Did you know that Texas has some amazing train trips that offer spectacular scenery?
From historic routes to fall foliage viewing trains and from special train photography excursions to views of the pretty bluebonnets, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to the best train rides in Texas.
Ride in an open-air car and spot the wildlife or have the time of your life riding the caboose – these train trips in Texas are sure to delight passengers of all ages.
Enjoy this Ultimate Guide to the best train rides in Texas!
History of trains in Texas
Trains have played an important role in Texas’s history.
They were used by the early pioneers to defend the frontier and explore the vast rugged and untamed wilderness.
The railroad industry has also contributed significantly to the growing economy of the Lone Star State.
Railroads were used to transport cotton as well as cattle since the earliest of times.
Scenic train rides in Texas
The most scenic rides in Texas are spread all across the state.
From the historic Jefferson Railroad in East Texas to the Galveston Railroad on the Gulf Coast and from the Grapevine vintage Railroad in North Texas to Austin’s Hill Country flyer, you are sure to find a scenic train ride near you.
Many of the train rides are weather permitting, so be sure to confirm the schedule before you go.
Here are the best steam train rides in Texas as well as diesel train rides to add to your bucket list.
Texas State railroad, Palestine
The Texas State Railroad is one of the most well-known train rides in Texas.
Texas’s heritage is showcased on this popular journey that takes passengers back in time to the days of the steam engine.
Departing from Palestine, visitors can experience an old-fashioned train ride through East Texas’ piney woods and enjoy beautiful views along the way.
The trip starts with an orientation of the railroad’s fully restored 19th-century railway station before boarding one of their authentic steam locomotives.
After departing from Palestine train station, passengers will travel past the rolling hills and dense woods that are managed by the Texas State Parks department.
At the end, you will find Rusk which has a campground and is perfect for an overnight stay.
The trip is a scenic 50-mile round ride through East Texas woods and takes about 4 hours.
The train offers passengers the chance to ride in the caboose, presidential cars, observation car, or an open-air car.
The railroad has many themed excursions including the Wine Train, Pumpkin Patch Express, and the Polar Express train ride.
Read all about The Polar Express Excursion here.
Grapevine Vintage Railroad, Grapevine
Fancy a trip back in time?
Grapevine Vintage Railroad will take you on a journey through North Texas and let you relive the golden age of railroads.
The train ride is on authentic 1920s Victorian coaches with original furnishings and is a delight for railroad enthusiasts.
The popular Cotton Belt Route Excursion will take you to the historic Stockyards station in Fort Worth.
This stunning journey starts in Grapevine, known for its honor as the “Christmas Capital of Texas”.
On the layover in the Stockyards historic district, you can see the cattle drive and mock shoot out before returning to Grapevine.
Have less time?
Opt for the Tahwahkarro Creek Train Excursion.
This one hour long train is very scenic and perfect for kids.
All train rides feature outlaws and railroad robbery and are fun for the whole family.
The railroad also holds special excursions and events for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Fourth of July weekend.
Their holiday train called the North Pole Express is one of the most popular train rides in Texas.
Austin Steam Train, Austin
The Austin Steam Train Association offers an amazing train journey through the Texas Hill Country.
Located in Cedar Park, the railroad has several different excursions.
The most popular is the Hill Country flyer.
On this train ride, passengers can explore the vintage cars and enjoy amazing views of the Hill Country.
The ride takes passengers on a 66 miles long, 6.5 hrs scenic journey to Burnet.
The trip includes a two-hour layover before returning to its hometown of Austin.
The ride is most popular during the Bluebonnet season.
Visitors can catch and photograph the beautiful bluebonnets as they bloom between February and April.
The railroad also offers a variety of other train rides including the romantic Moonlight Express, Wine Train, and the North Pole flyer.
Historic Jefferson Railway, Jefferson
Take a trip back in time to the days of steam engines that shaped Texas’s history on this scenic journey from Jefferson along the Big Cypress Bayou.
The scenic train ride has amazing views of the wetlands, dense woods. and marshes.
A highlight of the Jefferson Big Cypress Bayou Railway is the stop at Diamond Don Gator Pit.
Here visitors can see live alligators and even watch them being fed!
During the holiday season, the railroad hosts the Trail of Lights Christmas train.
