Texas State Railroad State Park

May 29 through June 3, 2004

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See all of the pictures taken in and around Rusk and Palestine State Parks including the railroad pictures.

The Texas State Railroad State Park is really an attraction of Rusk/Palestine State Park. Even so, Rusk/Palestine State Park wouldn't have much to offer without the railroad. In fact, without the railroad, we probably wouldn't have come to Rusk/Palestine State Park until we were running out of parks.

That said, the whole train experience was very cool. I'm glad we came here this year. Around our house, we have been speculating that the State Legislature would go looking for some heavy hitting park budgets to cut. While I would hope they wouldn't take anything from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department budget, government is falling on hard times and must make some hard choices. We wanted to ride the trains before the Legislature went nuts and cut the trains from the budget.

When the trains are running, roundtrip excursion trains leave in the morning from the Rusk depot destined for the Palestine depot and the Palestine depot bound for Rusk. After lunch, the trains return to their home depots. That is, there are two trains running. They pass each other in the middle between Rusk and Palestine. The train that leaves from Rusk had many more passengers on it than the train leaving from Palestine. If you want a choice about which train you ride on, make reservations. The trains defiantly fill up on holiday weekends. They may fill up on regular weekends as well.

Reservations can be made by calling the reservation number on the Texas State Railroad SP - Schedule & Fares web site. Be prepared to pay in advance. If you don't show up, you loose your money. Since the trains don't run every day and they don't run all year round, you need to go to the web site to get the schedule. Make your plans around the schedule.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

The Rusk to Palestine train is pulled by a Steam Engine. This is the train I recommend. There is something magical about steam engines. According to the train engineer and fireman, the engine generates 1,500 horsepower and runs on fuel oil. I forgot to ask how much oil they burned each day of operation. Engine #300 has an interesting history which you can read about on the Texas Parks and Wildlife web site. If you grew up playing with model trains like I did, you will find this train a real treat. If you arrive to the station early enough, you can tour the locomotive. I got to ask the engineer and fireman questions about the engine. They are real nice guys and didn't mind answering the same stupid question over and over again. I'm sure that takes some doing.

It takes about 90 minutes to go from Rusk to Palestine. We left Rusk around 11:00 in the morning and arrived in Palestine at 12:30. The train left Palestine at 2:00 in the afternoon. We got back to Rusk at 3:30. If you get to the depot early and leave the depot late, you will have plenty of opportunities to take pictures.

We had to be at the Rusk Depot around 10:00 AM to pick up our tickets (see reservations above). I would recommend that you bring a picnic lunch with you. We brought our lunch. We shared our picnic table (in Palestine) with some folks who bought their lunch at the concession stand. They felt like the food was inexpensive and not bad at all. Their only complaint was the lines. The lines were horrendous. If it weren't for the lines, I would say, buy lunch out.

The Palestine to Rusk train is pulled by a diesel locomotive. The cars used in both trains are pretty much the same. They were built in the 1920's. Both trains now include a "climate controlled" car. That is to say, both trains have an air conditioned car on them. We rode in the air conditioning. This part of Texas is hot, humid, and sticky. If you didn't grow up in the South, you might want to consider the higher ticket price for climate control.

There is a snack bar on board the train. We got popcorn on the way to Palestine and Ice Cream Sandwiches on the way back to Rusk. I talked to a young lad who rode the train Saturday. He said his train had a dining car. The Sunday train didn't.

If people watching is your thing, then this will be a treat for you. It seams like the children out numbered the adults. Most of the children were preteen or younger. Many of the children were radiating happiness. Absolute joy. It has been some time since I saw kids so revved up. This is a different kind of happiness that you see at Christmas or Halloween. There wasn't any emotional baggage dragging them down. Whenever the steam engine's whistle blew, a number of the younger children would shriek in delight. Being childless myself, I was surprised that the complete pandemonium the children provided didn't bother me. By the end of the day, I was relieved to be away from the crowds.

