Today, trains remain an important part of the city: Leander is the only suburb in Central Texas with a Capital Metro rail stop.
Members of the community are now paying tribute to this symbol of Leander through the Trail of Trains, a project spearheaded by the chamber of commerce and public arts commission in which businesses can purchase a concrete train sculpture, paint it and place it in front of their business.
“It really does tie our future and our past together,” chamber President Bridget Brandt said.
The project began in 2017, when the chamber’s Leadership Leander Class decided to pursue a project that brings art to Leander and celebrates the city’s history, Brandt said. Other nearby cities have done similar initiatives, such as Hutto’s hippo statues and Wimberley’s cowboy boot sculptures.
Each Leander train is made from concrete poured into a cast. The cast was made based on the original steam train that came through Leander, Brandt said.
“That train is custom to Leander only,” Brandt said. “It’s the only place in the world that can use that train.”
Currently, there are seven trains around the city, but 10 more have been sold and should be painted and placed in the next year, Brandt said.
Businesses that purchase a train can hire a local artist to paint it or opt to paint it themselves. Each sculpture weighs 680 pounds and is about 4 feet long and 2 feet tall. Trains are on display at H-E-B, Cashway Building Materials and A+ Federal Credit Union, among other places.
Baylor Scott & White Clinic-Leander got a train in May. LeeAnn Duke, education specialist for Baylor Scott & White, said the staff saw it as a chance to support the community.
“I think businesses that typically you wouldn’t think would have anything to do with each other are coming together,” Duke said. “I feel like it just shows the tight-knit community that Leander is.”
The project has also been a way for local artists to showcase their talents. Jennifer Jones, chair of the Leander Public Arts Commission, has painted four trains. She said each train has a unique design.
“We wanted to make them artistically designed, not necessarily an advertisement for the business it is in front of,” Jones said. “Every train is individual to the artist that painted it.”Trains are not restricted to businesses.
In September, the seventh train was placed at Robin Bledsoe Park, a donation from Cashway, Brandt said. Leander resident and artist Amanda Gifford painted the train. It features images of city celebrations such as the Devine Lake Kite Festival, Movies in the Park and Liberty Fest.
“I’m really happy because it shows what the parks and recreation does for Leander and how many different opportunities there are for families to get together,” Gifford said.
As more trains come to the city, Brandt said the chamber hopes to set up a program in which people can fill out a “passport,” marking off all the trains they have seen. Completed passports could then be redeemed for prizes.
“It’s just a fun way to get people visiting different businesses in Leander and also appreciating art in Leander,” Brandt said.