My Mom and Dad used to take me (and then me and my brother) to visit our grandparents in D’Hanis, Texas every year. That was the true beginning of the Texas Central, because if my Dad had found a way to not drive through a bunch of small towns with low speed limits, just to see his in-laws, he would have jumped at it.
So, the Texas Central connects Dallas with D’Hanis, my Mom’s hometown.
In 2013, my Dad passed away and we spent a lot more time with my Mom.
When there was a memorial for my Dad, my Mom decided she didn’t want to fly any more, but luckily, she didn’t want to go to New Jersey, just to her hometown in South Texas. We followed the Texas Central, which has two routes – either down the main line through Austin, or through the Hill Country. These were the same two routes I used to take to college (St Mary’s University in San Antonio.) I only got speeding tickets on the Hill Country line.
The Texas Central is actually the oldest route in the system, since my family has been driving from Dallas to D’Hanis and back since before I-35 was completed. Driving on the US highways through all the small towns used to stress my Dad out a lot, but he never went through the Tennessee Hills in the rain with two backseat drivers and a Shih-Tzu.
The Amtrak equivalent to this route is the Texas Eagle, which has daily service from San Antonio to Chicago. So, you can go from Dallas to San Antonio on the train – it’s probably the only route in all of this which actually exists as a physical train. You can’t get to D’Hanis (the Eagle does run through town on the way to Del Rio but it doesn’t stop) but you can get to San Antonio.
The best part of trains are the route names. The Texas Central is not that strong a name. Texas Eagle is a good name, but it’s taken. Since much of the time, we were going to funerals, I suppose “Texas Buzzard” would be accurate, but perhaps not in the best of taste.
The Coastal Line
The Coastal Line is another route that will have an actual train on it some day – there is a private, high-speed rail project to connect Dallas and Houston.
I had used this line to commute to my job in Houston for a couple of years, although after a few round trips, I decided it was easier to fly and just rent a car for the weekend when I came home. I-45 is not the most exciting drive, even if you can stop at Buc-ee’s now.
Mom and my brother were invited to my cousin’s daughter’s wedding in Houston, so that was the earliest trip on the Coastal Line.
We also included my Mom on a couple of our cruises. We took one cruise out of Houston on the Norwegian Jade at Christmas, just to find out that we weren’t calling on the one port we wanted to visit, and Norwegian was opting out of their contract a few months later. So, we did the same cruise again (and missed our port again) with my Mom along for the ride.
This was the start of the Coastal Line – which was extended to Galveston when we went on the Carnival Freedom.