Wednesday, August 2, 2017

West Across Louisiana into Texas

On our recent trip, after leaving Natchez Mississippi we headed west along US Hwy. 84 across the middle of Louisiana and on into east Texas.  As we had a long day of driving ahead of us, I didn’t stop and take too many photos of historic sites along the way… I did manage to take a couple of photos in Louisiana before we crossed the Sabine River into Texas.

This is the Red River Parish Courthouse in Coushatta Louisiana.  It was built in 1926.  Coushatta, which is located on the Red River, is about 45 miles south of Shreveport.  Like many rural towns across America, the population is declining…from 2,299 in 2000 to an estimated 1,841 in 2016.
Red River Parish and the Red River Valley were areas of white vigilante and paramilitary violence after the Civil War, as insurgents tried to regain power after the South's defeat.  In 1871, during Reconstruction, the state legislature created the parish as part of their effort to develop Republican Party strength and disenfranchise former slaves. 

Formed in mid-1874 from white militias, the “White League” was formed in the Red River Valley in nearby Grant Parish.  In the summer of 1874 the White League forced 6 white Republicans from office in Coushatta and ordered them to leave the state.  League members assassinated them before they left Louisiana.  Among the men murdered were the brother and 3 brothers-in-law of state Senator Marshall Twitchell.   The White League also killed between 5 and 20 freedmen who had accompanied the Twitchell relatives and who were witnesses to the vigilante violence. 

This is the former railroad depot in Coushatta Louisiana.  Although I couldn’t determine when it was built, I did learn that it served 3 different railroads in its operating history… They were the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Co., Louisiana and Arkansas and the Kansas City Southern Railroad.  The old depot has been preserved and it’s currently being used by the Red River Council on Aging.

The Louisiana Railway and Navigation Co., (also known as the “Edenborn Line”), was a railroad that that operated from 1903 to 1934 between Shreveport and New Orleans Louisiana.  At its peak this railroad had 45 steam locomotives, 1,305 freight cars and 32 passenger cars.  It has the distinction of being the only railroad in the USA that was owned by one person…and that was Mr. Edenborn. 

Our next stops were in Texas along US Hwy. 84 at the home (and related depots) associated with the Texas State Railroad.  The western end of this tourist attraction is set in a park-like setting in Rusk Texas.  We thought that this entrance “sculpture” was quite eye-catching and creative.

The Rusk Texas Depot for the Texas State Railroad is a nicely done replica.  We thought that the stonework was quite eye-catching.
This park and the one at Palestine Texas are both associated with the Texas State Railroad.  Originally, the parks were operated by the Texas Park and Wildlife Division of state government.  But in 2007 operational control of the both parks was transferred to American Heritage Railways.  That company operates the Durango and Southern Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad located in Bryson City North Carolina.  Operators of the railroad have changed twice since American Heritage Railways ran the line.

Love the authentic look, don’t you?! 

The Texas State Railroad is a historic 25 mile long railroad between Rusk and Palestine Texas.  It was founded in 1881 by the state of Texas to haul freight.  Regular service on the line was ended in 1921.  The state leased the line to private companies until 1969 then it was turned over to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1972.

Today, vintage steam and diesel locomotives take passengers in early 1900s passenger coaches across the rails of this East Texas Piney Woods Route between the towns of Palestine and Rusk for a 50-mile round trip.  Trains usually operate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays on through December.

Fares depend on the day scheduled and whether or not the train is powered by diesel or steam locomotives.  Adult fares in coach are $59.95, first class are $84.95 and Presidential class fares are $99.95.  Children’s fares range from $39.95 to $59.95…coach and first class only.  Seniors fares range from $54.95 in coach up to $89.95 for Presidential class.

This is a rail side view of the replica Rusk passenger depot. 

How was the Texas State Railroad built?  In 1881 prisoners from the East Texas Penitentiary built the first 1.3 miles of railroad track.  It wasn’t until 1909 when the final ties and rails were in place, linking Rusk with Palestine.  FYI…the original purpose of the railroad was to transport raw materials for the iron smelter that was located at the Rusk Penitentiary.

This vintage baggage/Railway Express car is on display at the Rusk depot.  As it was mid-week, the depot was closed. 

A replica water tower has also been built next to the Rusk Texas State Railroad’s depot.  I’m sure it services the steam locomotives that plie this tourist railroad line. 

This is the Texas State Railroad’s Depot in Maydelle Texas.  It was really raining when Laurie took this photo!  It’s located about mid-way between the Rusk and Palestine Depots.  An old railroad turntable is located close by but it was difficult to photograph because of the rain and a lot of tall grass. 

From what I could determine, this depot was originally a house that was converted to a depot so it could serve as a movie prop.  In 1910, the steam engine pulled trains of the Texas State Railroad rolled through the piney woods between Rusk and Palestine for the very first time.  This happened because Governor Thomas Campbell had ensured that his good friend and ex-governor James Hogg’s vision for this rail line was completed.   The founders of this newly platted town between Rusk and Palestine were so grateful that they named their settlement after Governor Campbell’s daughter, Maydelle. 

This is another replica depot in a park.  It’s the Texas State Railroad’s Depot in Palestine Texas…at the western end of this historic railroad.  This is a close as we got to the depot.

The Texas State Railroad operates a variety of steam and diesel locomotives on their 25 miles of track.  The locomotives date from 1901 to 1953.  They include:

·       1901 A.L. Cooke # 316 (4-6-0 Ten Wheeler Class) (Steam)

·       1911 Baldwin Locomotive Works #500 (4-6-2 Pacific Class) (Steam)

·       1917 Baldwin Locomotive Works #28 (2-8-0 Consolidation Class) (Steam)

·       1917 Baldwin Locomotive Works #7 (2-8-2 Mikado Class) (Steam)

·       1947 Alco-GE #7 (RS2 Diesel)

·       1953 Alco-GE #8 (MRS 3 Diesel)

There were a lot of distressed old railway cars of different types on sidings in the Texas State Railroad’s rail yard.  This sleek combination coach and baggage car stood out in contrast to much of the other rolling stock.

For more information about the Texas State Railroad, you can go to

In addition to this reproduction depot and its railyard, Palestine Texas has a second depot and this one is an original…

This is the Palestine Texas Visitor Information Center.  It’s housed in the former Neches Texas combination passenger and freight depot that was moved to this site.  This depot was built in Neches during the late 1890s for the International – Great Northern Railroad.  Any remaining trackage that belonged to the International – Great Northern Railroad is now part of the Union Pacific system.    

For information about Palestine Texas and its tourist opportunities, go to


·       Palestine Texas has 23 historical sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

·       The biggest employers in Palestine are the Texas Department of Criminal Justice along with 2 big Wal-Mart distribution centers.

·       Palestine was one of the East Texas towns that received much of the debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in which 7 astronauts were killed.

·       That historical plaque in front of the Visitor’s Center provides some history on Palestine’s somewhat infamous former town marshal and gunman, Christopher Columbus Rogers.  He is alleged to have killed 12 men before he was stabbed to death.  To learn more, go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to check out some of the sights along our route!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Wende and I just blasted thru East TX to and from Katelyns graduation and saw virtually nothing.

  2. You have discovered a few historical gems! Thanks for sharing.


  3. Fantastic post, Dave! I love trains, so I enjoyed seeing all the buildings and trains, and great history. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. David absolutely lovely pictures like always ! Hugs!

  5. Great photos, Dave! Interesting with the Texas State RR and that it still carries passengers today in vintage cars. While Bill has travelled around Texas, I've only been to Houston and Galveston Island, by air. There's evidently a lot in Texas to cover! Thanks for sharing!