Monday, October 5, 2009

Pineywood Purgatory Prelude

October 3, 2009
Lufkin, Texas

Part of the fun of attending out of town bike tours is getting to see different parts of Texas, the varying terrain, and the tourist attractions at the destination or on the way.

We were planning to participate in the Pineywoods Purgatory bike ride in October of this year and had registered and made hotel reservations. Then in the May issue of "Texas Highways" there was an article on the Texas State Railroad. The article peaked our interest, and the train left from Palestine, a mere 75 miles from Lufkin. So we made reservations for Friday, October 2, extended our hotel reservations, and were set to go.

The Texas State Railroad makes a round trip from Palestine to Rusk, about 25 miles each way. The rail cars are of the 1920’s era and the engines are the 1940’s or earlier. On our ride the cars were pulled by a WW 11 diesel steam engine; the number 300.

Before departure passengers may board the engine,
and questions were answered by a very patient engineer.

When time to board, passengers either rode in a first class climate controlled car or in several of the open air cars. We chose the open air car for the experience
forgetting that it can get a little chilly in October and that the smoke sometimes roils back through the open windows as well as occasional small debris that swirls through the air and comes in your window. Did we shut the windows? No way.

The train ride was similar to a bike ride. On the flats the train went a whopping 20 miles per hour. On inclines, it went chug, chug, chug and groaned a little. Then, on the declines, you heard the brakes squeal as metal on metal was applied to keep the train from being a run-a-way. The scenery was mostly thick piney woods and occasional swamps.

One knew each time the train was approaching a cross road as the engineer blew the whistle repeatedly to warn any traffic. However, traffic was sparse as most of the cross roads were unpaved logging roads or unimproved county roads.

The only stop in between Palestine and Rusk was at Melville.

There, we were first “robbed” by a bandit.

As the bandit got off the train, he was pursued by a ranger and a gun fight took place.
Although wounded, the ranger prevailed and our goods were retrieved.

All’s well that ends well.

At Rusk, there was an hour and a half lay over, so we picnicked by a nice lake.

Later we toured a re-enactment camp site.

Someone was shooting a documentary about Sam Houston.

The ride back to Palestine seemed much shorter than the trip to Rusk. With the day warming up, a full stomach, the steady clack of the wheels—-you can guess the rest. Nap time.

Soon the ride was over and we pulled back into the Palestine depot.

And then the engineer manuevered the engine onto a series of "y" tracks in order to position the engine in the correct direction for the next trip.

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