13 Amazing Train Rides In Texas (& Rail Museums, Too!)

The railway has heavily influenced the history and evolution of Texas over the years. Most cities and significant towns started as railroad stations and depots. Trains offered endless opportunities to Texas and her people, and continue to do so today.

A person’s first train ride remains etched in memory, never to be forgotten. Make it even more amazing by tagging along with all members of your family for these epic experiences. There is bound to be a railroad attraction near you, no matter where you are in Texas.

Trains are no longer basic, but now we have more modern trains with more amenities on board. Chug along as we board various scenic train rides in Texas (and rail museums, too).

HISTORIC WAYS TO RIDE THE RAILS

13 Amazing Train Rides In Texas (& Rail Museums, Too!)
Courtesy of Texas State Railroad

Texas State Railroad

The Texas State Railroad has two stations. One in Rusk and the other in the quaint town of Palestine. This east Texas railroad offers amazing rides, and beautiful views.

The vintage train cars have been refurbished, providing a smooth, pleasing ride while retaining the original rustic and historic feel. Sit back and have a drink while you enjoy your ride.

The Piney Woods Excursion Train offers both a vintage steam locomotive and a diesel locomotive from the 1920s. Either adventure will take you across the popular Piney Woods Route covering 50 miles through the Piney Woods of East Texas, which takes about 4 hours. A stop will be made at the Destination Depot, where you will  learn about the railroad neighborhoods and  sample a bite at the Rusk Mail Car Cafe.

If you visit in October, you will be in for a surprise.  The Pumpkin Patch Express departs from Rusk and you will enjoy hayrides, spooky music, trick or treating and you get a pumpkin for carving when you leave.

Plan your visit for November and December for you to board one of the best Christmas trains in Texas — the Polar Express.

Prepare for a memorable experience with Santa, with hot chocolate, cookies, and more.

Austin Steam Train Association

The Austin Steam Train Association is found in Cedar Park, and conducts trips through the Texas Hill Country.  All this is done on a 163-mile long line. 

The Hill Country Flyer enables you to encounter the Texas Hill Country in a whole different way. Board the historically restored vintage train for a ride in a museum on wheels.

You can board on Bertram, Burnet, or Cedar Park. Choose from the available seating options: first class lounge, first class coach, adults only first class lounge, or the excursion coach. The rails are open all year round, and you get to choose from nine different train cars!   Each car is different, from the more traditional ones to the more exclusive adults-only car.

Enjoy the Trestle bridge, the San Gabriel River, and a canyon all in your two-hour ride. During your layover in Burnet, do some quick shopping and savor some local cuisine with your family. A stroll would also not be amiss.

The train rides are a history lesson in themselves, as the trains have been meticulously restored to their former glory.

The Austin Steam Train Association offers special events throughout the year, but one of their most popular is their Day Out With Thomas Event. The perfect train ride for younger kids, they’ll love riding a train pulled by Thomas himself, and they’ll even get to meet Sir Topham Hatt.

The Grapevine Vintage Railroad

The Grapevine Vintage Railroad will take you on a historic Cotton Belt Route tour. The rides are accessible all year-round on real Victorian coaches that are pulled by two vintage locomotives.

Plan your visit for April and hop aboard the Jazz Wine Train. Board the 1920s Victorian coaches playing soulful jazz music, while you sip excellent Grapevine wine from your souvenir wine glass. This makes an excellent girls’ trip or a romantic getaway.

The Stockyards Trinity River Excursion is a 45-minute train excursion that departs from the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards Station in Fort Worth. This one if perfect for families with young children who want to experience the excitement of being on a train, without the huge time commitment.

The North Pole Express is available in the months of November and December. You will need reservations for these.

You get to wear your favorite Christmas pajamas while you embark on a Christmas trip. There will be a Santa’s Workshop for your viewing in the merrily decorated coaches. The spirit of Christmas will get a new meaning here.

Historic Jefferson Railway

The Historic Jefferson Railway is a marvelous historic train that features rides every Saturday until August. The vintage locomotives allow you to roll along the Big Cypress Bayou. You will enjoy nature as you watch the beautiful woods and gorgeous wetlands pass you by.

The rides last about 45 minutes, and make a stop at the Diamond Don Gator Pit to see the feeding of the alligators that live there. All rides are free to children under 6 years old.

Plan your trip for May so you can enjoy the Jefferson Train Days. Bring the youngsters to play in the Kids Corral and Thomas the Train play area. There are also many model trains on display, and many toy vendors offering great discounts.

If your trip falls in November and December, you get to ride the Christmas Express Train.  Extend your stay for The New Year’s Express, which offers drinks, noisemakers, and five real cannons blasting spectacular “dragons’ breath” at the ball drop.

Other excursions include the Civil War reenactment held in May. The Ghost Train will have you revisit all the haunts of the Civil War.

MINIATURE RAILS FOR KIDS

13 Amazing Train Rides In Texas (& Rail Museums, Too!)
Courtesy of the Forest Park Miniature Railroad

Forest Park Miniature Railroad

The Forest Park Miniature Railroad was established in the 1950s and is still a popular attraction to date. The miniature railroad is found at Fort Worth’s Trinity Park. The Forest Park Miniature Railroad offers you a five-mile, round-trip rail ride, including a ride around the area.

