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The Zi​lker Eagle has landed: Mini-train will return to Zilker Park this fall with new name

Austin Parks Foundation Chief Mission Officer Ladye Anne Wofford, at podium, and CEO Colin Wallis announced the Zilker Eagle's new name on Friday, near the miniature train's starting place at Zilker Park. (Emma Freer)

The Zilker Eagle will open this fall after a restoration project helmed by the Austin Parks Foundation. The miniature train, previously called the Zilker Zephyr, shut down in May 2019 due to storm-related erosion and a contract dispute.


Since 1961, the train has taken children on a scenic route around Zilker Park, past Lady Bird Lake and the great lawn, first under the Zilker Eagle name and then as the Zilker Zephyr. Last year, the Austin Parks Foundation began a restoration project that is slated to end this fall, in time for the train's 60th anniversary.

The Zilker Eagle first opened in 1961 and later ran under the name the Zilker Zephyr. (Austin History Center)

The new, old name arose from a robust community engagement process. After receiving more than 750 name submissions, a committee of APF staff, children and others chose seven finalists. More than 7,000 Austinites voted, with the Zilker Eagle prevailing.

Austin businesses, including the Austin Motel on South Congress Avenue, welcomed the Zilker Eagle. (Austin Parks Foundation)

The train's new name earned a spot on the most coveted sign in town: El Arroyo's. (Austin Parks Foundation)

The restored train will be all-electric, which APF CEO Colin Wallis said felt appropriate given the route's location in an environmentally sensitive public park, near Barton Springs. It will also include wheelchair-accessible passenger coaches and a new tie-dye design.

"I think that tie dye really pays homage to old Austin charm," APF Chief Mission Officer Ladye Anne Wofford said. "In the '60s and '70s wearing tie dye was really considered a way to publicly display your solidarity with progressivism and also a way to be solid with the human and political revolutions of the time."

The Zilker Eagle's new design pays homage to old Austin. (Emma Freer)

In another nod to the past, the Zilker Eagle was designed to look like an old passenger train, similar to the Texas Eagle, which ran on the Missouri Pacific Railroad, with a stop in Austin, during the 1940s and '50s. (Amtrak announced last month that it will resume daily service to Austin via the Texas Eagle, which travels between Los Angeles and Chicago.)

APF will operate the train with proceeds benefiting Zilker Park. The restoration was funded in part by donations from Capital Metro, Kendra Scott and the ACL Music Festival. "We're full speed ahead and thrilled to have our community designed for the ride," Wallis said in a statement.

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