Harborside Express, Galveston
The Galveston Railroad Museum is a must-visit for any railroad fans.
This sprawling museum has an amazing rolling stock and detailed railroad exhibits as well as artifacts.
On the visit to the museum, you can also enjoy the train ride.
The Harborside Express is a 15 minutes long train ride that features an open-air caboose.
The train trip offers spectacular views of the Port of Galveston as well as cruise ships.
Train tracks run along the water’s edge for about 15 miles before boarding a ferry boat that crosses Galveston Bay.
The train is operational only on the weekends.
Visitors need to purchase train tickets in addition to the Museum admission.
Texas Transportation Museum, San Antonio
The Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio is the perfect way to have fun for the whole family.
Here, you can enjoy the museum exhibits filled with amazing railroad artifacts as well as cool under 15 minutes round trip train ride.
The ride aboard the Longhorn and Western Railroad is on vintage locomotives and included in the ticket to the museum.
Visitors can opt for the optional Diesel Cab Ride or enjoy the Santa’s Railroad Wonderland ride in the holiday season.
Amtrak train rides in Texas
Did you know that there are over 20 Amtrak stations in Texas?
Several Amtrak routes pass through the state and make excellent vacations for railroad fans.
Here are the most popular Amtrak routes in Texas.
This Amtrak route connects Chicago to San Antonio.
Within the state, you can use it to travel from Marshall in East Texas to Dallas and San Antonio via Austin and the Hill Country.
You can use the Amtrak Texas eagle route to plan an epic fall foliage viewing ride or see the wildflowers in spring.
The route connects three of the most popular cities in Texas and has lots of potential to plan a vacation.
The Heartland Flyer Amtrak route connects Oklahoma City to Fort Worth.
The train ride is just for as long and a great option to a road trip.
The trains allows riders to carry bikes and other gear supplies, too.
The Sunset Limited begins in New Orleans and ends in Los Angeles.
The Texas portion of this route extends from Beaumont to El Paso.
With stops in Houston and San Antonio, this route is a popular Amtrak vacation to explore the major cities.
The section between Alpine and El Paso is perfect to explore the west Texas desert scenery and visit major attractions such as Big Bend National Park in West Texas.
The route has observation cars as well as dining car and is one of the most popular Amtrak vacations in America.
Miniature train rides in Texas for kids
In addition to the all day excursions on vintage train engines and heritage railroad lines, Texas also has a variety of miniature railroads for kids.
These train rides are perfect for young train enthusiasts include including babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
Here are our favorite miniature train rides in Texas.
San Antonio Zoo Eagle
The San Antonio Zoo railroad is one of the longest miniature railroads in the world!
Also known as the Brackenridge Eagle Miniature Railroad, the train ride is a favorite with kids of all ages.
The train offers a fun ride through the park, over bridges, along the San Antonio River, and even has a tunnel.
The ride is about 15 minutes long and one of the best things to do in San Antonio with kids.
Forest Park miniature Railroad
Explore the beautiful scenery at Trinity Park in Fort Worth on a 5 miles round trip miniature train ride.
The train ride is 40-45 minutes long and kids absolutely love it.
Even adults enjoy seeing the artwork surrounding the train track.
The train ride starts at Forest Park Depot and is a great family attraction in Fort Worth.
The train ride tickets are cash only, so be sure to carry some change when you go.
Built in 1883 to transport cotton and grain between Waco and Yuma, this historic track will take you back in time.
This picturesque vintage steam engine that runs on a 45-minute journey includes an audio commentary in the restored 1920s railway station, which served as a major stop in Waco.
Zilker Eagle, Austin
The Zilker Eagle is a miniature train ride located in Zilker Park, Austin.
It was previously known as the Zilker Zephyr.
This new all-electric Kiddie Park mini train is an instant favorite with kids.
The train ride is about 10 to 15 minutes long and goes through the beautiful scenery of Zilker Park.
Hermann Park Train, Houston
The Hermann Park Railroad is one of the best things to do in Houston with kids.
The 2-mile long train ride is located amidst major city attractions such as the Houston Zoo and Japanese garden.
The open cars are perfect to take in the scenery of Hermann Park and enjoy people-watching.
Did we miss any other amazing train rides in Texas? Let us know in the comments!