The Zoo Bids Farewell to Its Steam Locomotives

Posted Date

March 14, 2024


In The News

Considered a historic attraction, the North Shore Bank Safari Train is the Milwaukee County Zoo’s oldest and most popular ride. And this year, the Train’s No. 1916 and No. 1924 steam locomotives (engines) will leave the station for the last time, transferring to the Riverside & Great Northern Preservation Society (R&GN) in the Wisconsin Dells. The No. 1916 engine will depart on April 1, followed by the No. 1924 engine on Oct. 31. The sale of the steam engines supports the Zoo’s mission of conservation and sustainability and aligns with Milwaukee County’s vision of becoming the healthiest county in Wisconsin. The Train will continue to operate as usual with the Zoo’s No. 1958 and No. 1992 diesel engines.

The purchase by R&GN — a not-for-profit organization — ensures the preservation of the steam engines, to operate as part of its living museum. Through the years, the steam locomotives operated in rotation with the Zoo’s diesel locomotives for optimal environmental considerations. In their place, the Zoo plans to acquire two new, custom-built diesel engines for future use.

The first diesel engine, compliant with EPA tier 4 regulations, is expected to arrive within 18-24 months*. This important change is anticipated to decrease particulate emissions by 90%. The commitment to new diesel-fueled engines also embraces up-to-date technology, improves engineer ergonomics, and enhances guest experience with the ability to operate year-round, weather permitting. The details of the second diesel engine are yet to be determined, but it will be another custom-built solution focused on increased sustainability, more efficient ergonomics, and modern technology.

Since 1992, the Zoo’s four locomotives — two steam and two diesel — have powered the Train to carry more than 400,000 guests annually throughout our parkland. We honor the countless memories that the steam engines have helped create over the years and look back fondly at the legacy they leave behind. And yet, we look forward, to a brighter and more sustainable future as the Zoo embraces the next generation of diesel locomotives to come.

Steam engine fans should stay tuned, as the Zoo plans to announce a limited run of the No. 1924 engine for guests to enjoy later this year, before it transfers to R&GN.

For frequently asked questions about the sale of the steam engines, click here.


* Arrival of the first custom-built diesel engine was previously expected to arrive in fall 2024/winter 2025.

For faster entry: Members and pre-ticketed guests, park at West End (enter at 106th St).