Texas Train Rides And Museums

If you are looking for a rail excursion in the state, there are several Texas train rides to choose from. However, there really aren't as many tourist lines as you might think when one considers that at one time there was over 16,000 miles of track crisscrossing Texas. In any event, you do have the option of seeing both historic steam and diesel locomotives operating in the state, and you can even catch a trolley at the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority in Dallas. The state's busiest and most popular tourist train is the Texas State Railroad, which offers visitors a multitude of different excursion options and packages as well as hosting numerous special activities and events throughout the year.

Because of the state's size, valuable natural resources (oil, for instance), and important cities (Dallas/Fort Worth, Galveston, San Antonio, etc.) Texas found itself home to thousands and thousands of miles of rails. These lines were owned by once famous names like the Santa Fe, Katy, Frisco, Southern Pacific and others who operated well known passenger trains like the Sunset Limited, Super Chief, and others through the state. Today, the four tourist railroads you can ride in Texas try to keep this history alive and offer folks some of the different excursion options mentioned above depending on your interest and budget. In any event, to learn more about Texas train rides please read about each organization briefly covered below.

Austin Steam Train Association

The Austin Steam Train is based in Austin, Texas operating through the state's "Hill Country" uses tracks once owned by the Southern Pacific. The line is 163-miles in length and used as both a commuter and freight rail line today with the Steam Train having permission to operate excursion trains on the line. Along with their standard excursion the train also offers murder mystery specials, seasonal trips, and charters.

Flatonia Rail Park

This attraction is located in Flatonia features railroad history of the local area including a small pavilion, museum, original switching tower, and caboose on the grounds.

Forest Park Miniature Railroad

This attraction is located at 1700 Colonial Parkway in Fort Worth and features a 5-mile trip from the Forest Park Depot to the Duck Pond in Trinity  Park and back.  The rides last about 30-45 minutes.  The little railroad has been in operation since 1959.  To learn more please visit their website.

Galveston Railroad Museum

One of the state's larger railroad museum the facility at Galveston features an impressive collection of rolling stock and preserved locomotives along with a wide range of displays and artifacts.  Some of their noted pieces include a pair of cosmetically restored Santa Fe F7s (ex-Southern Pacific) and SP/T&NO 4-6-0 #1 built by Alco in 1892.  There is also an operating model layout and short train rides on the grounds.

Grapevine Vintage Railroad

The Grapevine Railroad, based Grapevine, Texas operates between its headquarters and Fort Worth on trackage originally owned by the St. Louis Southwestern Railway (The Cotton Belt). Along with two operable steam locomotives the railroad also has a GP7 diesel locomotive on hand to power its trains. The railroad operates numerous specials throughout the year (such as hosting "A Day Out With Thomas" the tank engine) along with their standard excursion schedule.

Historic Jefferson Railway

The Historic Jefferson Railway, also known as the Jefferson & Cypress Bayou Railway, is a 3-foot, narrow-gauge excursion located in Jefferson, Texas.  It has been in service since 1985 and uses 4-4-0 #7 for power, pulling trains on a 3-mile journey through the Big Cypress Bayou.  The railroad hosts several special events and other trips throughout the year.  To learn more please visit their website.

History Center

The History Center is located in Diboll and is an organization which looks to keep alive the history of the entire East Texas region.  They feature a small collection of rolling stock on the grounds, including Texas Southeastern/Southern Pine Lumber 4-6-0 #13 built by Baldwin in 1920 as well as a large exhibit of historic photos relating to the area's lumber industry.

Houston Railroad Museum (Closed For Relocation)

The Houston Railroad Museum is located at 7390 Mesa Road in Houston and is operated by the Gulf Coast Chapter of the NRHS.  They are home to a nice collection of rolling stock and three early, first-generation diesel switchers of Baldwin and Alco heritage.  The facility also houses displays and artifacts.

Interurban Railway Museum

This museum, located in Plano, looks to tell the history of the interurban/streetcar service which once operated in the area and known as the Texas Electric Railway, formed in 1916 through the merger of predecessor carriers.  It was very large for an interurban with three branches radiating away from Dallas.  The museum features numerous displays and a preserved interurban car.

McKinney Avenue Transit Authority

The only operating vintage trolley service in the state, the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority serves its namesake street in Dallas (in the Uptown district) as well as a section of St. Paul Street and Cole Avenue. Service is provided by restored trolley cars that are climate controlled.

Museum Of The American Railroad

Another of the state's larger railroad museums the Museum Of The American Railroad, now located in Frisco, features an impressive collection of rolling stock including Union Pacific "Big Boy" 4-8-8-4 #4018, Frisco 4-8-4 #4501, Frisco 2-10-0 #1625, and one of only two preserved Alco PAs still in the United States, former Santa Fe #59-L (under restoration).  To learn more about their facility please visit their website.

New Braunfels Railroad Museum

This museum, located in New Braunfels, features a collection of artifacts and displays related to the railroads which serve the region including the Missouri Pacific/International-Great Northern and Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy).  They are home to a few pieces of rolling stock including Florida Portland Cement 0-6-0T #7 built by H.K. Porter in 1942.

Railway Museum San Angelo

This museum is located inside San Angelo's beautifully restored Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railway (later Santa Fe) depot.  Inside they feature numerous displays as well as an operation model train layout.  Also, outside be sure to check out their 44-ton switcher and GP9 road-switcher (former Northern Pacific #211 but preserved as South Orient #103).

Texas & Pacific Railway Museum

The Texas & Pacific Railway Museum is located inside Marshall's restored, two-story brick 1912 Texas & Pacific (Missouri Pacific) depot, which is also used as an Amtrak stop.  The facility attempts to preserve the history of the T&P and has a large collection of artifacts and displays on-hand while outside be sure to see the Union Pacific caboose.

Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum

This historical organization is located inside the beautifully restored 1911 Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe) at Temple.  The museum looks to tell the history of railroads within the region and the role they played.  Inside are several exhibits and historic artifacts on display while they are also home to an 
archives and library wing.  To learn more please visit their website.

Texas State Railroad

The Texas State Railroad, based in Rusk and Palestine, Texas, is perhaps the state's most popular tourist train. Using trackage once owned by the Southern Pacific the railroad features two operating steam locomotives and a vintage diesel locomotive (an Alco RS2). Along with their standard excursions the railroad hosts numerous specials throughout the year.

Texas Transportation Museum

The Texas Transportation Museum, located in San Antonio, has several pieces on-hand to peruse from fire trucks to farm tractors.  They also feature a large collection of rolling stock and locomotives, including a few steam locomotives and operational diesel switchers that pull short excursion trains.  Along various other artifacts be sure to check out all of their model layouts on display.

Wichita Falls Railroad Museum

This museum has been in Wichita Falls since 1980 and features a nice collection of rolling stock and locomotives to exhibit including Fort Worth & Denver 2-8-0 #304 built by Alco in 1906.  They are open most Saturdays of each week.  To learn more please visit their website.

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