If you're looking for something fun to do over the July 4th long weekend, head out to East Texas and join in the 135th birthday celebration of the historic Texas State Railroad.
Janet Gregg, Special Events Manager for the historic tourist railroad said that "we are expecting between 1,000 and 2,000 people out here at the Rusk Depot on Saturday."
To celebrate this latest milestone in the railroad’s history a four-day celebration has been planned for the July 4th weekend.
Friday, July 1 The Texas Hobo State Championship Cook-Off and Gypsy Jamboree kicks off its first round of competition in the railroad’s campground from 5pm – 8pm. Categories include Margaritas, Cook’s Choice and Desserts.
Saturday, July 2 the Cook-Off continues with competition categories including Bloody Mary’s, Beans, Chicken, Ribs and Brisket. Also on Saturday there will be children’s games and activities on the grounds, a farmer’s market, classic car and motorcycle show and food and other vendors. The Happy Hobo Express train ride departs at 6pm. At 8pm The Rail Fan Photographer’s Special event kicks off with a night shoot of the steam engine, which also offers the rare opportunity to photograph it with fireworks going off in the sky behind it. The fireworks show over the lake begins at 9:15pm. A live concert in the park starts immediately after the fireworks show, featuring The Beau Walker Band and national recording artist Jon Wolfe.
Sunday the Rail Fan Photographer’s Special continues with an all-day photo shoot of the train doing run-by’s at various scenic locations along the track that are not normally accessible to the public. Breakfast and lunch are included in the ticket price.
Monday, there will be a brief ceremony at 9:45am to mark the railroad’s anniversary. Birthday cake will be served. Local appreciation train rides will depart from the Rusk Depot at 11:30am and 2pm. There will also be children’s activities on the grounds. Entry fees to the event range from $4 to $18. Ticket prices for the Happy Hobo Express train ride range from $10 to $40.
The Texas State Railroad was founded in 1881 to serve the foundry at the State Penitentiary in Rusk. It was built by inmate labor to haul timber to fuel the foundry and iron ore rock to be made into such items as the iron framework for the dome at the state capitol. In 1976 the railroad was transformed into a historic passenger tourist attraction operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife. In 2003 the state legislature formally designated it as The Official Railroad of Texas.
In 2007 operation of the railroad was privatized. Four new ridership records have been set since then, most recently in 2014.
For more information, go to www.TexasStateRR.com or follow the Texas State Railroad on Facebook. Tickets can be booked online or by calling 903-683-3098.
135th anniversary of the railroad’s founding
115th birthday of engine #316 (1901) 110th anniversary of the track being extended to Maydelle 105th birthday of engine #500 (1911) 40th anniversary as a historic passenger train and tourist attraction 40th anniversary of T&P Steam Engine #610 being donated to TSRR
(#610 pulled The Freedom Train across Texas for the Bi-centennial celebration.)
• 35th anniversary of the 1890’s turntable being installed in Maydelle