By Jo Anne Embleton
EAST TEXAS – The Texas State Railroad is open for adventure, with The Celebration of Steam – featuring TSRR’s notable steam and diesel engines – on display at the Palestine depot, beginning Friday, July 3.
“The Fourth of July is going to mean SO MUCH more this year,” a press release announced. “We invite you to savor the Fourth of July holiday with a salute to one of America’s ‘deepest’ roots – railroading! It’s a chance to wave the Stars and Stripes, choose from a wide selection of lunch options available for purchase at the railroad
depot and climb aboard a 100 year-old steam engine.”
From 8 to 11 a.m. Friday through Sunday, July 5, the static display will be lined up on the wye in Palestine. An entry fee will be assessed to guests without a ticket. Meanwhile, the depot’s cafe and gift shop will be open, as well.
“In addition to the vintage steam engines that power many of the present-day excursion trains,
Texas State Railroad is home to extremely rare Texas & Pacific steam engine #610 and #316, the oldest
locomotive operated on this line. Many would consider the massive #610 locomotive a dinosaur, but
Texas State Railroad has preserved it as an endangered species to be coddled and protected. The sole
survivor of the T&P’s fleet of 70 engines with the 2-10-4 (Texas) wheel arrangement, #610 dignified the
rails during the golden age of steam. Its design combined a high-capacity boiler with a modern valve
gear and a four-wheeled trailing truck which became the prototype for American steam locomotives and
a tribute to American engineering genius,” the release noted.
TSR officials invited the public to “be the first to see the ‘cosmetically-restored’ Santa Fe #1316. This prime example of mainline steam power remains in service to this day, thrilling young and old alike with its powerful exhaust, clouds of smoke and mournful whistle.”
The engine was reassembled by the Texas State Railroad crew through a Texas Department of Transportation FHWA grant.
Passengers have the option of traveling in an open-air car featuring “the train’s most historic style of seating – the open-air car with fresh breezes and historic wooden slat benches” or a private charter caboose that seats up to eight passengers and features crushed-velvet seating and a private valet. “The exclusive glass-top Sky-High Dome car seats up to 66 people and features soft leather seats with convenient tables and an unobstructed birds-eye view that rail fans treasure. Family-friendly first class features comfortable upholstered benches with tabletops for four,” according to the release.
In response to a national COVID-19 pandemic, “Texas State Railroad is committed doing all that it can to maintain the health and safety of our guests and team members,” the release stated. “We will do our part to keep you safe, but we can’t do it alone.”
Guests are asked to observe policies to help curb the spread of the virus by implementing “simple practices” when deciding to visit the Texas State Railroad:
• If you feel sick, please stay home – we will reschedule your reservation for when you feel 100 percent.
• In accordance with the request of our local government, customers are asked to wear masks.
• We are asking that only person from each party pick up tickets at the reservation counter.
• Prior to entering the depot to pick up tickets or purchase lunch, we will be taking temperatures. If you
have a temperature over 100.4 degrees, we will be happy to refund you and your group and schedule
your party to ride another day.
• Please cover your mouth to cough and turn away from other individuals.
• Wash your hands often.
• Use provided sanitizer.
• Respect the space of others and make every attempt to social distance.
• Throw all trash into provided receptacles.
Reservations are being taken for the “Summer of Steam,” as well as for the ever-popular Polar Express, which operates during the winter holiday season. Schedules for all excursions, between Rusk and Palestine – are online at https://texasstaterailroad.net/