Planning to take the historic Palestine, Tx train ride with the kids on the Texas State Railroad?
This scenic train ride is one of our favorite things to do in the Piney Woods region of East Texas!
The ride aboard the vintage train is beautiful in any season.
The dogwood blossoms along the route are breathtaking in spring while late fall is marked by gorgeous fall colors on the railroad tracks.
Also Read: Best Things to do in Palestine, Texas
What is the Texas State Railroad?
The Texas State Railroad is a historic railroad in the Piney Woods area.
The 25 miles long heritage train track between the cities of Rusk and Palestine is designated as the Official Railroad of Texas.
The historic Texas State Railroad has been featured in over 30 movies, TV serials, as well as documentaries.
How to reach the Texas State Railroad?
The road trip from Houston to Rusk or Palestine Railroad Depot is roughly 3 hours long with the driving distance being close to 170 miles.
The scenic road goes through the dense, pine-wooded Davy Crockett National Forest of East Texas.
You can also plan a trip to the railroad from Dallas.
The Dallas to Palestine road trip is about 110 miles and takes a little under 2 hours.
The railroad is easily accessible from the DFW and Houston metro areas and hence, quite popular.
Texas State Railroad History
This vintage railroad has a very special place in Texas history and is a must-visit attraction for all Texans.
The route between Rusk and Palestine was built by prisons from the East Texas Penitentiary from 1881 to 1904.
The 25-mile route passes over 24 bridges in the Piney Woods forest and connects the historic towns of Rusk and Palestine.
The vintage locomotive turnaround located midway at Maydelle is still in operation and of special interest to train buffs.
The railroad has been operated by various companies including American Heritage Railways and Iowa Pacific Holdings in the past; it is currently managed by Jaguar Transport Holdings.
Piney Woods Excursion, Texas State Railroad
The Piney Woods Route of the train ride from Rusk to Palestine is the signature rail journey offered by the railroad.
The round trip takes 4 hours and includes an hour-long layover at Rusk depot.
The trip features music as well as narration.
The Piney Woods excursions feature both the vintage diesel locomotive as well as the powerful steam locomotive.
The steam train excursions are more popular and get sold out fast.
The train cars are also from the early 20th century, elegant, and very well preserved.
Palestine Railroad Car Options
Visitors can choose to ride in the Caboose, Presidential class, observation dome cars, first-class, or open-air cars.
The caboose or the engineer ride-along offer exclusive experiences for train enthusiasts.
The train’s Presidential car has intimate seating and viewing platforms for adults while the regular Coach class has Pullman-style padded seats.
The observation dome cars are famous for their panoramic views – and popular for fall color excursions.
The open-air coach features wooden seats and can be too cool during fall evenings and in winter.
All the cars provide access to restrooms during the trip.
All the cars also have their own friendly attendants; they serve food and beverages for kids as well as adults during the ride.
Whichever car you choose, the train ride promises a lot of fun for everyone!
The vintage train also has a concession car that sells a variety of snacks and beverages.
Train Ride Tickets
Visitors can choose to buy tickets for either the diesel or steam locomotive.
The roundtrip duration is 4 hours and includes an hour-long layover; visitors have the choice to depart either from Rusk or Palestine Depots.
Tickets can be purchased online, click here to book now.
Texas State Railroad Palestine Depot
The Palestine Railroad Depot is located in a historic Victorian building.
The depot has several exhibits showcasing the history of the railroad, artifacts relating to the vintage locomotives and cars, photographs, documents, and more.
The depot also has a gift shop and café.
The Texas Railroad Palestine Depot is located at 789 Park Road 70, Palestine, TX 75801
Texas State Railroad Rusk Depot
Rusk Railroad Depot is located in a charming Victorian building built from rocks.
Inside the depot, you will find a small museum dedicated to the railroad history of the area.
Visitors can see vintage posters, photographs, informative exhibits narrating the history of railroads in East Texas, as well as railroad artifacts including baggage, china, and more.
The gift shop includes train memorabilia and miniature train sets.
The Rusk Texas Railroad Depot also has a Mail Car Café which operates inside a historic rail car and a classic movie theatre that screens a documentary on the railroad history.
A historic Catholic Chapel is also located adjacent to the depot.
Texas State Railroad Rusk Tx Depot is located at 535 Park Road 76 Rusk, TX 75785
Rusk State Park
The ride on the vintage train in Rusk is one of the best things to do in East Texas!
However, there are many other things to do in the area too.
The Rusk Depot is located inside the Rusk-Palestine State Park.
The Rusk State Park is a great place to spend some time outdoors.
The park has a day-use area as well as several campsites located at the Texas State Railroad Campground.
The state park also features the large 15-acre Cherokee Lake that is stocked with fish like crappie, bass, and catfish.
The park is home to a variety of wildlife including deer, rabbits, turtles, bald eagles, and more.
You will also find a wildlife viewing area overlooking the lake as you drive towards the Rusk Depot.
Texas State Railroad Special Excursions and events
The Texas State Railroad at Palestine, Texas plans a variety of special events and excursions every season.
Here are some of the popular ones:
Texas State Railroad Polar Express
The Texas Railroad Polar Express is one of the most popular Christmas events in Texas.
The train departs from the Palestine Depot and takes visitors on a magical journey to the North Pole.
During the journey, kids can meet Santa Claus, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and listen to the story of the Polar Express.
The Polar Express event is very popular and tickets sell out quickly; it is recommended that you buy your tickets in advance.
Read more about the Palestine Christmas train ride here.
Texas State Railroad Easter Bunny Express
The Texas State Railroad Easter Bunny Express is another popular event that takes place during springtime.
During this event, the Easter Bunny hops on board the train and hands out chocolate eggs to all the kids on board.
This is a great event for families with young children.
Texas State Railroad Pumpkin Patch Express
Texas State Railroad operates the Pumpkin Patch Express, a Halloween-themed event that takes place in October.
During this event, the train makes a stop at a pumpkin patch where kids can pick their own pumpkins.
This is a great event to enjoy the corn maze, hayrides, and other fall activities.
Texas State Railroad Wines in the Pines Train
The ‘Wines in the Pines’ Train is a popular event that takes place in October.
During this event, passengers can enjoy a moonlit dinner, beverage service, and wines while listening to live music on board the train.
The ride includes comfortable seating and a romantic atmosphere; this is a great event for adults.
Riding the Texas State Railroad is a perfect day trip from Dallas, Houston, and Austin areas.
Whether you want to take a ride on the historic train, or just explore the beautiful scenery, the scenic railroad is a great place to visit.
If you are looking for things to do in East Texas, be sure to check out the Texas State Railroad.