This miniature railroad is open year-round, however hours vary by season.

Read More: 26 Outstanding Things To Do In Fort Worth, Texas

Cedar Rock Railroad

Take a ride on the Cedar Rock Railroad in Leander, TX, and you’ll be welcomed by the chugging sounds and loud whistle made by Sophie the Train.

This quarter-scale train takes passengers on a 1.4-mile ride through fields and around the park — past tennis courts, a pond, and a nature trail.

San Antonio Zoo Train

The railroad was originally built in 1956, and at the time, was the longest miniature railroad in the world. The new San Antonio Zoo Train, the C.W.T. Express, debuted in 2021, and the tracks are about 2 miles long.

Take the 20-minute tour through Brackenridge Park. The train offers stops near the Witte Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, and the Sunken Garden. Passengers can stop at these locations and explore, and then get a return ride on the train when it comes back by.

Read More: 13+ Awesome Things To Do in San Antonio With Kids

Landa Park Railroad

Explore the sights and sounds of Landa Park in New Braunfels, TX, aboard a 24-inch gauge Iron Horse locomotive.

The Landa Park Railroad is fun for all ages, and is a great way to explore everything Landa Park has to offer. The .5-mile journey takes about 15 minutes.

Read More: 21 Amazing Things To Do In New Braunfels, Texas

PASSENGER TRAINS (LOCAL & REGIONAL)

13 Amazing Train Rides In Texas (& Rail Museums, Too!)
Courtesy of Sunset Limited Sightseeing Lounge via Amtrak

Amtrak

Texas has 19 Amtrak stations and three Amtrak routes. The routes are Heartland Flyer, Sunset Limited, and Texas Eagle.

You can tour regionally between Oklahoma and Fort Worth on the Heartland Flyer, or visit many cities in Texas and beyond to locations like Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis,  Tucson, and New Orleans using the additional two routes.

Sunset Limited Amtrak trains take a route similar to the train service of 1894. You will enjoy mountain, lake, and desert views as you explore areas between New Orleans and Los Angeles.

The trains are two levels tall, with a lounge for sightseeing open to all passengers. For a little extra, you can even get a sleeper car.

The Texas Eagle will take you from Chicago to San Antonio in about 32 hours.  It can also take you from Chicago to Los Angeles. You will pass through large cities and green forests — the Mississippi River, and the Ozarks — making the ride one huge adventure.

Most Texas Eagle trips incorporate the chance to wine and dine while on board. You will have access to a fine dining restaurant adorned with elegant flowers on the tables. You can enjoy your meal while taking in the magnificent views along the way.

Trinity Metro TEXRail

The Trinity Metro TEXRail is a 27-mile commuter train connecting riders from Terminal B of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport to Grapevine Main Station, North Richland Hills and Downtown Fort Worth.

The Grapevine Main Station is a must-see. This 42,000-square foot station was designed to be reminiscent of the grand rail stations from the 19th century. At the station, you’ll find a Visitor Center, a food hall featuring seven food stalls, and a hotel.

Additionally, the station is also home to Peace Tower, a 150-foot tall observation tower that offers amazing views of the DFW Metroplex. And if that wasn’t enough, Peace Plaza is also located here. The plaza is a 38,000-square foot outdoor plaza that frequently hosts outdoor entertainment, and has an interactive water feature.

McKinney Avenue Transit Authority

The McKinney Avenue Transit Authority operates the M-LINE Trolley, which provides safe and convenient public transportation within Uptown and Downtown Dallas

With 39 stops at some of the most popular attractions in Dallas, not only is a ride on the trolleys a great way to get around the city, but the trolleys are fun to experience all on their own.

In addition to stops at places like the Perot Museum and the Dallas World Aquarium, a ride on these trolleys are great for commuters and out-of-towners alike. The best part? The trolley is a “free” service — they only ask riders to name their price. You can drop some cash or coins in the fare box, or make a donation online.

The M-LINE also offers access to and from three light-rail stations — CityPlace/Uptown Station, St. Paul Station, and Pearl/Arts District Station.

MUSEUMS WITH EXCURSIONS

13 Amazing Train Rides In Texas (& Rail Museums, Too!)
Courtesy of the Texas Transportation Museum

Texas Transportation Museum

When visiting the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio, not only do you get to see exhibits featuring railroad equipment, automobiles, model railroads, and artifacts, but you also get to ride on a train!

Walk through and explore vintage railroad cars, before checking out the four amazing model railroads on display. This museum is perfect for anyone who has an affection for trains.

They also have awesome vintage vehicles on display, like a 1924 Ford Model TT and a 1925 Buffalo Type 50 fire engine.

In addition to the amazing exhibits, you can also take a short ride on a train! Rides are 10-15 minutes long, and are enjoyed on the flat car or caboose. Your admission to the museum includes unlimited rides on this train. The museum also offers special Live Steam Days when you can take your ride pulled by a steam engine.

