When we first arrived in Texas we heard about the train to Burnet. Since the two older grandkids are old enough to enjoy it, we decided to go, although we took them all.
The Austin Steam Train is actually now pulled by a diesel locomotive. Steam Engines have become almost impossible to maintain as most parts are no longer made so everything has to be hand built to specifications and it gets very expensive. We learned this in Arkansas when we rode the Eureka Springs and Northern Arkansas Railroad. They were using a diesel also.
We arrived and were on the train in Cedar Park at 8:50 am. The train leaves at 9.
We were in the Buckeye Lake car, quite fitting for a bunch of native Buckeyes!
Let’s do a little history here. The Austin and Northwest Railroad was built in 1881 to bring pink granite from the Hill Country to construct Texas’ new State Capitol Building after the original burnt down. The line was then acquired by the Houston and Texas Central to provide mail and passenger service between Austin and Burnet. The trip took 4 hours to cover the 54 miles between the cities. The Southern Pacific absorbed the Houstion and Central Texas which was itself bought by the Union Pacific. In 1986 the Union Pacific sold the line and rail right of way to Austin Capital Metro. The tracks from Austin to Leander are used today for the CapMetro train between those two cities.
Now about the Buckeye Lake. The car was originally owned by the Erie and Lackawanna Railroad providing passenger service from Cleveland OH to Hoboken NJ. One of the trains crew members actually rode the car when he was a kid! The Erie and Lackawanna sold the car to The Milwaukee Road where it was used on the run between Chicago and Milwaukee.
It is as you can see still painted in the colors of the Milwaukee Road. All the cars were maintained in their original paint schemes. That was a nice touch.
The train passes through Cedar Park and Leander on the CapMetro route. Once we cleared Leander we were into the country and enjoyed the best view from the train of passing through Short Creek Canyon and crossing the South San Gabriel River.
Next stop was the small town of Bertram. We stayed on the train here.
As we rode on the Conductor came by to punch everyone’s ticket. He let each of the kids hold their ticket as he punched it. This was a nice gesture.
After two hours we arrived in Burnet.
We got off the train and walked 3 blocks to the Trailblazer Grille on the courthouse square where we had lunch reservations. The food was great and there was even a small candy shop in the restaurant which the kids enjoyed.
After lunch we went to the Wild West Show near the train depot. An all-volunteer cast put on a half hour skit depicting trouble in the town and a mock gunfight. It was very entertaining and funny.
We enjoyed the two-hour ride back to Cedar Park happy, tired and with full bellies.
The train costs $40 per person. It leaves at nine am most Saturdays from the Cedar Park Depot. You have two hours to enjoy the small town of Burnet. Not enough time but that’s what you get. The train blows 4 long whistles 10 minutes before departure, and they don’t wait. It arrives back in Cedar Park between 3:30 and 4:00 PM so it is an all-day affair.
This was probably, at one time, a scenic trip but the heavy development in the Leander area makes a big part of the trip mostly suburban until you cross through Short Canyon. And as shown above the scenery is not that great between Bertram and Burnet.