The Texas State Parks web site has information and a map of the park. While we were in the area, we also visited Rusk/Palestine State Park, Jim Hogg Historic Site, Mission Tejas State Park, and Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

IMPORTANT NOTE:

The Steam Engine is not always used. If your expereience will only be complete if your train is steam powered, inquire when you make reservations. The Thursday train was this diesel locomotive (as shown on the left), not the Steam Engine as I had expected. Diesel is boring. Steam is fun.

Also, on Thursday, they didn't do tours of the engine cab.

This is not the same experience that you would have gotten if you were there on Saturday or Sunday.

Below - The Rusk Train Depot before the train returns in the afternoon.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

The pictures below show the Steam Engine and train returning to the Rusk Depot at around 3:30 in the afternoon. When you are riding the train, as we did on Sunday, you will discover that you can't get any pictures of the train arriving and departing.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

The engineer returns to the engine after a short break (right). Various views of the train are shown in the pictures below.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

The train engineer and firemen are pretty accommodating. They let this guy come up and take video of the train engine. Normally, before departure in the morning is the only time they run tours of the locomotive.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

The boys left are waiting impatiently for the train engine to come by. After the afternoon run, they turn the locomotive around, stick it on the other end of the train, and back the train into the railyard. The locomotive will pass by the boys in about ten minutes.

We had to be at the train depot an hour early to pickup our tickets. There were plenty of opportunities to watch people.

A number of people had large coolers to hold their lunches. The train conductors are pretty helpful and allow the coolers to be put into the baggage car ahead of time. Just get there early. Also, it helps if you write your name on your cooler.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

When they are doing formal locomotive tours, they put these big metal stairs up on either side of the engine to make it easy to get in and out. That locomotive cab is pretty warm. Steam is hot! The Engineer and fireman are real nice folks - photogenic too!

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

People boarding the train in the morning. The conductors were all friendly and helpful.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Left, a conductor talks to passengers boarding the train.

Below left - one of the many cars without climat controls. All the windows are open to help keep the cars from suffocating passengers.

Below right is the view from the baggage car. This was taken before the train was underway. The baggage car also doubled as a concession car.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Here we are, leaving the station. The ticket masters, concession workers, and office folks all came out to wave us a fond good-bye. On the way to Palestine, we passed some (relatively small) train yards.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Directly left and directly above - One of those round things they use to turn train engines and cars around for working on them. I know there is a special name for these and I just can't remember what it is.

Along the way, folks would stop to wave to us as we chugged on by.

Drive Friendly, Y' all.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

After we arrived at the Palestine Depot, we ate lunch in a picnic area. It was a bit crowded but folks were friendly just the same. We thought we might go into the depot building to use the restrooms and maybe buy a t-shirt or two. Both the restrooms and the gift shop were too busy to use.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

After lunch in Palestine, we boarded the train for the ride back to Rusk. A number of people fell asleep on the ride back. It seemed like we were going up hill more on the way back as well. I say that because I heard more chug-a-chug-a type sounds from the locomotive.

I can't tell if the water towers at each of the depots actually work or not. They have gauges on the side facing the camera that indicate how many feet of water they have in them.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

One the way back to Rusk, we pass by the other excursion train. Everybody is waving to each other.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Back in Rusk, everybody gets off the train. Bathrooms and the gift shop are inundated with anxious people.

The train (below left) heads back to it's yard (below right).

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

Left, the Palestine Train Depot on Wednesday.

The Palestine end has the railroad maintenance equipement as shown in the pictures below. The deisel locomotive with the excursion cars for the Palestine to Rusk run are parked in the railyard behind tall fences.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//

On Thursday, I went down to the Rusk Train Depot at 10:00 AM expecting to take more pictures of the Steam Engine. I was somewhat disappointed (and rather surprised) to learn that they didn't run the Steam Engine everyday. If steam is required for your train experience, call ahead to inquire which train engines might be used the day you plan to travel.

Below is a picture of the engine cab taken from track level.

Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Click on image for larger format picture.  Rusk/Palestine State Park//
Below is a picture of the diesel engine that has been assembled from a number of pictures. I had wanted to do this with the Steam Engine. Maybe next time...
Click on picture to see a larger view
Copyright © 2004 Larry Pearson - All Rights Resevered.