Sometime in late 2005 and early 2006, George Bush Presidential Library, and by extension, the entire town, was wrapped up in a massive railroad exhibit.
"Trains: Tracks of the Iron Horse" opened in November 2005 in the Special Exhibits section of the George Bush Library. But unlike other special exhibits, it was wrapped up in an entire event that involved the city and Union Pacific itself. Union Pacific is the company that runs the railroad tracks in town (except for the ones in far south Brazos County--that's BNSF), having acquired them from Southern Pacific (I think) in 1996.
And regardless of being a railroad town in name only--the trains quit stopping here officially in 1995, and by the time this happened, Callaway Villas had poured concrete over where the Amtrak station once was, leaving only an overgrown platform (that's progress, I guess).
But Tracks of the Iron Horse was impressive, and kicked off numerous things in town.
#1: If you had money to spend, there was a train ride in the brand new George Bush 4141 (a specially painted Union Pacific train) to Dallas. Yes, the luxury of going in a real train from College Station (where trains only stop under unusual circumstances) to Dallas would cost you: $250 a person and up! (link)
It's likely it went on the same route up to Dallas via Corsicana. Because of the Villa Maria underpass construction at the time, and a change in the way the tracks crossed downtown, the train didn't parallel Finfeather.
#2: After the train ride, a special spur was built near the pedestrian overpass that housed the 4141. She's a beauty, and in the time since, I've seen it several times. I once got in an argument on Flickr that I had just seen it in town when the other person claimed it was in the storage yards. So obviously one of us was mistaken, or UP made multiple 4141s.
#3: Local businesses and other institutes bought fiberglass trains for $2500 to paint. I have a full brochure (it's on Project HOLD somewhere) that details the exhibit and also the train details, but here's the list. I saw the "Hot-N-Ready Express" the most often, but there were many others. In 2006 they were auctioned off, though there are still a few hanging around town.
#4: There was a talk done by the Union Pacific President and Former President George H.W. Bush, which I went to. And I talked to former President George H.W. Bush, which was amazing.
#5: There was a giant model train in the rotunda of the museum.
#6: The exhibit featured a "timeline" of how various railroad companies were eaten up to become an oligopoly industry today.
All in all, it was a fantastic exhibit and a fantastic era (if short) of the city, and one of the highlights of the year 2005. I had liked that year so much in particular that last summer on the now-defunct Two Way Roads, I dedicated an entire summer to The Spirit of 2005. Two Way Roads, of course, is defunct and often has terrible writing, but CSR&R is a spin-off of it, and thus some credit has to be given.
In the future, I may update this post with pictures of the glossy book that was handed out during that time (it's paperback and essentially a giant advertisement for UP, but it's just that cool).
EDIT 3/20/12: A better link for those train statues.
May 2013 Update: Side Stories