Our Zoo Train challenge kicked off this morning with close to 70 students from 6 area high schools meeting at the Zoo. This year students are taking on the design of a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives. The tower has been in place since the train was first installed at the Zoo 60 years ago. At that time it was positioned between the two sets of tracks that run past the station. When safety requirements dictated four feet of clearance between the train and the tower it was moved to its present location, near the gate where riders exit.
On hand for the event were Davidson Ward, from the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), and Ken Ristow, who has worked as an engineer for the Zoo train for the past 20 years. Davidson provided background on CSR’s bio-fuel testing at the Zoo. CSR is working with the University of Minnesota to develop a fuel to replace coal for recreational steam railways like the Zoo’s. Ken was able to address what it’s like to work with the current water tower, where they’ve had to make do, and what they’d like to see improved. That includes the educational display which currently stands near the water tower.
Student teams had been given a set of guidelines for the project at the start of the semester, so they came well prepared with questions for us, CSR, and Zoo staff.