Zoo news letterhead

April 23, 2013

Saint Louis Zoo 314/781-0900
Susan Gallagher, 314/646-4633 (cell: 314/807-5425)
Christy Childs, 314/646-4639 (cell: 314/568-4165)
Joanna Bender, 314/646-4703
Gallagher@stlzoo.org; childs@stlzoo.org; bender@stlzoo.org

Media Opportunity, Friday, April 26 at 1 p.m.
Saint Louis Zoo Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Emerson Zooline Railroad

When: Friday, April 26, 2013, 1 p.m.(Media should arrive by 12:50 p.m. at the Administration Building on Government Drive. Please contact the Public Relations Department for assistance.)

What: The Zooline Railroad kicks off its 50th year with a celebration, including appearances by civic leaders and mascots from St. Louis professional sports teams and Prairie Farms North Star Frozen Treats. Mascots and civic leaders will ride the rails before the Zoo’s CEO, the mayor of the city of St. Louis and the St. Louis county executive drive a “golden” spike into the ground at the Wild Station. The late Marlin Perkins, then director of the Saint Louis Zoo, drove a golden spike into the ground in the same area on August 29, 1963; the railroad’s first day was August 30, 1963.

A miniature train, a replica of the Zooline railroad created by model train maker Fred Varney, will be running in The Living World. Conductors will be on hand to tell stories about working on the railroad at each railroad station. A Zooline railroad engineer, representing Operation Lifesaver, will discuss safety near and on railroads.

Prairie Farms ice cream will be free as long as supplies last between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Who: St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley
The Honorable Francis G. Slay, Mayor of the City of St. Louis
Patrick J. Sly, Executive Vice President, Emerson
Larry Breitenstein, National Sales Director, Chance Rides Inc., (the rail line manufacturer)
Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and CEO, Saint Louis Zoo
Mascots: St. Louis Rams’ Rampage, the St. Louis Blues’ Louie, the North Star Frozen Treats’ Norton, plus Zoo animal characters

Where: The Wild Zooline Railroad Station near the Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel

Emerson Zooline Railroad Marks 50 Years As A Top Attraction

The Emerson Zooline Railroad—the nation’s largest miniature rail line—celebrates its 50th year in 2013. The Zooline Railroad became the Emerson Zooline Railroad in 2010 when the Zoo received a $5 million, multi-year gift from Emerson. The rail line has carried nearly 35 million riders since its first trip on August 30, 1963.

The railroad’s 20 minutes of fun and 50 years of history have made it one of the Zoo’s top attractions. Visitors who ride the train are significantly more likely to rate their overall satisfaction as excellent versus those who did not.

“The railroad simply seems to make our visitors happy,” said Joan Sisco, director of Guest Services and Attractions at the Zoo, citing the fact that the railroad offers a comfortable way to get around the 90-acre Zoo campus. “It also provides an experience few of us get to have anymore—riding in an open-seated coach pulled by a locomotive engine.”

The Zooline’s engines are a one-third size replica of the original C. P. Huntington, a famous steam locomotive first built in 1863. Known as the "Iron Horse," the C. P. Huntington helped build the first transcontinental railway.

Though the Zooline is gasoline-powered, it has the bells and whistles of a steam engine. Carrying passengers over 1 ½ miles of track that includes 8,638 railroad ties, the railroad can reach a top speed of seven miles per hour. Six locomotives, each weighing an impressive 6,600 pounds, pulling five trains of six coaches each, bring Zooline seating capacity to 78 adult passengers. Each train was fitted in 1995 with a special coach to accommodate riders who use wheelchairs.

“I truly believe that railroads like ours are timeless experiences,” said Ryan Jeffery, manager, Guest Services & Attractions. “They parallel our history from the westward expansion to industrialization to the family road trip. We all hold onto memories of riding the rails. At our Zoo, we work hard to recreate the railroad’s golden age from the replica of one of the most famous locomotives to engineers dressed in traditional overalls. We are truly lucky to have this incredible experience as part of our great Zoo history.”

All year long, visitors can buy commemorative items from Zoo gift shops.

The rail line’s 20-minute narrated ride, starting from the Wild Station, moves past the Bear Bluffs, The Living World, Monsanto Insectarium, the Emerson Children’s Zoo and along a 225-foot-long trestle. The train moves into River’s Edge, passing the cheetahs and elephants, moving under a waterfall, through two underground tunnels, then past tigers, birds, and apes and finally back to the Wild Station.

What a ride it is – and has been.