Texas State Railroad’s 2017 was a year marked with transition and success. Management changed hands to The Western Group in May and the organization quickly went to work with renovations, improvements and new marketing efforts while maintaining the spirit and special events of “the Official Railroad of Texas.”
Once again, The Polar Express® was the highlight of November and December, bringing the year to an exciting finale. The 150 seasonal elves, chefs, conductors and Santa’s helpers now enjoy a long-awaited winter’s nap after several months of creating magic for the 55,000+ passengers who enjoyed the enchanting ride to the North Pole aboard one of America’s most historic railroads.
Pajama-clad travelers of all ages were impressed as they arrived at the classic railroad depot in Palestine, Texas. The handsomely-restored, newly-renovated building, with fresh paint applied just weeks before holiday decorations, made the perfect launch for the captivating Christmas ride to the North Pole village
Another favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day, signals the beginning of the 2018 excursion season with train rides that are sure to delight the senses … especially the taste buds. On February 10th and 11th, the inaugural “Chocolate Lovers’ Special” will indulge riders’ palates with luscious chocolate concoctions, including the Railroad’s own version of the locally-beloved “Texas Sheet Cake.”
With the addition of new cafes at both the Rusk and Palestine depots, Texas State Railroad is making tasty food a significant element of the historic rail journey. With a midway stopover at one of the depots, depending from where the train departs, a delectable fresh meal may be enjoyed during the leisurely layover prior to the return trip. Coupled with newly-added concession cars, selling specialty adult and child beverages and an array of snacks, appetizers are served upon boarding to passengers in Presidential and first-class coaches.
Texas State Railroad’s two 1950s depots are now home to attractive storyboards that fill their lobbies with history, folklore and fascinating stories featuring diverse narratives.
The campground at Rusk has been renovated with modern conveniences so daytime picnickers, overnight campers and RVers may truly enjoy the beautiful woodsy setting adjacent to Cherokee Lake and the Railroad depot.
In addition to upgrades at the depots, the train’s consist has also seen improvements in 2017. Because of high demand, the Railroad has added another Presidential-class car to its consist of early 20th Century passenger coaches. Akin to the historic #1511 Presidential car, car #50 has the same upscale amenities and comfort expected by the millennial traveler.
The six-passenger caboose, with a private valet and rich, crushed-velvet seating, harkens back to the midcentury era when train travel was in its historic heyday. Riding the rails in the intimate caboose is certainly an exclusive way to tour the Piney Woods. In addition, the new Engine Ride-Along experience, in one of the vintage diesel or steam locomotives, checks off the bucket list for the diehard rail fan.
On the horizon for fall is the inauguration of the new historic center at Palestine where passengers and visitors will be able to get up close and personal with the mighty powerhouses of the steam era; some sole survivors of their genre. Walking within several feet of these historic giants makes one marvel at the inventiveness and engineering of Americans of centuries past.
Along with seasonal family favorites like the “Easter Egg Express”, “Pumpkin Patch,” and “The Polar Express®”, Texas State Railroad will be operating trains on a regular Thursday, Friday and Saturday schedule from March through October. One won’t have to wait for an event to experience a great Piney Woods rail adventure with family and friends.
One of the many perks about riding the rails behind a vintage locomotive with a lot of horsepower? You won’t go home with saddle sores. Texas State Railroad – Where history is only part of the journey!