPO, was a railcar on a normal passenger run with a staff who sorted mail enroute to facilitate speedy delivery. Off limits to passengers, the RPO was staffed by highly-trained postal clerks who were issued Smith & Wesson revolvers to discourage mail theft. From the middle of the 19th century, many American railroads earned substantial revenues through contracts with the U.S. Post Office Department (USPOD). Why was this so important to the railroad? The profitability of the mail business allowed many railroad companies to maintain passenger routes where the financial losses from moving people were more than offset by transporting the mail.
Hollywood in the Piney Woods
Be sure to catch the short film on the railroad in the Rusk Depot’s movie theatre.