Traveling between Palestine and Rusk, the Texas State Railroad may only cover a 25-mile-long track but it runs deep: a deep connection of pride, scenery, friendship, and history linking the two communities. Dating back to 1884, inmates incarcerated in the East Texas Penitentiary in Rusk started to lay rails to transport fuel for the prison’s iron industry. By 1909, the railroad had reached its final destination of Palestine, 25 miles from where it began. Operating as a freight line until 1969, the railroad was turned over to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife through legislative enactment. With its historic locomotives, vintage rail cars and handsome heritage depots the Texas State Railroad was christened anew as a tourist train, first welcoming passengers aboard on the date of the United States Bicentennial, July 4, 1976. Designated the “Official Railroad of Texas” by decree of the 78th Texas Legislature in 2003, the line was transferred to the Texas State Railroad Authority by the 80th Texas Legislature in 2006. Since May 2017, Texas State Railroad is operated by the Western Group, with many new and exciting options planned for passengers.