The Great Texas Train Race

This event features man against machine.  Each year, the Texas State Railroad lets a group of cyclists come out to the State Park and challenge the Steam Locomotive to a little race. Approximately 25 miles, and at pace of 17 to 19 MPH, the train can be tough to beat.
(Not sponsored since 1998 due to a lack of volunteers.)

The History of The Great Texas Train Race
by Bob Sanford

There was a time when Tyler Bicycle Club members made it clear they wanted some activity that involved the whole family, not just the bicycle riders. This writer took that request very seriously.  Everyone knows the Tyler Bicycle Club, and in fact most bicycle clubs, are family oriented clubs and each family member of every club member is a member of our club. I think we sometimes don't realize how many non-rider members we have.  Many of those non-riders are very active in our club but they are generally excluded from our many ''riding'' events.

So, now you see the need. What to do?  The Great Texas Train Race was born. The Texas State Railroad runs between Rusk and Palestine. Train enthusiast or not, most folks agree the steam locomotive is an awesome machine able to pull very heavy loads. It's noisy and exciting and what kid doesn't like a train ride. One of my most memorable travel experiences was a train trip from Dallas to Seattle.  Perhaps one day train travel will again become commonplace in this country.  Anyway, the idea of a race between man and machine began to take shape.  Ingredients, a steam locomotive coupled to passenger and freight cars that the whole family and friends and bike racers could ride on, and twenty-six miles of beautiful east Texas countryside with rolling terrain and a nice road. what more do you need? A lot!!! You need people to put it on and a workable plan.  So the usual few and some new folks pitched in and put together an event for the whole family and the first event was put on for just the TBC. I think we had 28 riders plus a whole lot of family members.  Everyone seemed to have a great time.

The surprise came when the Texas State Railroad people came forward and requested we do it again, only next time we invite other clubs and the general public.  Well, from there we started on the next GTTR. More racers and their families came. The TBC made a little money, the TSRR made a little and everyone had a great time. Then Texas Country Reporter contacted me and wanted to do a feature story about the event and some of it's participants. And they did. They brought cameras and people and equipment including a special sidecar motorcycle and taped the event for their television show.

As one might guess there are a lot of side stories connected to this event. But I'm not ready to write a book just yet. I hope this short history lesson will encourage those who are involved with producing the next GTTR to persevere and for others to get involved and support or help with The Great Texas Train Race of 1998 and make it a tradition for years to come. It's up to you, not somebody else to make it happen.

I hope everyone has a great riding season.

Best wishes from bob sanford.

The Great Texas Train Race 1998

What a great ride!   It was a nearly perfect day. The sun was shining, unlike the weatherman had forecasted. The wind was low to non-existent, and when it did blow, it was blocked by the nice shady trees.   From the start of the race, when the train blew it's whistle, it was evident that the engineer wasn't going Palestine. In fact, train riders were heard talking about how hard the engineer jerked the cars around each time he was forced to slow down for crossings and the other train returning from Palestine.  The 17 mph average of years past was not to be seen this year.. In fact, this engineer averaged just over 19 mph from Rusk to Palestine, and each of the 14 riders who managed to beat him had to average no less than 19.2 mph to do it.  There were a grand total of 177 participants, including 111 cyclists and 3 kids along for the ride.  The oldest rider, John Becker, was 74, while the youngest rider, Nicholas Licalsi, was only 5. Quite a spread.
The trophies for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd went like this..

    1st Susan Solewin 1:09:45
    2nd Chery Grochenour 1:19:20
    3rd Galén Williams 1:24:09
    1st Michael Rodriguez 1:09:04
    2nd Mark Solewin 1:09:29
    3rd Kyle Simpson 1:09:30

If you didn't make it to the ride this year, don't miss it next year. I'm sure the engineer may try to talk the Texas State Railroad into canceling the return trip for that other train so he can cut some time off his own return trip to Palestine, and maybe.. Just maybe.. Beat those crazy cyclists next year.

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