For an extra $5, you can join the diesel train engineer in the cab and watch the rails from the front.

Galveston Railroad Museum

The Galveston Railroad Museum (GRM) allows you an entire day with trains. You can take a self-guided tour of the museum, explore rail cars, and even take a ride on an authentic caboose. You can also share lunch in a well-kept historic dining car!

This museum has 5 acres of trains, and it features approximately 40 train cars, including locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and cabooses. In addition to permanent exhibits, like the People’s Gallery statues, there area also rotating exhibits featured in the Map Room.

Kids will love the interactive display of lights and crossbucks. They can activate them by pressing the buttons!

The museum takes about an hour to explore, but if you want more time — consider staying the night! Stay the night in the historic Bonnie Brook Rail Car, a 1949 rail coach that was one used by Jackie Gleason. It’s got 4 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, and you’ll also enjoy 24-hour Porter Service.

Read More: 17 Family-Friendly Things To Do in Galveston

NO RIDES, BUT STILL WORTH A VISIT FOR TRAIN LOVERS

13 Amazing Train Rides In Texas (& Rail Museums, Too!)
Courtesy of Museum of the American Railroad

Amarillo Railroad Museum

The Amarillo Railroad Museum works to preserve the rich railroad heritage of the Texas Panhandle. They do this by preserving railroad equipment, and featuring model railroading.

They are currently working on their biggest attraction to date — a HO scale layout that will reflect the Santa Fe’s railway across the panhandle. The Amarillo Railroad Museum also has 11 cars of the retired “White Train” in it’s collection.

Read More: 17 Super Fun Things To Do in Amarillo, Texas

Edwin Olsen Railroad Museum

The Edwin Olsen Railroad Museum in Clifton, TX, has a multitude of exhibits, including various Santa Fe dining car china patterns and other serving items. They also feature other rail memorabilia, including kerosene lanterns, timetables, photos, train orders, and more.

It’s open on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month.

Flatonia Rail Park

Flatonia Rail Park in Flatonia, TX, features a switching tower that was built in 1902, and Southern Pacific Caboose No. 4743. The switching tower is available for tours.

Across the street from the park, you’ll find the Central Texas Rail History Center, which houses many historical artifacts, model train displays, and photos from when “rail was king” in the town.

Diboll History Center

Located in east Texas, The History Center in Diboll features a restored 1920 steam locomotive and a 1948 caboose. Visitors here can climb aboard the rail cars, ring the fireman’s bell, blow the engineer’s whistle, and experience days of railroading past.

INTERURBAN RAILWAY MUSEUM

The Interurban Railway Museum in Plano, TX, is a free history museum that features interactive exhibits on electricity, science, the Texas Electric Railway, and the history of Plano.

Come see the downtown Plano model train and see what Plano looked like 100 years ago. Learn about the history of the Texas Electric Railway in the exhibit hall, or take a 360 degree virtual reality tour of a rail car. This museum is a can’t-miss.

Museum Of The American Railroad

Explore life-sized real trains and G-scale model trains at Museum of the American Railroad in Frisco. You can take a guided walking tour of select pieces in the museum’s rolling stock collection, or you can visit the massive TrainTopia model train exhibit — or both!

New Braunfels Railroad Museum

You’ll find a variety of artifacts and photographs from the golden age of railroading on display at the New Braunfels Railroad Museum.

This free museum is located right next to one of the busiest North/South Union Pacific railroad tracks — so you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a train on its way while you’re here.

Railway Museum of San Angelo

Visit the Railway Museum of San Angelo on Saturdays, and explore their historic depot with model trains, tours, a static train display outside, and more.

On the second Saturday each month, the museum’s kid-sized motorized train will chug around the grounds. There are Living History tours and treasure hunts to help people discover the depot’s secrets. 

Old Texas & Pacific Railway Museum

Located in Marshall, TX, the Old Texas & Pacific Railway Museum is home to photos and artifacts dating back to the 1870s. You’ll also find exhibits — such as a replica of a railroad agent’s office, and working model trains that chug past replica Marshall buildings. You’ll find an old Union Pacific Railroad caboose out front.

Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum

The Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum is housed in the historic Santa Fe Depot in Temple, TX. The permanent exhibits here explore working and traveling on the railroad, with an emphasis on the Santa Fe Railway.  In addition to the permanent exhibits, you’ll also find visiting exhibitions too.

Railroad equipment is displayed on the grounds, next to an active railroad yard where you can watch the trains pass by.

Train Rides in Texas FAQ

Are there travel trains in Texas?

Amtrak trains can take you deep in the heart of Texas. The Texas Eagle travels between Chicago and San Antonio, and through major cities from Austin to Dallas.

What is the longest train ride in Texas?

The longest train ride in Texas is the Texas Eagle with Amtrak, which is a 1,306-mile daily passenger train route between Chicago, Illinois, and San Antonio, Texas, with major stops in St. Louis, Little Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin.

How much are tickets for the Texas State Railroad?

Tickets for the Texas State Railroad (as of May 2023) are $32 for adults, $28 for seniors ages 60+, and $20 for kids ages 2-11.

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TEXAS

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