South Texas is a vast region of thousand-acre cattle farms, big cities and a landscape rising from the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico to the high plains at the New Mexico border. Amtrak provides most of the service to the area, with long-distance trains that clack their way across the lightly-developed countryside. A single excursion train in Texas’s state capital transports passengers through Hill Country.
The Texas Eagle originates in Chicago and travels through Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas before entering Texas in Texarkana. From Texarkana, the route goes south to San Antonio before heading west to Los Angeles, California, via New Mexico and Arizona. Trains operate daily between Chicago and San Antonio, and three times a week along the entire route. South Texas stations include Del Rio, Sanderson, Alpine and El Paso. Between Fort Worth and San Antonio, National Park Service guides from San Antonio Missions National Historic Park board the train and lead interpretive programs. The Texas Eagle has dining car service and Superliner sleeping cars.
The Sunset Limited is Amtrak’s southernmost route, traveling between New Orleans and Los Angeles three days a week, sharing the same track as the Texas Eagle between San Antonio and Los Angeles. In Texas, trains stop at stations in Beaumont, Houston, San Antonio, Sanderson, Alpine and El Paso. Guides from the Amistad National Recreation Area are on board the train between New Orleans and Houston. Like the Texas Eagle, the Sunset Limited has Superliner sleeping cars, a sightseer’s lounge, a dining car and a café car. Passengers who disembark in Alpine are about 70 miles from Big Bend National Park, a remote hiker’s paradise with 150 miles of trails.
If you’re traveling south from Oklahoma City, you can take the Heartland Flyer for the 4-hour, 14-minute ride to Fort Worth, where you can board the Texas Eagle. Passengers have about a two-hour layover between the time the Heartland Flyer arrives in Fort Worth and the Texas Eagle departs. Trains operate daily between the two cities, making stops in Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley and Ardmore, all in Oklahoma, and in Gainesville, Texas. Guides from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area ride the entire route. Seating is reserved coach class, and trains have café cars with table seating and casual meals.
Austin Steam Train operates two excursions on historic rolling stock through Texas Hill Country around the capital city of Texas, as well as special trains, such as a murder mystery ride through the dark. The 66-mile Hill Country Flyer operates between Cedar Park and Burnet, where passengers have time for lunch and shopping. Bertram Flyer rides operate between Cedar Park and Bertram, with a 15-minute stop so passengers can take a quick tour of the restored 1912 depot. Trains run most weekends, year-round, and reservations are recommended. Passengers can choose from coach or lounge cars or, on some trips, a private room.
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