TEXAS STATE PARK
The Texas State Railroad (TSRR) dates back to an 1881 purchase of land dedicated to building a spur track. The purpose of the track was to connect the state owned prison iron smelting facilities, then under construction, with the Kansas and Gulf Shortline railroad. The K&G was being built from Tyler to Rusk at the same time. This connection would provide the prison iron foundry with rail service to bring in raw materials and ship products out. Increased need for rail service soon led the state to build its' own railroad that eventually extended from Rusk to Palestine, providing local communities with freight and passenger service. Today, the historic state railroad is still maintained as a fully self-contained railroad system. Its train crews maintain and operate four steam engines, four antique diesel locomotives and a complete steam-engine restoration shop, while its track crew maintains over 25 miles of track and 24 bridges.
Passengers may board the historic trains at either Rusk or Palestine. Both ends of the line have Victorian-style train stations. The trip takes 1 and a half hours to reach the opposite station. Once visitors have arrived, they have 1 and a half hours to enjoy lunch, browse through the depot's train store or take a short nature hike. Passengers then re-board for the return trip home. The State Park's 50-mile round-trip steam-engine excursions take four and a half hours.
The Texas State Railroad is known as one of the nation's largest and most unique steam-train operations. The TSRR is the only steam railroad that runs two steam trains simultaneously each day of operation. The eastbound and westbound trains meet twice daily at the mid-point of the run. This gives rail enthusiasts a rare chance to see two historic steam engines switch and pass.
State Park camping and picnicking facilities are adjacent to both depots. Rusk State Park offers shaded picnic tables, a scenic 15-acre lake, group picnic pavilions and full-hookup camping. Palestine State Park has shaded picnic tables and water-only camping sites.