A railroad is born...
The story behind the tracks
The Cedar Rock Railroad is owned and operated by Texas Bells and Whistles, a little company started by Ken Knowles and his very..., no, exceedingly patient and understanding wife, Holly.
After years of riding little trains in parks across the country and envying those lucky few who drove
them, Ken decided to look into what it would take to have a park train of his own. Ultimately, he
found a train he wanted to buy and thought it would then be just a simple process of finding a nice
place to operate it! But... not so fast.

Ken checked around in Central Texas for a few years to find a home for his train and when it looked
like things were coming together in one small town, he prepared to buy the locomotive. Fortunately
before buying the existing train, Ken tracked down the builder and instead was able to build a new
design of his own on a totally new locomotive: “Sophie.”

Since the locomotive was completed before the operating site was available, Ken spent that time
hand-building details and developing new features for the locomotive like the first-of-its-kind
synchronized smoke and steam sound system, a working track sander, and numerous other details to
make the train as unique and beautiful as possible. Later, he would design and install an entirely new
drive system for the locomotive that turned out to be ground-breaking, but that's another story.

Soon after, Commissioners in Williamson County are interested in a train for the County's brand new
800-acre park, the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park. Ken and Holly successfully bid and
then had the challenge to build a 1.4 mile, 16 gauge railroad for the public in 120 days. "Piece of
cake!" Ken thought out loud, while Holly thought to herself "OMG, we're nuts!".

Setting what must have been a record, Ken and Holly laid all the track by themselves in just 56 days
(using only the weekends and evenings after their day jobs)! Holly cut and drilled over 5200 4x4 ties
while Ken assembled the 28 tons of 12lb rail out on the right of way. Some real blood, sweat, and
tears truly went into that endeavor!

On July 16th, 2004 they broke ground and 6 months later on December 18th, they opened to their first
passengers. The railroad ran quietly for the first couple of months to be sure the kinks were worked
out and then came the Grand Opening on April 9th, 2005. The local KXAN news team gave some
great press by covering the story with an "Out on the Porch with Jim Swift" segment that captured
some great video shots of the brand new railroad in operation (also has a great aerial shot because the
news helicopter just happened to be flying over on their way to another location when we taped the
story - that was some cool karma).

Years later, Ken decided he wanted to do this full time so he quit the day job to expand the operation
into a full train-themed park-within-a-park and run it on weekdays too. The Shady Oak Junction was
born and has become a magical spot for kids and families to have a party or just play the day away in
the shade.

If you live in Central Texas or if you're ever planning to be in the neighborhood, please stop by and
check out our little railroad park. We are just a little north of Austin between Cedar Park and Round
Rock (hence the name: Cedar Rock) and we would love to meet you.