Located about 60 miles south of Tyler on U. S. Highway 69 at its intersection with U.S. 84 is the City of Rusk, the county seat of Cherokee County. The population of Rusk is about 5,300 residents as of the Federal Census of 2020. The elevation of Rusk is 518 feet above sea level.
James S. Hogg Memorial Museum, Rusk, Texas
Rusk was created by the Texas legislature on April 11, 1846. It was named after Thomas Jefferson Rusk, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Texas State Railroad station in Rusk (photo courtesy of the Texas State Railroad)
Take a relaxing train ride through the piney woods of East Texas, enjoy unique special events with your family or relax on a romantic evening train on select dates throughout the season! This historic railroad offers steam train excursions that travel 25 miles through the scenic piney woods and hardwood creek bottoms of East Texas amidst a backdrop of rolling hills, nature and wildlife.
Vintage steam and diesel locomotives take passengers across the celebrated rails of the Piney Woods Route between the quaint East Texas towns of Palestine and Rusk on a 50-mile roundtrip adventure. This quintessential daytrip, only a few hours from the metropolitan communities of Dallas and Houston, will create a memory that will last a lifetime.
In 1881 prisoners from the East Texas Penitentiary built 1.3 miles of railroad track. In 1909, the final ties were laid, connecting Rusk with Palestine. Over a century later, the Texas State Railroad whisks passengers back in time to when steam locomotives were king and diesel power was in its infancy. Each season, with the spring blooms of Dogwoods or the autumn red of Sumacs, is more sensational because it’s viewed from a train.
Texas State Railroad EMD diesel locomotive No. 125 (photo courtesy of the Texas State Railroad)
Passengers aboard comfortable early-1900 coaches, hosted by friendly and informative attendants, travel along gently rolling hills passing over 24 bridges … one over 1,000 feet long. Unusual railroad structures, such as the locomotive turntable located midway, dot the historic route. Music and points of interest compliment the scenic excursion.
The 4-hour train ride, including an hour layover, is just part of the journey. Passengers will have time to savor both Rusk and Palestine depots which have upscale gift shops and historical story boards.
Steam engine No. 316 of the Texas State Railroad (photo courtesy of the Texas State Railroad)
Trains depart on a varied year-round schedule from Palestine or Rusk. Passengers can choose between train rides pulled by diesel or steam locomotives, depending on time of year and day of travel. The popular Polar Express operates in the latter part of the year.
Visit the website of the Texas State Railroad for schedules, ticket information, groups, special events, camping options onsite, and reservations.
Texas State Railroad's steam engine No. 28 (photo courtesy of the Texas State Railroad)
Inside one of the luxurious Texas State Railroad cars (photo courtesy of the Texas State Railroad)
A popular venue in Rusk is the Cherokee Civic Theatre, located at 157 West 5th Street. It is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to the dramatic arts, and produces several shows and events each year. Read more at www.CherokeeTheatre.net
While visiting Rusk and the Tyler area, you may want to take other interesting day trips in several directions:
Historic postcard of Rusk, Texas Churches
Historic postcard of Rusk High School
Historic postcard Rusk High School