Heritage, Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 1989 Page: 13
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Five miles of track were constructed
that year, using prison labor, to transport
iron ore and timber to the prison site. The
size of the foundry was doubled in 1903 and
the railroad line was extended another five
miles to the community of Maydelle. The
train's engineer was the only paid member
of the crew. He received $75 per month for
his expertise. The rest of the crew was made
up of prisoners.
In 1907 regular train service was established
between Rusk and Maydelle providing
passenger service between the two
communities. In that same year work was
initiated to extend the track further westward
to link the two communities with
Palestine in Anderson County.
The link was completed two years later,
in 1909. The major undertaking on the extension
was a 1,100 foot bridge across the
The extension provided an additional
dividend. It linked the three communities
to a greater area. At Rusk, the Texas State
Railroad tied in with the St. Louis-Southwestern
Railroad (Cotton Belt). At Palestine,
it connected with the International
and Great Northern Railroad which later
became part of the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
The Missouri Pacific now is part of
the huge Union Pacific Railroad system.
Despite the move to improve shipping
outlets, changes in steel and iron processes
caused the prison smelter to shut down
because of unprofitability. The state continued
to operate the line at a heavy loss.
The railroad board of governors decided
to upgrade the track, hoping to make it
more desirable to potential customers.
Using surplus 80-pound rail owned by the
U.S. Army, the upgrading was completed
in 1921. The line then was leased to the
Texas and New Orleans Railroad, which
later became the Southern Pacific Railroad.
The line was operated by the TN&O
until 1962, principally being used for timber
shipments in the later years.
The Texas Southeastern Railroad,
which also used the line principally for timber
shipments, leased the line the same
year that the TN&O gave it up. However,
the lease was given up seven years later.
The western 3.7 miles of track was leased to
the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1969 to
serve a Palestine meat-packing firm.
For more than three years the line lay
dormant, allowing underbrush, timber and
woodland creatures to take over. It had
deteriorated considerably when the Texas
Parks and Wildlife Department was given
the job of restoring it as a state park in 1972.
In addition to the major undertaking of
restoring the almost 30 miles of trackage
and 28 bridges of all sizes, the parks department
faced the enormous task of building
two new depots, a car and locomotive service
facility, a maintenance-of-way service
area and collecting steam locomotives,
cars and other railroad equipment necessary
to make the steam operation a reality.
The ancient steamers came from California,
Arizona and East and West Texas,
but had to be rebuilt after sitting idle for
years. Coaches also were drawn from many
sources. Finally in 1976, the steam railroad
bowed in for a few runs in celebration of the
From that meager beginning, the TSRR
has steadily grown and expanded its operation.
Today, more than 70,000 persons ride
the ancient steamers each year. And that
many, or more, people stop to see the
"Golden Age of Steam" step again from the
pages of history.
In addition to takinga few hours away
from the modern world's frantic pace, passengers
are given an opportunity to view
the East Texas countryside from a different
Prior to departure each operating day,
visitors tour the locomotive cab to see the
many valves, levers and other items needed
to generate steam, which creates motion.
The tour gives passengers an opportunity
to take photographs for future memories.
The train season annually kicks off in
conjunction with the first weekend of the
Dogwood Festival at Palestine, and ends on
the last Sunday in October. The closing
date is set to ensure that the trains are out
of the woods before the fall deer-hunting
LEFT: "Those big drive wheels are taller than a little girl," explains Doug Miller of the Texas State
Railroad staff. The drivers are 72 inches in diameter.
RIGHT: Some things have not changed since railroading began. It still takes a lot of hand and
back work to keep the tracks in shape for old steam trains.
HERITAGE * SPRING 1989 13
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 1989, periodical, Spring 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45432/m1/13/: accessed March 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.