Western Trips

Western Trips

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Texas Train Trips

The Texas Eagle, Amtrak's passenger train service between Chicago Illinois and San Antonio Texas, offers not only a great way to see the Lone Star State but it's history and Texas railroad history is a fascinating story. It's a story about a growing state and it's geographical location during the time of the old transcontinental railroads.

texas eagle train
Amtrak's Texas Eagle pulling into Dallas Texas
When the Railroad Was King

So different from today, there was a time during railroad's heyday that just about every town was connected by a railroad. Before the highways were built and before the automobile replaced the horse drawn carriage, the railroad was how one got from one place to another. If you didn't have access to a railroad you might have taken a stage coach ride.

After the Civil War Texas was in the forefront when plans were made to build a southern transcontinental rail route. It was estimated that about ninety percent of all railroad track already laid at the end of the war was east of the Mississippi River. Congress gave the Texas and Pacific Railroad a federal charter to build a line from Marshall Texas to San Diego California.

Before the southern route was ever completed, there had been mergers, acquisitions and several route proposals. As it turned out, the southern transcontinental rail route was built by both the Southern Pacific Railroad, under the leadership of Potter Huntington of Central Pacific Railroad fame, and the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway Company. The former constructed lines roughly west of the Pecos River running into southern California and the latter from the Pecos River east to Houston via San Antonio.The southern route was completed in 1883, about fourteen years after the first transcontinental route was completed.

fort worth transportation center
Trolley Car exhibit at Fort Worth train station
The Missouri Pacific's Texas Eagle

Yes, there was a Texas Eagle before Amtrak. The Missouri Pacific Railroad operated the Texas Eagle which served Texas from the Midwest. The line actually began in 1849 as the Pacific Railroad and after several mergers, something nearly all railroads went through, emerged in 1917 as the Missouri Pacific. After that merger the railroad acquired other lines in Texas.

The Missouri Pacific's Texas Eagle began service in 1948 with a line from St. Louis Missouri to several Texas towns and cities. In the east Texas town of Longview the line split in two where the route to west Texas went on to Dallas and El Paso and the route to south Texas went on to Austin and San Antonio. The route to west Texas ended in 1969 leaving only the southern route to San Antonio.

The Texas Eagle was discontinued entirely in 1970 as were many private rail passenger operations around the country. Today, the route from St. Louis to San Antonio is operated by Amtrak as the Texas Eagle. While the Amtrak train uses the Texas Eagle name, the route of the old Missouri Pacific Texas Eagle was quite different from what you'll take today.

amtrak texas eagle trip
Texas Eagle passes by old Santa Fe station, Mcgregor,TX
A Fun Ride on The Texas Eagle

Today, The Texas Eagle is scheduled to make the trip between Chicago and San Antonio in 32 hours and 25 minutes. This route offers passengers a view of the Land of Lincoln and then across the Mississippi River and through the Ozarks to Little Rock and the piney woods of East Texas. After the piney woods and as the train approaches Dallas you'll see noticeable change in the terrain. The prairie opens up as the train reaches Dallas and travels westward toward Fort Worth.

From Fort Worth the Texas Eagle travels south with four stops along it's way to Austin Texas. After Austin, The Texas Eagle travels about 80 miles further south to San Antonio. That's the end of the line for the Texas Eagle but the train does connect in San Antonio three days a week with Amtrak's Sunset Limited heading west to Los Angeles.

Below are links to additional Western Trips photo articles you may enjoy...

The Heartland Flyer from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City

The Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle

The Historic Santa fe Super Chief

Texas Eagle Stops in Texas

On it's journey south from Chicago, The Texas Eagle's first stop in Texas is Texarkana. After that there are stops at Marshall, Longview, Mineola before the train arrives in Dallas. From Dallas the Texas Eagle heads west to Fort Worth which is a major servicing stop. From Fort Worth the train heads south to Cleburne, McGregor, Temple and Taylor before arriving in Austin. From Austin there's one stop at San Marcos before arriving in San Antonio.

temple texas railroad museum
Temple Texas train station and railroad museum
When the Texas Eagle sets out south from Fort Worth, before long you'll see a change in the geography as the train essentially travels near the Balcones Fault which runs from about Del Rio Texas in the south up to Waco and points to it's northwest. Interstate 35 follows a line not far to the east of the fault.

The stop in Fort Worth is a major service stop for the Texas eagle and there's usually time for thru passengers to get off train and explore the Fort Worth station and transportation center. One excellent display in front of the station and on permanent display is a restored original Interurban Trolley (CAR 25) that ran the rails between Fort Worth and Dallas between 1924 and 1934. It's an interesting exhibit to explore and get some unique photos. It's said that this single trolley car could reach speeds of 70 MPH. 

Today's Amtrak Texas Eagle operates with sleeper cars, a lounge car, a dining car and coach cars. 

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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