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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Beloved Zilker Miniature Train to Return

Zilker Eagle Makes Its Debut
Mallory Milner
Smiling, Mallory Milner ’24 rides Zilker Park’s miniature train in 2013. Although a storm put the train out of service in 2019, the Austin Parks Foundation (APF) plans to complete its reconstruction this fall.

On Friday, Aug. 18, the Zilker Eagle Twitter account announced their plans to restore the currently out-of-service Zilker train. “Zilker Eagle” is the new name for the miniature train, which loops through the premises of Zilker Park, located in the heart of downtown Austin. The beloved attraction had previously been out of service since 2019. However, the reparations it needs are finally being put into action.

“I’m really excited,” Marley Carter ‘24 said. “I used to go [to Zilker Park] when I was younger with my dad and my grandma and that was just a big part of my childhood and I am glad that I might be able to ride it again. My grandma used to live downtown and every weekend I would go to her house and we would spend the weekend in that area, so those are the memories it brings back.”

The Zilker Eagle, previously known as the “Zilker Zephyr,” started running on April 22, 1961. It had been made by a local toy store worker teamed up with a railroad worker. The train became well integrated into the park. The tracks ran through long tunnels, along the Lady Bird Lake trails, under bridges, and even through the Zilker playground itself.

Unfortunately, in May 2019, a storm eroded the ground beneath the tracks, causing the beloved mini train to be out of service. The company that ran the train, Austin Special, was unable to reach an agreement with the city regarding the renewal of the tracks. Control was therefore handed over to Austin Parks Foundation (APF), an organization that had little experience with maintaining trains.

The train was expected to return in the fall of 2021, but the APF encountered weather, construction, shipping, and production delays, pushing the train’s awaited return further and further. Despite their struggles, AFP was determined to get the train back up and running. They were eventually able to partner with local engineers in order to make the train safe and functional. The train is scheduled to be back in operation this fall.

As Austin becomes increasingly gentrified, more and more nostalgic and widely appreciated local attractions are starting to dwindle off. The return of the Zilker Eagle is exciting to local Austinites, as it could initiate a widespread preservation of all loved Austin attractions.

“I’m very happy about [the train] coming back,” Allison Petty ‘24 said. “Riding the train was a prominent part of my childhood that brings back feelings of nostalgia. Overall, I’m happy that other kids will get to experience the fun I had on the train when I was little. We were missing an important part of Austin culture and [having] it back feels right.”

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About the Contributor
Mallory Milner
Mallory Milner, Reporter
Class of 2024 Hi! I am a senior and this is my third year as a reporter for Westwood Horizon. Outside of press I enjoy hanging out with my friends, reading, and spending time outside.

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    Scott MilnerOct 7, 2023 at 7:55 am

    Those are the cutest three kids ever. Just my unbiased opinion.