Scenic Ride in Vintage Passenger Train Near Austin
Once a fundamental part of American life, steam train travel gradually disappeared with more modern forms of transportation. But in 1992, the Austin Steam Train Association (ASTA), a not-for-profit group, worked to bring back the steam train travel experience for the sake of sharing a part of history with new generations.
In 1882, a railroad line through Central Texas connected Austin to Burnet. Generations of passengers enjoyed this line until the 1930’s. In it’s heyday, the train brought all the pink granite used to construct the Texas State Capitol Building.
Since the steam train returned to the Texas Hill Country, more than 200,000 passengers have made the train a stop in their Texas travels. Today, the ASTA offers passengers several excursions to choose from, each with it’s own enchantment. Suite101 recommends the original and most popular train ride, the Hill Country Flyer.
Hill Country Flyer
Train Excursion (Cedar Park to Burnet)
From the moment passengers arrive at the Cedar Park, Texas, rail station where the trains depart, nostalgia kicks in. The vintage passenger train cars sit lined up on the track, as ticket takers in red coats greet visitors wanting to travel to another era.
The authentic restoration of each passenger car evokes a true railroading experience from the vintage seat upholstery to the train whistles along the way. On the train’s 1920s-era open-window coach, passengers can stand by open windows to shoot photos, wave to passersby, and enjoy the views of the South San Gabriel River and the Hill Country’s flora and fauna.
It’s a great way to explore the Texas Hill Country. Volunteer rail attendants offer historical fun facts throughout the 66-mile round trip adventure. Passengers are encouraged to visit the concession car for refreshments, snacks, or for those train enthusiasts — a conductor’s hat.
A two-and-a-half hour layover in the historic downtown square of the small town of Burnet adds to the time traveling experience. It took about 60 years after the steam train stopped running for visitors to arrive once again via the same train tracks.
Passengers can enjoy a quaint lunch on the square and shop at antique shops before catching the train back to Austin. If weather permits, a local theater group organizes a Wild West reenactment of a gun fight in Burnet, complete with volunteer saloon girls and cowboys. The train departs at 10 a.m. and arrives at the Cedar Park rail station at about 4:30 p.m.
Austin Steam Train Association Train Rides
Other train ride options include:
- Bertram Flyer — A shorter trip that departs at 2 p.m. and visits a restored 1912 train depot.
- Twilight Flyer —This special event train includes different rides for Halloween murder mysteries, children’s storybook days, romantic evenings for two, blues and barbeque, and the holiday North Pole Flyer
Hill Country Steam Train Fares and Passenger Cars
Reserving train tickets online is hassle-free. Fares range from about $18.00 USD to $43.00 USD, depending on which passenger car visitors prefer to ride. Discounts available for senior citizens and children. Passengers catch the train in Cedar Park, Texas, just 30 minutes north of downtown Austin.
Passenger Train Seating Options include:
- 1920’s open-window coach — Perfect for trips scheduled in the fall, avoid during hot Texas summer months, four seats face each other
- 1950’s climate-controlled Excursion Coach — Two seats side by side, with heating and air conditioning
- 1950’s First Class Pullman Lounge Car — Heated and air-conditioned with lounge and lots of room