Zilker’s mini-train 'back on track' to reopen after being out of service since 2019
Well, folks, the restoration of Zilker Park’s beloved mini-train is back on track, with testing expected to begin this fall.
The Austin Parks Foundation, which operates the train, announced the news in a tweet Friday, saying plans to restore the train were moving along “after facing some challenges and setbacks."
After facing some challenges and setbacks, we are happy to report that our plans to restore the beloved Zilker Train are officially back on track!🧵— Zilker Eagle (@zilkereagle) August 18, 2023
The Austin Parks Foundation said it partnered with a group of local engineers who were able to make the train safe and functional.
The mini-train was introduced to the park in 1961. Back then it was called the Austin Eagle. Most recently, it was called the Zilker Zephyr.
But that train has been out of commission since May 2019, after a storm caused erosion that washed out the ground beneath some of the tracks.
As Nathan Bernier reported for ATXplained earlier this year, the city gave control of the train to the Austin Parks Foundation in 2020. The nonprofit raises money to maintain and improve local parks. But the nonprofit had no experience running mini-trains and bought a train that didn't work from a company that no longer exists. Supply chain shortages spurred by the pandemic also got in the way.
Since then, the foundation has been looking for ways to fix the ride. On Friday, it said things were moving in the right direction.
“The train coaches were recently transported to an off-site facility to be retrofitted with airbrakes to ensure they're safe for passengers,” the foundation said in a tweet. “They'll also receive new electrical wiring for lights and a PA system.”
The new train will be called the Zilker Eagle, an ode to the train’s original name.
“Later this month, we’ll start working on making some track adjustments," the tweet said. "Our hope is that if all goes well, the new and improved Zilker Eagle will enter the testing phase in late fall, with the train opening to the public shortly thereafter."