Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 1, 2013

Texas State Railroad lands on the ‘protected’ state site list

Area advocates are pleased

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

RUSK — The beloved Texas State Railroad – an area treasure designated by the Texas Legislature as the “Official Railroad of Texas” – has made the endangered list once again.

Not to worry, though. It's true that the railroad was named as one of the 10 most endangered sites in the state in 2007. But the significance of this new, retrospective list is that the Texas State Railroad, which serves Rusk, Anderson and Cherokee Counties, is now classified as “endangered but safe.” It is one of six such designees for 2013.  

This list also includes sites that are either lost or threatened.

“Our six saved sites reflect the importance of collaboration between committed grassroots leadership and elected officials and city officials who realize the importance of historic preservation,” Charlene Orr, president of Preservation Texas, Inc., explained in a news release.  

The railroad's inclusion on the list was announced by Preservation Texas officials on the steps of the Texas State Capitol last week –  to the appreciation of statewide advocates, the release shows.

This tenth anniversary retrospective list includes sites in Bexar, Dallas, Duval, El Paso, Harris, Kaufman, Motley, Nueces, Refugio, Rusk, Terrell and Travis Counties.

This list  “focuses on lessons learned during the last 10 years by highlighting success stories as well as losses and threatened sites that continue to need urgent attention,” Orr stated in the release.

This annual announcement is part of a series of activities organized by Preservation Texas.

The Texas State Railroad, recognized as one of the nation’s “largest and most unique steam train operations,” began in the 1880s as a way to deliver "pig iron" (crude iron cast in blocks) produced by a Rusk prison.

Incidentally, this railroad was converted to a heritage attraction in 1976 by the Legislature and subsequently became a major tourist draw, the release shows.

It was slated to become a regular attraction, but the Legislature at one point refused to fund its operation, and area supporters ran out of money trying to support it.

However.  In 2007, privatization efforts saved the day, rescuing the railroad by virtue of a contract with American Heritage Railways, according to the release. State officials formed the Texas State Railroad Authority to make sure the railroad would continue to push forward.

To inquire about Texas' Most Endangered Historic Places, either access www.preservationtexas.org, or phone Preservation Texas, Inc. at 512-472-0102.