A train day-trip through East Texas

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Nestled through the trees of East Texas, the railroad lines connecting Longview and Mineola provide a unique day-trip adventure filled with food, drinks, local shops, a historic movie theatre, and of course trains. Best of all, this day trip doesn’t have to break the bank.


The sights and sounds of the railroad have defined the East Texas towns of Longview and Mineola since the 1870’s. The birth and growth of the communities coincided with the laying of track through the piney wood forest that dominates this corner of Texas. The railroad brought people and spurred commerce and industry. 


Today, Amtrak’s Texas Eagle line provides daily passenger service through Longview and Mineola. Separated by only 50 miles, the train ride across the countryside takes about an hour each way.  The train trip is a bargain with Amtrak prices for the route starting at just $11 per adult each way, and half that for kids. Which is great news, because you’ll want to use your extra money to try all the amazing coffee, fresh produce, local beer, and delicious food. 


TRAIN SCHEDULE

We definitely recommend buying tickets in advance. The Amtrak app makes it easy to find tickets, plus it provides notifications if the train is running behind schedule. It’s worth noting here that Amtrak schedules can fluctuate quite a bit due to freight traffic on the rails. In other words, the train is sometimes late, so it is important to plan your trip with a mindset of flexibility.


The most important part is to catch the train. The daily train schedule heads west from Longview each morning at 8:28 am, arriving in Mineola at approximately 9:25 a.m. The eastbound train is scheduled to depart Mineola at 5:15 p.m., arriving in Longview at 6:15 p.m.




START IN LONGVIEW

Begin your day by grabbing some award winning coffee from Silver Grizzly Espresso in downtown Longview. This local favorite has been featured in Food & Wine and has been named one of the best coffee shops in Texas. It’s farther than walking distance from the depot, but it’s worth the stop before the train ride. 


Longview’s train depot, located at 905 Pacific Ave., is just to the east of Downtown in an area once known as the Junction. The historic depot was originally built in the 1940’s and has been beautifully restored. In addition to train service, the depot is now a part of a multimodal transportation campus with connections to greyhound and the local bus service known as Longview Transit. 


Before you hop on the train, let the kids play on the train themed playground next to the depot. 


THE TRAIN RIDE 

With a coach ticket, Amtrak employees will help you board the train into a regular passenger car. The coach passenger cars have comfortable wide seats and nice windows. You can stay here for your whole ride, but we recommend heading over to the viewing car at your first opportunity. We say this because the Texas Eagle Amtrak train connects passengers from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles, so at 8:30 in the morning the coach cars often include some passengers still resting from their overnight journey.


We also mention this because the viewing car is really cool. It has panoramic windows and a variety of seat choices. It really is the best car on the train, and no, you don’t need a special ticket for it. Next to the viewing car, you can grab a bite to eat as well. 




ARRIVING IN MINEOLA

The Mineola Depot is located in the middle of their quaint downtown. The depot itself is worth a visit with a neat little train exhibit inside.


If you go on a Saturday during growing season, you’ll find the Farmer’s Market just outside the depot. The fresh tomatoes, apple butter, and everything else is delicious.


Next to the farmer’s market is a mini-train ride at “Iron Horse Square.” The train is free, but it only runs on the second and third Saturday of each month from 11 am - 4 pm, March through October, so plan accordingly. 


Available year round at Iron Horse Square is a new train-themed playground that the kids will love. 


Just on the other side of the tracks, you can climb on board a real caboose. 


Beyond the caboose is the heart of downtown Mineola, filled with shops and restaurants. You can spend hours exploring the unique stores and gift shops. Walking around downtown, you’ll work up an appetite for restaurants like the East Texas Burger Company, Kitchen’s Hardware & Deli, CowBurners BBQ & Taproom, La Waffalata, Logan’s Place, Farmhouse Fried Pies, or the Paredes Family Restaurant. For the sweet tooth, the cheesecake and ice cream at Bryan’s Cheesecakes make the whole trip worthwhile. 




The Lake Country Playhouse is a dual purpose movie theatre and playhouse. When they aren’t producing live theatre shows, they offer movies on the big screen. On Saturday, you can catch a 2 p.m. matinee. Check the schedule to see what if it’s going to be a movie or live production. 


Other spots worth checking out are the Mineola Library and the Mineola Historical Museum


For those up for a much longer walk or car-ride beyond downtown, check out the splash pad at the Mineola Civic Center or the green space at the Mineola Nature Preserve.




RETURNING TO LONGVIEW

Hop back on the train to Longview at 5:15 pm. Keep in mind the train sometimes runs late. 


When you make it back to Longview, cap off your day by heading back downtown to enjoy a local brew at Oil Horse Brewery or grab food and drinks at Alibi Eatery & Craft Bar, Roma’s Italian Kitchen, Tuscan Pig Italian Kitchen, or any of the other great spots throughout Longview. 


WHEN TO GO

Anytime is great. More activities are available on Saturdays than week days. Special events worth checking out include the Mineola Iron Horse Festival the last Weekend in September or the May Fiesta Day the first Saturday in May. 


WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

Check out the East Texas Mom’s blog for a delightful Longview to Mineola story. 


PRO TIPS

  • Have a flexible mindset. The train doesn’t always run on schedule.
  • Download the Amtrak app before your trip to get alerts.
  • Check for Amtrak deals or coupon codes. There are often discounts on the already low prices.
  • Definitely consider a ride in the viewing car.
  • If you are going with kids, bring the stroller or backpack with snacks, etc.
  • Want to do a one way trip? Have a driver meet you in Mineola for greater schedule flexibility

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