🔒 All aboard, for a trip to the past: These Texas trains offer nostalgic rides, scenic views

Take Texas by train on these historic sightseeing tours

Texas State Railroad (Image courtesy of Texas State Railroad)
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Interested in top Texas scenery but don’t want to drive yourself? Try a train trip. On these five trains, you can enjoy passing views of the Texas countryside through big panoramic windows.

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🚂 Grapevine Vintage Railroad

Grapevine Vintage Railroad (Image provided by Grapevine Vintage Railroad)

Step back in time with a nostalgic ride on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. The train travels along the historic Cotton Belt Route between Grapevine and the Fort Worth Stockyards on weekends. The railroad is serviced by two vintage locomotives -- an 1896 steam locomotive named Puffy, considered the oldest continuously operating steam engine in the South, and a 1953 GP-7 diesel locomotive named Vinny. Passengers enjoy riding in authentic 1920s and 1930s Victorian-style coaches as they take a step back in time and experience train travel as it was in the glory days of the expanding West. The train travels through six different cities in Tarrant County before ending in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. Once there, riders will have the opportunity to explore the Stockyards before re-boarding to return to Grapevine.

The railroad’s schedule varies seasonally. The train operates March through December and boards at 705 S. Main Street in Grapevine.

Call (817) 410-3185; grapevinetexasusa.com.

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🚃 Texas State Railroad

Texas State Railroad (Image courtesy of Texas State Railroad)

Vintage steam and diesel locomotives take passengers across the rails of the Piney Woods Route between the East Texas towns of Palestine and Rusk on a 50-mile roundtrip adventure. The four-hour trip includes comfortable seating, food and libations, and historic narration on a rail journey that whisks you back into another century. The train passes through the I.D. Fairchild State Forest and offers numerous wildlife-viewing opportunities. Established in 1881, the line was built to transport iron ore to smelting furnaces at the East Texas State Penitentiary in Rusk. Its use was eventually extended to include the transport of goods and passengers. In 1976, the railroad reopened as a tourist line, running sightseeing tours. Today, the Texas State Railroad is the official railroad of Texas. It hosts frequent wine tours and seasonal events.

The railroad’s schedule varies seasonally. The train operates March through November and departs from 789 Park Road 70 in Palestine and 535 Park Road 76 in Rusk.

Call (855) 632-7729; texasstaterailroad.net.

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🚉 Austin & Texas Central Railroad

The Austin & Texas Central Railroad travels along Southern Pacific’s historic, 167-mile rail line from Giddings through Austin and into the Hill Country to Burnet, Llano and Marble Falls. (Photo courtesy of Austin Steam Train Association and Marc Opperman)

For a scenic train ride, hop aboard the Austin & Texas Central Railroad. The train travels along Southern Pacific’s historic, 167-mile rail line from Giddings through Austin and into the Hill Country to Burnet, Llano and Marble Falls. The railroad is serviced by three refurbished locomotives – a 1916 Mk-5 class 2-8-2 Mikado steam locomotive, an RSD-15 diesel locomotive and a leased HZRX diesel locomotive in use temporarily while the steam engine undergoes restoration.

During the railroad’s weekend sightseeing excursions, passengers enjoy riding in fully-restored 1930s, 1940s and 1950s passenger cars. A concession car sells snacks, beverages and souvenirs during the journey. The train departs from one of three depots located in Cedar Park, Bertram and Burnet and travels either to Bertram or Burnet. The trip from Cedar Park to Bertram, dubbed the Bertram Flyer, is a three-hour, 44-mile round trip sightseeing tour and the Cedar Park to Burnet trip, typically called the Hill Country Flyer, is a six-hour, 66-mile round trip sightseeing tour with a two-hour layover for lunch.

Austin & Texas Central Railroad hosts seasonal themed and holiday rides as well as frequent excursions to Wedding Oak Winery.

Call (512) 915-2340; austinsteamtrain.org.

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🦅 Texas Eagle

Modernized interiors of Amtrak’s bi-level “Superliner” fleet, serving primarily midwestern, southern and western routes (Image courtesy of Amtrak)

For a multi-day train adventure, hop aboard Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, which runs along the historic 1,306-mile train route between Chicago and Texas that the Texas and Pacific Railway and the Missouri Pacific Railroad built. In 1948, the railroads introduced the Texas Eagle as a passenger train from St. Louis to San Antonio. The route was discontinued in 1971, but was revived by Amtrak in 1981. Today, the Texas Eagle uses double-decker Superliner rail cars with Sightseer Lounges that boast swivel seats and stationary cushioned seats that face massive wraparound windows, providing passengers sweeping views of the scenery by day and the stars by night. In addition to unassigned coach seats, there are roomettes, bedrooms, family bedrooms and accessible bedrooms. Three times weekly, the Texas Eagle connects with the Sunset Limited in San Antonio and continues on to California.

The train operates daily and departs from numerous Texas towns.

Call 1-800-872-7245; amtrakguide.com.

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🌄 Sunset Limited

Sunset Limited at Alpine, Texas (Amtrak)

Introduced in 1894 by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Sunset Limited is the oldest continuously operating named train in the United States. The train travels along the historic Sunset Route between New Orleans and Los Angeles and is the only Amtrak train that travels to and from Houston. The full route is a 1,995-mile, 48-hour journey. Nearly 900 of those miles are pure Texas. Aboard the Sunset Limited, passengers enjoy passing mountain, desert and lake views. With stops in Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, riders can hop off in Alpine, Texas to visit Big Bend National Park, in Tucson to visit Saguaro National Park, or in Maricopa, Arizona, the gateway to Phoenix and the resorts and spas of Scottsdale. The Sunset Limited makes connections to several other Amtrak trains, including the Texas Eagle, Coast Starlight, Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquins.

The Sunset Limited operates three times weekly and departs from numerous Texas cities.

Call 1-800-872-7245; amtrakguide.com.

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🚂Train enthusiasts, how many of these Texas trains have you been aboard? Which one is your favorite? Share your Texas train experiences and recommendations in the comment section below.

About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.