Monorail Safari

Dallas Zoo’s popular monorail reopens Friday after major renovation

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The renovated monorail has an all-new look, in addition to air-conditioned cars.

The renovated monorail has an all-new look, in addition to air-conditioned cars.

Our beloved people-mover finally reopens to guests Friday, March 25, after an extensive renovation. The renamed Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail underwent a $3 million overhaul with updated electrical and mechanical systems, train station, air-conditioning onboard, and more.

During its initial 25-year run, our monorail served nearly 4 million guests, making it one of the most popular experiences at the Zoo.

“Our monorail was a workhorse for 25 years, but it was time to give it some much-needed attention,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO. “The renovation took longer than we anticipated because of the complexity of rebuilding such a unique treasure. We appreciate the community’s patience, and know everyone will love visiting the animals and features they’ve missed, like the waterfall.”

The monorail includes three low-speed electric trains, each with 13 cars. The renovation includes:

  • Upgraded electrical and mechanical components.
  • Air-conditioning for passenger cars. (One train complete with AC, two other trains to be completed by early summer.)
  • Addition of a diesel-powered “tug” to bring trains back to the station in the event of a power failure, eliminating the need for passenger disembarkation along the route.
  • Renovation and beautification of the boarding station, including new ramps, handrails and automatic gates.
  • New paint and graphics.
  • New sound system for each train and the train station.
  • Two new bird exhibits inside the monorail station.

Monorail tickets are $5 each. Free monorail rides are included with certain levels of membership.

Our monorail, one of only a few in the nation, is rare because it runs uphill and downhill. The inclines are necessary because the zoological park sits on a hilly, heartland prairie forest.

The trains ease along at 3-4 mph on a one-mile loop around the back side of the 106-acre zoo, showing visitors six habitats not accessible by foot: mountain, woodlands, river, arid, semi-arid and bush. It also circles above the Chimpanzee Forest, crocodile pond and Penguin Cove. Other animal residents that can be viewed from the monorail include nyala, gerenuk, lesser kudu, ibex, oryx, eland, vultures, storks, addax, bongo and red river hogs.

The monorail has been closed since August 2014, when an Oncor power surge outside of the zoo burned out an electrical part aboard one of the trains. While the train was just 12 feet off the ground, we exercised extra caution and asked Dallas Fire crews to help remove 48 passengers. It was the third time in three years that fire crews had responded after stoppages.

The trains are designed with multiple “fail-safes,” which keep them from moving in the event of an electrical issue, such as a power surge or breaker burnout. All three stoppages were the result of these features. However, stoppages are unacceptable to us, and after the August incident, the decision was made to shut down the system for the evaluation.

After an extensive assessment, electrical and structural specialists and engineers concluded that the monorail was in good condition, with only minor issues. Like a 25-year-old car, however, it needed more attention than a newer model. Replacing the monorail completely would be very costly. In 1990, it cost $20 million to build, and that number would have been significantly higher today.

Enjoy this video of a few of the sights along the route.

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Monorail Safari to get a complete renovation

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The renovated monorail will have an all-new look, as shown in this graphic of the train over the Nile crocodile habitat, in addition air-conditioned cars.

The renovated monorail will have an all-new look, as shown in this graphic of the train over the Nile crocodile habitat, in addition air-conditioned cars.

The Dallas Zoo will completely overhaul the popular Monorail Safari, updating electrical and mechanical systems and adding air-conditioning, with a goal of reopening the people-mover this summer.

After an extensive, months-long evaluation, electrical and structural specialists and engineers concluded that the monorail is in good condition, with only “minor issues.” Like a 25-year-old car, however, it needs more attention than a newer model.

“Our monorail has performed incredibly well for 25 years, serving nearly 4 million guests,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO. “It’s a safe experience, with not a single injury in that time. But we want to provide only the best experience for our guests, and this renovation is necessary to do that.”

The $3 million project, scheduled to be finished by early summer, includes:

  • Upgraded electrical and mechanical components.
  • Air-conditioning for passenger cars.
  • Addition of a diesel-powered “tug” to bring trains back to the station in the event of a power failure, eliminating the need for passenger disembarkation along the route.
  • Renovation of the boarding station and ramps.
  • New paint and graphics.

The Monorail Safari includes three low-speed electric trains, each with 13 cars. The trains ease along at 3 mph on a one-mile loop around the back side of our 106-acre zoo, allowing visitors to see six habitats not accessible by foot: mountain, woodlands, river, arid, semi-arid and bush. Going through the waterfall on a hot day is a favorite experience. It also circles above the Chimpanzee Forest, Nile crocodile pond and Penguin Cove.

The Monorail Safari crosses under its cool waterfall in August 1990, soon after it opened. Nearly 4 million people have ridden the monorail in its 25-year history.

The Monorail Safari crosses under its cool waterfall in August 1990, soon after it opened. Nearly 4 million people have ridden the monorail in its 25-year history.

