Recently my husband and I decided to take a ride on the Austin Steam Train, located in Cedar Park, Texas, a suburb of Austin. We have lived in the surrounding area for years and had always talked of buying a couple tickets for this excursion, but up until now we had never made the effort.
We decided to take the Hill Country Flyer excursion from Cedar Park to Burnet, Texas, the Blue Bonnet capital of the Texas. This trip would be a six-hour adventure from beginning to end. We would depart at 10 a.m. sharp and return by 4 p.m.
We bought our tickets on line and made our reservations. For two adults it cost us around $80. We drove to Cedar Park and that is where we boarded the train. Depending on the time of year you buy your tickets, please keep in mind some of the coaches are not air conditioned, so we made sure we bought tickets in the air conditioned coach, the California Zepher.
The Austin Steam Train has been in service for over 21 years. It is a community based non-profit organization that is run by all volunteers. We were impressed to see many seniors running the show and so willing to make our trip enjoyable. Some workers have day jobs but spend their free time volunteering on the weekends. They also have spent several hours going back to school to learn how to become train conductors, engineers, or break men. Other positions were filled by volunteers such as car attendants and concession car attendants. They were more than willing to give you the history of the train and the vintage coaches.
As soon as the train departed, we could not help but get up from our seats and make our way through the different coaches, each having their own unique style. It felt as if we had gone back in time. It was fun walking from car to car, observing how each coach was made. Each one had their original decor with slight face lifts here and there.There was one car in which we could buy refreshments and souvenirs, although they did provide fruit, snacks, and water along the way.
The train’s speed was about 40 MPH but we were told if the heat index continued to rise that they would have to slow down on the way back to about 20 MPH as a safety precaution. It is a 66-mile excursion through the Hill country.
We arrived in Burnett and were escorted off the train, and transport buses were waiting to take us to the local lunch spots and antique shops. Most of the restaurants were within walking distance, but if you wanted to make it back for the Gun Fight Show that was part of the package, it might be wise to take the transport bus, should you decide to eat at a restaurant far from the train station.
We decided to walk to a local Mexican Restaurant in which we enjoyed a lovely lunch. The service and food was wonderful.
When we returned back to the station, there was a stage set up for the gun fight. It was not long before we witnessed a fun and exciting drama and gun fight. Passengers from the train were asked earlier, before getting off the train, to volunteer to be saloon gals. I must have missed the invitation as I sure would have obliged. All donations were collected for Burnet’s community. This day they were collecting funds for the local fire department and families. All actors were volunteers from the community of Burnet.
There are other train excursions to enjoy, such as the Bertram Flyer, a scenic route and shorter journey from Cedar Park to Bertram. There is a 15-minute layover, time to step off the train and tour the 1912 train depot.
There is also the Murder Mystery Flyer, which is one we plan to book soon. Only 17 years and older may book this train excursion. How exciting to witness a “who done it” on the train.
The North Pole Flyer is fun for the young and old alike and is all about bringing Christmas joy on the train. It is also called the Polar Express. It is around a two-hour non-stop train ride. All events take place on the train. Santa and Mrs. Claus are on board, bringing lots of smiles to the passengers.
Through out the year there are many other train rides to include, Spring Break Flyers, Summer Express specials, Saturday Evening Flyers, Princess Flyers and more.
The Steam Train is handicapped accessible and has an electronic lift on the outside of the train to assist in getting a wheel chair or scooter onto the train. Once on the train there is a transport chair to assist the passenger to the seating area. A good rule of thumb, as advised by one of the attendants, is to call in advance in order to make arrangements.
To book your Austin Steam Train ride, you may find the following information helpful.
401 E. Whitestone Blvd, Suite A-103
Cedar Park, Texas 78613
Should you like to become a volunteer through the Austin Steam Train Association, you may call
512-477-8468 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Austin Steam Train Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the historic railroad in Central Texas.