The Austin Chronicle

Zilker’s Tiny Train Is Coming Back

By Lina Fisher, August 19, 2023, 7:00am, Newsdesk

Finally, some good Zilker news – the Zilker Eagle is back.

The tiny train formerly known as the Zilker Zephyr hasn’t run since May 2019, after a storm caused erosion that damaged the tracks. But Austin Parks Foundation announced via social media Friday that the train should be back in business by the end of the year.

The Zilker Eagle took its first trip around the tracks in 1961 and getting a mini-train back in action has been a priority for APF. Repairs haven taken years, though, due to failed relationships with contractors. After the track damage, the city-contracted company that ran the train turned down the request for repairs and Council awarded APF the contract instead. (The bidding process for a new permanent operator was supposed to come after the Zilker Park Vision Plan was adopted.) APF then contracted with Phoenix-based company Railway Factory, which ended up selling them a train that didn’t work. That left the project in such disrepair that new contractors were reluctant to touch it without starting from scratch.

But the project is back on track now. According to APF’s post, they have "partnered with a local group of engineers who have the experience and expertise to deliver a safe, functioning train, and the work is already underway.” The train coaches are being retrofitted with air brakes “to ensure they're safe for passengers,” says APF – a problem that further delayed opening last fall. They’ll also add new electrical wiring for lights and a PA system. The half-buried tracks will get some adjustments later this month, and “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 after.”

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