Reliving the railroad
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The Austin Steam Train Association operates a tourist train on a stretch of track in Texas from Cedar Park to Burnet. The diverse assortment of restored cars, some dating back to the 1920s, is pulled most-recently by a diesel engine, No. 442, as Southern Pacific No. 786, the original steam engine, is in the process of being repaired. The train requires more than $1 million annually to operate and would have folded long ago if not for an all-volunteer crew. ASTA staffs the crew of at least 10-15 people per train 105-110 times per year and has been doing so for more than 20 years. During a ride on the train, passengers see a wide variety of scenery, including some relics with historical significance. Among them are several large chunks of granite which fell of trains shuttling the stone decades ago from Marble Falls to Austin for the construction of the capitol building. Trains also carried granite to Galveston after the infamous hurricane hit. ASTA also provides entertainment inside the train. Themes rides sell out months in advance. Murder mystery trips are always hits but the Wine Flyer is gaining popularity. With a layover in Burnet on the Saturday Hill Country Flyers trips, passengers take time to explore a new city, have lunch and maybe do a little quick shopping. ASTA takes the operation of the train seriously and makes safety a priority. ASTA runs the train with fantastic dedication and perseverance and subsequently, generates a rolling work of history for study by families, first-timers and enthusiasts alike on a weekly basis.