If the Texas State Railroad Park in Rusk stays open, it'll cost the state $40-$50 million to operate it over the next ten years. Most of that funding is needed to pay for repairs. But now, state lawmakers have agreed to shut down the train and turn it into a museum; something local leaders believe would also cost the state money.
Palestine Mayor Carolyn Salter said, "Static displays don't have the sort of attraction that a moving history museum does. People want the experience of riding on a steam train and they're not going to get that if they look at a static display."
Mayor Salter is a member of the Texas State Railroad Operating Agency - an effort between Rusk and Palestine to keep the historic attraction up and running.
"It brings in all kinds of visitors from all over the country and it provides recreation for people from Houston and Dallas and Austin," Salter said. "It's a piece of history that if we let it go, we'll never be able to recreate it again."
The railroad is set to close in five months, unless a qualified private operator takes it over.
T.S.R.O.A. member, Dan Davis, said, "Four individuals and companies submitted proposals. All four of these are the elite of operating tourist railroads in the United States and all four of them saw the great potential for the Texas State Railroad, and an opportunity for the railroad to make money in a very short period of time."
If contract negotiations fall through, the Texas State Park will become a museum on September 1st.