We went to the closest depot, Palestine Station in Palestine, Texas, one of the Union Pacific Railroad's Train Town, USA cities, as it was closest. In reading the online reviews, most people suggest taking this route, from Palestine, Texas to Rusk, Texas. My son really wanted to ride "the black train", not "the red, green, and black train", and thankfully the black steam engine, #316 was running the Palestine to Rusk route, while the black, red, and green steamie, #300 was departing from Rusk Depot and travelling to Palestine and back.
When we got there, we saw that the gift shop was closed down at this station, but they did allow the kids to get in the steam engine and take a tour, including a look at the firebox. My son was very excited to see this. We had purchased tickets for the open air coach, so the wind could blow freely around us, keeping us cool. There is also an option of a closed coach or more expensive air conditioned coaches with servers. The open-air coach was in the front for the first leg of the ride and in the back for the final leg. My son thought the whistle was too loud and kept his ears plugged most of the way to Rusk, but on the way back this was not an issue and he enjoyed it much more, playing with the other kids at the very back of the train.
At the halfway point, the train headed from Rusk Depot to Palestine Depot goes on a siding and allows the eastbound train to pass, which was really neat. Along the way there were a number of railroad sights, such and roundtables, and y-tracks, along with a lot of crossings, but mostly it was nice to see the forest, rivers, and swamps. We also saw a black bear. Others told us that you can often see deer on the ride as well.
In Rusk there are some nice sites and a huge lake, so it was a nice 1 1/2 hour stop after riding the rails for 1 1/2 hours. The gift shop only had a few Thomas and Friends items remaining, as they used to be a Day Out With Thomas Destination, but no longer are with their new owners, Iowa Pacific/American Heritage Railways. Thankfully there are still 3 Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway tables for the kids to play with.
All in all, my son had a fun time, but wants to ride a Diesel next time since the Steamies are too loud. I wrote the railway about that and they informed me that this year on July 7th, the train from Rusk Station to Palestine Station will be pulled by a diesel. So maybe he will get his wish!
As an aside, if you are looking for old Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway engines and destinations, check out your local Buy Buy Baby, I have found old engines like Lady that cannot be found anywhere else! You will not find any of the current toys or movies, however.