"Train Travel in Texas"

Train travel in Texas - passengers waiting to board Texas Eagle

One of the ten busiest Texas Eagle stations, Ft. Worth. Photo/gurdonark


Train travel can be cheap travel if you buy a Reserved Coach Seat. One Coach Seat from Dallas to Chicago is $110.

If you want to upgrade to a Superliner Roomette for two adults add $303 to the Coach fare. If you want a family bedroom accommodating two adults and two children add $386 to your $110 per adult Coach fare.

You can see that cheap travel can get expensive real fast with upgrades.

Train travel will be more expensive than bus and car if you're entire family is traveling. Traveling by train can be as expensive as air fare in many cases.

You can travel to Austin from anywhere in the US using Amtrak.

Amtrak's Texas Eagle #22, Dallas to Chicago.
This video was shot by HWY287Productions in July, 2010 and is 14:58 long.

Texas Eagle

Train travel in Texas means you will be using Amtrak's Texas Eagle in combination with the Sunset Limited.

The Texas Eagle connects with other Amtrak lines for comprehensive train travel routes that serve the entire US. They include:

Lake Shore Limited -- Capital Limited – Cardinal -- Michigan Service -- Missouri Service -- Southwest Chief -- Heartland Flyer and others.

Train travel on the Texas Eagle, pulling into the Marshall, Texas station

Texas Eagle pulling into the Marshall, Texas station. Photo/RI-Bill

For more info about the Texas Eagle routes, schedules and fares, go to www.texaseagle.com (opens in a new window).

The Texas Eagle offers a large variety of travel arrangements and fares including first class, coach and various sleep combinations. To get a really good look at Coach seats and sleeping accommodations, go to www.amtrak.com (this opens in a new window). Click on the “Traveling With Amtrak” button and you'll be able to look at 3D views of Roomettes, restrooms, dining car, etc. The Texas Eagle is a Superliner train car.

Age, student and military discounts are offered automatically. An average coach ticket is $49, $187 for sleep accommodations.

Amtrak's American Eagle: Chicago – St. Louis – Little Rock – Dallas – Ft. Worth – Austin – San Antonio – El Paso – Tuscon – Los Angeles. With Amtrak's Sunset Limited connecting Eagle routes to the west.

Fares from Austin to San Antonio will range from $10 – 20 depending on advance notice and discounts. Dallas to Austin ranges from $25 – 50.

Smoking is prohibited. Period. No smoking on the entire train the entire time. If you reserve sleeping accommodations. meals are included. Alcoholic beverages are extra. Baggage restrictions apply. Only service animals are allowed.

Northbound Texas Eagle departs four times a week. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Southbound Eagle departs Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Chicago to San Antonio will take approximately 26 to 29 hours to complete the 1,300 mile route.

Amtrak Train Station in Austin
250 N. Lamar Blvd.
(512) 476-5684 :: www.texaseagle.com/stations/AUS.htm

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Heartland Flyer

Oklahoma's Heartland Flyer is an important connecting Texas Eagle route both north and south.

Runs from Oklahoma City to Ft. Worth. And connects to Texas Eagle Train 21 from Chicago and Train 22 to Chicago. You can connect to most any destination in America from Texas Eagle 21 and 22.

Train travel - Heartland Flyer at Norman, OK station

Heartland Flyer at the Norman, Oklahoma station. Photo/Nick Benson (Check out Nick's photo albums, the best train shots I've seen.)

Heartland Flyer is a posh commuters train. Big comfortable seats, clean but small restroom and a snack bar.

This train deposits hundreds of our Oklahoma friends into the Dallas area for their yearly beating by the Texas Longhorns. It's the legendary Red River Shootout. This annual OU and UT football game has been going on since 1905.

The advertised round trip fare is $40 for travel to Dallas on Friday returning on Sunday. You need to call 1-800-USA-RAIL and ask for fare code X237 because the special fare is not available on their web site.

Oklahomans like to visit for the Texas State Fair as well. They get kind of tired watching air up in Oklahoma. Don't get me wrong, we like our Sooner visitors as long as they leave SOONER than later!

The Heartland Flyer is a revelation coming to Texas. Not so much leaving Texas. Visit www.heartlandflyer.com (opens in a new window) for more info.

Amtrak Ft. Worth Station
10th & Jones :: www.heartlandflyer.com

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Up-side/Down-side of Austin Train Travel

If you're going to travel to Austin and considering train travel, allow me to make these observations that may save you time money and grief.

Train travel has some real fans. Most of these folks go on train vacations or recreational train travel. They choose specific routes for scenery and points of interest. They ride the train for fun, discovery and camaraderie. If you're one of these train fans, don't miss www.american-rails.com (opens in a new window). This site is all about railroads in America, you'll love it.

Train travel as a convenient, quick and comfortable way to get from point A to point B, has two significant drawbacks -- time and comfort.

Train fans will tell you about not having to pay hotel bills, gas and food when you travel by train. All true. It's also true that the best way to see real scenery is by train. Car, bus and airplane can't compare.

Train Travel Tips

  • Any overnight trip should include sleeping accommodations unless you like being boxed in with 35 people who haven't showered in two days. Babies crying, snoring, coughing, cranky kids and yelling mothers. I'm not exaggerating.
  • Three days of constant clickity-clack, swaying back and fourth can also be unnerving. Bring earplugs and Dramamine.
  • Just because you reserved sleeping accommodations don't expect hotel style service or facilities. It's cramped, noisy and I've never been in a train without something in my compartment constantly rattling. Bring duct tape.
  • Consider a national rail pass for extensive train travel. Explore Amtrak's nationwide network of scenic routes for about $300. You can also get 15 to 30 day passes.

