By Kelly Young
RUSK – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working quickly to get the Texas State Railroad in running order again.
Operations were suspended indefinitely July 8 when county-wide flooding caused damage to the line in several areas – including a 60-foot-long stretch of track which was left suspended in mid-air when the ground beneath it was washed out by the rains.
“We are pressing hard to get all of the repair work completed by Sept. 1, when the ownership of the trains will transfer. We are trying to work on this pretty quick and get the repairs made quickly,” said Carl Orbison, TPWD Region 8 maintenance specialist. “We have been advised by the engineering firm that we are consulting with that they feel confident that they can have it real close to operational by Sept. 1 – it is a pretty high priority.”
TPWD is currently working with HDR Consulting Engineers to determine the best method of restoring the track.
“We are looking at two main options. We must decide either to use a large bridge or a large culvert to replace the washed out section,” Orbison said. “A meeting was held today to decide this so we can move forward, but I don’t know if the meeting has been held yet or what they decided.”
Initial estimates place the cost of repairs to the tracks at $250,000, which will include a necessary hydraulic survey.
The state is working to complete work on the TSRR by Aug. 31, when the park will cease to be state property and TPWD will relinquish control. The Texas State Railroad Operating Authority has been working with American Heritage Railways, a private company, in the hopes of reaching an operating agreement; however, AHR has yet to sign the contract.
“We feel like the railroad needs to be turned over in the best condition possible, so that is what we are working towards,” Orbison said.
Orbison has also been involved in the repair of the two TSRR rail cars which collided July 6 near the center of the track. He reports that steam locomotive No. 300 has been completely repaired, and that crews are still working on the passenger car of diesel train No. 8.
The final car of the diesel train somehow disconnected and rolled into the stationary engine as the trains passed each other.