Texas Forest Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

The Golden Age of Steam Lives on at Texas State Railroad

Texas State Railroad, February 25, 1894

In 1894 the Texas State Railroad (TSRR) was a prison railroad servicing three foundries and a furniture factory at the East Texas State Penitentiary located in  Rusk, Texas.  Raw materials such as iron ore, timber, sulphur and coke were brought in to the prison by rail to produce products for sale in the market place.  The prison train depicted was used to transport prisoners to work camps along the railroad. 

The railroad was initially built to the Neches River, then extended to Palestine in 1909 in order to expand the sales market for the products produced at the prison.  The monies derived from the sale of those products made it possible for the prison to be operated and maintained without the use of taxpayer dollars, which was the goal set for this prison.

When the railroad was revived in 1972, by legislative enactment, prisoners were once again employed to reconstruct the rail line.  The Texas State Railroad reopened in 1976 as a state park and rail excursion.  The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operated the railroad until late 2007. Today, TSRR is operated by Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC.  Visitors can look forward to an enjoyable train ride through the scenic Piney Woods as they experience the Golden Age of Steam.    

Return to Our Stories