I've seen train travel described as luxury hotel on rails with “cozy” sleeping accommodations. “Thick, soft reclining chairs so you can sleep through the night – step back in time to a 1930's Hollywood movie.” Fair is fair. That's how others describe train travel. Maybe a well thought out train vacation on an unlimited national rail pass with first class accommodations.

My opinion is simple. Stay off the train unless it's recreational. Never do over night on a train. Never go over 300 miles with a child. Use the most direct service with the least amount of stops. Everyone on the train expects a tip, bring small bills.

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Train Travel Survival Kit

  1. Ear plugs, especially if you have to sleep in Coach. Get the soft foam kind, hard rubber hurts even on the softest pillow. Bring a blanket if you're riding in coach or they will charge you $10 for one. Small, soft pillow as well.
  2. Wet wipes and wet wash cloth in a baggie. Soap, toilet paper and some window cleaner.
  3. One change of easily accessible clothes. Sunglasses, personal toiletries.
  4. Bring your own snacks including bottled water, fruit, nuts, crackers, candy, etc.
  5. Paperback, iPod, CD player w/headset - helps you pass the time as the scenery seems to lose its magic after three days of sponge baths and no sleep. A camera will give you memories of your train vacations for years.
  6. Wear super comfortable clean clothes, you may want to consider dark colors and fabrics like cotton and wool that breath and reduce perspiration.
  7. Bring cash. Everything else is a hassle on the train.
  8. Train travel in Coach is a rough trip. Cheap but uncomfortable. Sleep accommodations are pricey for “cozy” or “cramped” and put your ticket price on a par with air travel.
  9. Always have an agent plan your itinerary. If something goes wrong you will have an advocate. Plus, train itineraries can approach high science in complexity.
  10. Do not expect luxury accommodations and service when you travel to Austin by Amtrak Texas Eagle or the Heartland Flyer. You won't be pampered and amenities are sparse. Food is adequate. Dining in a moving train car takes getting used to.

Bottom line – Don't expect much. Don't even expect to arrive on time. If you can kick back and watch the living movie unfold around you as a continent passes before your eyes, then go for it.

Train Vacations

Amtrak vacation package is operated by an agency. They offer a wide variety of packages for every interest.

Train vacations and train travel in general suffers from complex fare structures that include discounts like 15% for seniors, half fare for kids and 10% off for AAA and AARP. For more about Amtrak Train Vacations call (800) 268-7252. Contact Amtrak directly concerning reservations and fares.

Another train travel planner is Rail Travel Center. They provide escorted train vacation to the worlds most exotic locations, www.railtravelcenter.com (opens in a new window).

The Austin Steam Train Association provides tours and day trips in and around the Hill Country. More about the Hill Country Flyer in a sec.

Other points of interest for Texas train travel are;

  • Grapevine Steam Railroad Tours go from Grapevine Texas to the old Ft. Worth stock yards. Fun time. It's called the Tarantula Train. www.gvrr.com
  • T&P Railroad Museum (Amtrak station) Old Texas Pacific Railroad displays and memorabilia. Located in Marshall, Texas www.marshalldepot.org
  • Texas Transportation Museum – has a full sized railroad. www.txtransportationmuseum.org

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    Hill Country Flyer

    Video highlights interiors, exteriors,
    history and the trip itself.

    The Hill Country Flyer is now being powered by a diesel locomotive. The original Southern Pacific 786 steam engine is being restored to original condition.

    Train travel - Hill Country Flyer

    Hill Country Flyer.

    Departing from Cedar Park Depot at 401 E. Whitestone Blvd. at 10 am and travels about 35 miles to Burnet, Texas.

    You have two hours in Burnet to stop and explore. The problem is Burnet is a nice small Texas town. Not a tourist destination. If you take the Sunday Flyer, everything in Burnet is closed. I recommend you go Saturday. Eat at the Christmas Cafe (203 E. Jackson, 512-756-5000).

    The scenery along the Hill Country Flyer route is disappearing. What were once trees and green fields are now subdivisions.

    Fees for the Hill Country Flyer;

    Coach – $28 adult, $18 child, $25 senior. No air-conditioning.
    Excursion - $33, adult; $23, child; $30, senior. Coach seat with heat and air-conditioning.
    Lounge - $43, adult; $27, child; $39, senior. First Class Pullman.

    Hill Country Flyer offers other excursions as well. Check out the Bertram Flyer, North Pole Flyer and Bethlehem Flyer, Halloween Murder Mystery, New Years Eve Twilight Flyer.

    You also have the option of chartering an entire car, coach with 72 seating capacity for $1,300 or a 32 and 38 capacity lounge car for $1,100 and $1,300 respectively.

    Group discounts and charter for the entire train available.

    Burnet is a destination with not much to do. The Lounge ticket ($43) is the way to train travel on the Hill Country Flyer.

    To reserve your seat call (512) 477-8468. Or visit the web site www.austinsteamtrain.org (opens in a new window). Also check out the pictures of the passenger cars you will be riding in.

    Last Word About Texas Train Travel & Train Vacations

    • Be prepared for delays and layover. A common occurrence with train travel.If you're in a hurry, you will be stressed and miserable. Relax and enjoy the scenery.Take a cell phone so you can notify folks about unexpected delays.Check your schedules a day before you depart for any changes.Use wheeled folding bags. You may have to carry luggage the length of the train.Be careful in the shower. Ice cold or scalding hot.You share tables with others in the dinning car.Train travel is better if you travel light. No room or space for lots of bags.

    When you travel to Austin – May you ride the rails safely and every mile be as memorable as the mile before.

    Train travel -heading north, Austin is in sight

    Pulling into Austin from the south. Photo/webg33k

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