During a train run, Patton and Ristow are respon- sible for adding coal and water to the engine as neces- sary, checking on the engine to make sure it’s working properly and driving the train. The 8-ton locomotive is capable of surprisingly fast speeds—up to 35 miles per hour—but usually runs at only about 5 to 6 miles per hour. Ristow estimates that a steam engine goes through 8 to 10 pounds of coal and 10 to 15 gallons of water on each 10-minute trip. Says Ristow: “When you’re driving a steam engine, you’re always doing something— adding fuel or water, or making sure the nuts and bolts aren’t loose.” (In contrast, driving a diesel engine, similar to a car engine, is pretty easy, says Patton. “You just push buttons and make sure that the train stays on the tracks.”)
Keeping the train spic and span is also challeng- ing. “Engines weren’t necessarily designed to make them easy to work on,” says Hackbarth. During the operating season, the engineers clean, grease and oil engines daily. The real work starts in the winter, when the train and its cars are stored in a heated garage. Ristow and Patton paint and refurbish the coaches and take apart the engines to make sure they work well. Although train-repair companies sometimes provide specially made parts, “we do most of the maintenance here at the Zoo,” says Ristow. Finding parts for custom-made, intricate steam engines is sometimes akin to a treasure hunt. For example, in 2005 an old boiler on one of the steam engines no longer met Wisconsin regulations. An outside compa- ny made a new boiler, but it was not compatible with the Zoo’s standards. It took about 18 months to make a boiler that fit properly.
Working on a train can be exhausting, but Ristow and Patton aren’t complaining. They like their job, they say, because it is unique. There aren’t too many places where you can do this,” says Patton. Adds Ristow, a longtime train hobbyist: “I like the smell of the coal and smoke and steam.” After riding the train, most zoogoers have no trouble believing that the coal and smoke and steam are indeed real. “The kids just love it,” Patton says. “After a train a ride, a 4-year-old girl once ran up to me and gave me a hug.”
By Julia Kolker
There’s more than one way to see the Milwaukee County Zoo.
More than 230,000 visitors each year take in the sights and sounds of the park from the Zoo’s moving attractions: the Penzeys Spices Carousel, the MidAmerica Bank Zoomobile, and the Kalahari Waterpark Resort Sky Safari. So it’s no surprise that it takes a team of Zoo employees to keep the attractions spinning, gliding and rolling smoothly throughout the year. Here’s the behind-the-scenes scoop.
Penzeys Spices Carousel
Don’t be surprised if you see a seat on the carousel that looks a lot like a real Zoo animal. The carousel’s seats were custom-made
to resemble the Zoo’s inhabitants, including the tigers, lions and horses, says Mike Garcia, trans- portation supervisor. The carousel, installed in 1995, was purchased for $300,000 because there was a demand for this type of attraction,
The Penzeys Spices Carousel at the Zoo features our own Zoo animals, such as the ostrich.
adds Garcia. The Zoo’s visitor services staff operate the ride and inspect its moving parts daily. The carousel runs from April through mid-December, weather permitting.
MidAmerica Bank Zoomobile
The current Zoomobiles, spon-
Zoomobiles have been around almost as long as the Zoo itself: since 1962. The open-air trams, which
sored by MidAmerica Bank, have been running since 1962.
operate from mid-April to October, take Zoo visitors on a guided, 25-
minute, round-trip tour of the Zoo. Maintaining a zoomobile is a lot like caring for a car, says Garcia: Engines, tires, breaks and sound systems are checked monthly and yearly. In the winter, Zoomobiles are stored on State Fair Park grounds.
Kalahari Waterpark Resort Sky Safari
It’s no coincidence that Sky Safari chairs are green. “All other sky rides in Wisconsin are bright carnival colors,” says Cyrill Owens of SkyFair Inc., which operates the ride at the Zoo. “This one had to be green to blend in with the camouflage of the Zoo.” The sky ride, which opened in August 2005, gives zoogoers a panoramic view of the exhibits from 45 feet in the air. The 12-to-15-minute round trip includes sights of the camels, alpacas, tigers, rhinos and polar bears in their outdoor exhibits. Owens, who oper- ates the sky ride at the Zoo, checks the equipment daily and greases the moving parts. The ride is open on Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day and on weekends in May, weather permitting. Kat Mazang of Milwaukee and daughters Sara (left), 5, and Kat, 8, enjoyed the Sky Safari, sponsored by Kalahari Waterpark Resort, during a warm April day in 2006.
Alive WINTER 2007