It's late Saturday morning when the piney woods excursion train rolls into the Texas State Railroad depot in Rusk. Passengers of all ages exit the cars, but they all seem to share a positive opinion of the ride.
But, things weren't always so bright. Not too long ago, the TSRR and the trip run on it was operated by Iowa Pacific. The company had been experiencing financial issues and had to make some cuts.
"When we laid off the employees, one of the people that was in charge of doing the marketing for the railroad put out a rogue press release without any authorizations, saying that the railroad was shut down," said general manager, Greg Udolph.
Still, the TSRR forged ahead. They split with Iowa Pacific and picked up with the Western Group. Today, the railroad is making its way back to normal.
"The numbers are down, but the numbers are coming back," said Udolph. "We're starting to see that it's no longer trending towards the 'I thought you were shut down' and now towards the 'what's new, what's going on."
Updates and renovations were a must under the new ownership. And, it seems to be having a positive effect with the passengers.
"We took all of the tables that were in here, out, and got seats and repainted the walls," said Udolph. "And, we've increased our services on it, with food and drink and hors d'oeuvre and somebody to give everyone the attention they need, and it's really turned into an awesome experience for our guests."