FAQs: Steam Engines Sale

  • What made the Zoo decide to sell the two steam locomotives to the Riverside and Great Northern Museum (R&GN)?

    In recent years, the Milwaukee County Zoo has had a significant concern with operating the steam locomotives (engines), while still following its mission of conservation and sustainability.


    The sale will allow the engines to be preserved. In addition, the proceeds from the sale will be used to purchase two new environmentally friendly diesel locomotives.

  • Why was the Riverside and Great Northern Museum chosen as a home for the locomotives?

    R&GN is a living museum dedicated to steam locomotives. When an investor came forward and offered to purchase the Zoo locomotives, it was clear that the beloved engines would be carefully preserved, and the Zoo could continue its mission of conservation and sustainability.

  • What are the details of the new locomotives that will be purchased for future use?

    Both locomotives the Zoo will purchase will operate on diesel fuel. The first new engine to be purchased will be in scale to the general-purpose (GP) locomotives (any in the series of electro-motive four-axle diesel locomotives). Both locomotives will feature an efficient engine, effective ergonomics, and up-to-date technology.


    The details of the second diesel engine haven’t been determined yet, however it will be another custom-built solution focusing on better sustainability, ergonomics, and technology.


    The new engines will improve engineer ergonomics and enhance the ability to run year-round, weather permitting.

  • Will the new diesel engines be custom-built for the Zoo?

    The first engine will be compliant with EPA tier 4 regulations and is expected to arrive within 18-24 months*.


    The change to diesel fuel is anticipated to decrease particulate emissions by 90%. This aligns with Milwaukee County’s vision of becoming the healthiest county in Wisconsin, and further supports the Zoo’s mission.


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

  • Why diesel, rather than electric or solar-powered?

    Diesel locomotives are currently the Zoo’s safest and most efficient way to operate. This is based on load and weight of the cars and passengers. Although the Zoo doesn’t have an electric or solar-powered locomotive, it has been discussed and explored as an option for future operations.

  • Will the passenger carriages be updated as well?

    Yes, the North Shore Bank Safari Train is updated annually as part of preventative maintenance. This year, six coaches (cars) are expected to complete renovation, including mechanical underbody work, roofing, and exterior work. As much as possible, the Zoo uses wood that’s fallen from our very own parkland to help replace deteriorated wood on the coaches.

  • Will there be any changes to the North Shore Bank Safari Train’s capacity as a result of the sale and purchase?

    No, the Zoo will continue to offer 8-12 cars per Train, based on estimated attendance. Twelve is the greatest number of cars the Zoo’s locomotive can safely tow. This is based on visibility from the engineer to the rear of the Train, as well as the length of the Train from the Station to Crossing 4.

  • Will the steam locomotives be in operation at R&GN?

    Yes, the engines are being purchased by R&GN to become part of its living museum.

  • When will the steam locomotives leave the Zoo?

    The No. 1916 locomotive will leave April 1, 2024 – the No. 1924 locomotive will transfer October 31, 2024.


    The Zoo will announce a limited run of the steam engines this year, for guests to enjoy, before they transfer to R&GN.