It’s extremely popular with our visitors, with more than 250,000 riders each year. Free monorail rides are included with certain levels of membership.

“Believe me, since August we’ve heard from thousands of our guests, and they want it back,” Hudson said. “And so do we. But like every other decision, we had to make it in a fiscally responsible way.”

The monorail, one of only a few in the nation, is rare because it runs uphill and downhill. The inclines are necessary because the Dallas Zoo sits on a hilly, heartland prairie forest.

Zoo officials closed the monorail in August after an Oncor power surge outside of the zoo burned out an electrical part aboard the Elephant train, stranding 48 passengers. While the train was just 12 feet off the ground, we exercised extra caution and asked Dallas Fire crews to assist. It was the third time in three years that fire crews had responded after stoppages.

The trains are designed with multiple “fail-safes,” which keep them from moving in the event of an electrical issue, such as a power surge or breaker burnout. All three stoppages were the result of these features. However, stoppages are unacceptable to us, and after the August incident, the decision was made by zoo officials to shut down the system for the evaluation.

The monorail has remained closed for the winter season, as we worked to put together financing for the overhaul. Replacing the monorail completely would be very costly. In 1990, it cost $20 million to build, and that number would be significantly higher today.

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Monorail Safari remains closed for in-depth assessment

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blg_MonorailWaterfallThe Monorail Safari will remain closed while the Dallas Zoo brings in outside experts to collaborate on a top-to-bottom evaluation of the popular people-mover, which serves more than 200,000 visitors each year.

The monorail halted Wednesday after an off-site voltage surge from an Oncor feeder line. The heat was not a factor, nor did the train malfunction; it’s designed to stop after a significant power event. The 48 passengers and the driver climbed down 12-foot ladders. The evaluation will explore why the train remained stopped after the power supply was restored and examine the overall electrical systems and components of the entire monorail.

“Our emergency plan worked exactly as it should have Wednesday during this unfortunate incident,” said Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo. “However, as one of the nation’s leading zoos, we won’t rest until we get answers about anything that affects our visitors’ experience. This comprehensive evaluation will give us the information we need to decide about the monorail moving forward.”

The zoo has reached out to several firms specializing in public conveyances and anticipates having a contract signed next week. The evaluation is expected to take several weeks.

Zoo members may exchange their monorail coupons for free rides on the Safari Express mini-train on Picnic Ridge.

The Monorail Safari includes three low-speed electric trains, each with 13 cars that move at 3 mph. It runs on a one-mile loop around the back side of the 106-acre zoo, allowing visitors to see six habitats not accessible by foot: mountain, woodlands, river, arid, semi-arid and bush. It also circles above the Chimpanzee Forest, Nile crocodile pond and Penguin Cove. It’s one of just a few in the nation that goes uphill and downhill; the inclines are necessary because the Dallas Zoo sits on a hilly, heartland prairie forest.

The 24-year-old monorail has been upgraded through the years with updated components, including the electrical system and the 12 motors that propel each train. These efforts have extended the monorail’s lifespan significantly. Repairs and updates are performed by the zoo’s experienced eight-member team of mechanical and electrical experts, which also works with outside consultants as needed.

“Our monorail team is experienced and creative,” Hudson said. “Most have been working with this train for more than a decade, so they’ve very familiar with it. Their hard work is the reason why millions of visitors have been able to experience the Monorail Safari over the past 24 years. We are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that our guests are not inconvenienced by another unexpected stoppage.”

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Off-site power outage appears to be cause of Dallas Zoo monorail stoppage

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An off-site power surge is believed to be the reason the Dallas Zoo’s Monorail Safari electric train stopped today with 48 guests and one driver on board.

The monorail slowed to a halt at 11:37 a.m. about 12 feet off of the ground in the Woodlands habitat. The train is designed to stop with an electrical issue, including a power surge. The zoo’s Guest Services team immediately provided water and snacks to the guests on board while engineers tried to restart the train. When the monorail was unable to be restarted quickly, zoo officials requested assistance from the Dallas Fire Department to carefully remove passengers from the train.

blg_MonorailAug6Dallas Fire responded within minutes and helped passengers climb down on ladders. All emergency procedures worked as they were supposed to and all guests were evacuated in a very orderly and safe manner. The Dallas Zoo appreciates the experience and professionalism of the Dallas Fire team, as well as the calm response of our guests aboard the train.

The monorail will remain closed through Friday while the zoo’s engineering team inspects the three trains and the track to ensure that no electrical damage has occurred from the surges, which are common in Texas during hot summer months.

The stoppage occurred under large trees that provide shade over most of the train. The cars were facing the habitat housing the zoo’s new baby eland, which was quite curious about the hubbub and provided the guests with a special view of the calf and her parents.

The popular Monorail Safari is 24 years old and remains a guest favorite, with hundreds of thousands of riders each year. Long-term, the zoo is looking at options for the Wilds of Africa habitat which the Monorail overlooks, which would include replacing the monorail. As a non-profit zoological park, private funding would be required for such a project.

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