People + Parks: Celebrating the History of the Train at Zilker Park

People + Parks
, Featured Top LPs, Blog Page, Zilker Train, Groundbreakers

The Zilker Train has been an Austinite favorite for almost 60 years. Here at Austin Parks Foundation, we couldn't be more excited to bring a new mini train to Zilker Park in 2021. Don't forget to participate in the final round of voting to name the new Zilker Train before November 15, 2020!

We think it's important (and fun!) to talk about the history of the Zilker Train. In April 1961, the mini train at Zilker Park took its first trip around the tracks. In 1985, the Beall family became the new owners and continued to operate the train until 1996.

We had the opportunity to talk to Ashley Beall, who was a few months old when her parents, Charlie and Carlene, bought Zilker Park's train! Check out her family's story:

Tell us about your family's involvement with the Zilker Train!

"When I was 3 months old in the early winter of 1985, my mom saw a listing in the Statesman for the sale of the Zilker Eagle Miniature Train in Zilker Park.

Charlie Beall with his new train in 1985

My dad was a lawyer, but always a kid at heart so he liked the idea too. They called the old owner, got the first appointment, and made an offer the same day!

Opening day for my family's operation of the train was Easter weekend, where they unveiled two trains - one named "Ashley" that was painted blue for the color of my eyes and another named "Jenny" - green for my sister and her eyes.

The train played a huge part of our lives and we spent the bulk of our early years inside the train depot, collecting passenger tickets and "helping" my parents run the train for the next decade or so."

Why is the train an important asset to Zilker Park?

Carlene Beall holding her daughter Ashley

"For so many of us Austinites, the train was a staple of our upbringing. It not only reminds us of our childhood, but it gives joy to the next generation of young kids - locals and tourists alike! The ride gives views of the park, a rest from a long walk, a breeze on a hot day, and a thrilling ride for kids!

The city has made sure to keep the cost of a ticket low so that the experience is accessible to as many families as possible which is important as the city grows exponentially around it. We're coming up on the 60th anniversary of the train in Zilker Park and the park wouldn't feel the same without the train!"

What is your favorite memory of the train?

"We had an old fashioned metal ticket machine inside the train depot that was loud and clunky. My dad used to let me sit on a stool at the ticket window and punch a button (for kid or adult) and it would spit out tickets.

I couldn't count cash so someone was always with me, but punching those buttons and seeing so many happy people coming to the train with their kids is probably my favorite memory!"

What do you hope to see in the future of the train?

Ashley Beall next to Zilker Train tracks in 2016

"I have so many hopes for the future of the train! My biggest hope is that there will be an online ticket reservation system so families don't have to wait until they arrive to know they will be able to ride.

I also hope the train will expand to have a depot on the other side of the park so that it can be used as a transportation vehicle to alleviate parking and accessibility issues.

I have complete faith in Austin Parks Foundation to bring back the Zilker train better than ever! They have the resources and the dedication to steward this city treasure into a new phase for the next generation! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out."