Author Kate Winkle
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin
AUSTIN (KXAN) — A bright, tie-dyed train will wind its way through Zilker Park this fall — and it’s got a name full of Austin history.
A train called the Zilker Eagle will once again cross the expanse of the downtown Austin green space, the Austin Parks Foundation announced Friday.
The train is brand new, but the name hearkens back to the very first train through the park that started running back in 1961.
The last time a train ran through the part was in 2019. In May of that year, it had to shut down after heavy rains caused erosion near the river. The previous operators, Texas Special, were working with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to repair it, but they couldn’t reach an agreement on a new contract.
The former operators removed the old tracks in August 2020. Since then, the Austin Parks Foundation has been working on a master plan for Zilker Park and is currently in charge of operating the train.
A City of Austin contest helped name the Zilker Zephyr back in 1997. Community input also led to the naming of this new train. APF received more than 750 submissions, which it narrowed down to seven. It received more than 7,000 votes on what the train should be named.
In addition to a tie-dye coat of paint in a nod to “old Austin charm,” and keeping Austin weird, Austin Parks Foundation Chief Mission Officer Ladye Anne Wofford says the new train is a replica of old passenger trains like the Texas Eagle that ran on the Missouri Pacific Railway through Austin in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Our hope is that this new train is going to bridge that gap between Austin’s history and Austin’s very bright future,” she said.
The new train is all-electric and will be ADA accessible, Wofford said. APF is also working on ADA improvements to the park itself as part of its master plan.
Wofford added once it begins running again, the goal is for the family-friendly attraction to be affordable. Proceeds from the train rides will go back to maintaining Zilker Park.