City of Austin files lawsuit in attempt to stop Zilker Zephyr operator from pulling up train tracks

Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train concession at Zilker Park, announced its permanent closure in a Jan. 29 Facebook post. Courtesy city of Austin
Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train concession at Zilker Park, announced its permanent closure in a Jan. 29 Facebook post. Courtesy city of Austin

Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train concession at Zilker Park, announced its permanent closure in a Jan. 29 Facebook post. Courtesy city of Austin

After the company that runs the Zilker Zephyr announced it would no longer operate the miniature train course at Zilker Park in late January, the city of Austin filed a lawsuit arguing for a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction to prevent the operators from pulling out train tracks at the park.

According to the lawsuit filed Jan. 31, the operator of the Zephyr, Texas Special, “removed approximately 100 bolts from the track before an Austin Police Department officer stopped the operators.

“They left after that, but the City is concerned they may still try to remove additional track,” reads the lawsuit filed by the city.

In a Jan. 30 Facebook post, the operators of the Zephyr wrote, “we are leaving Zilker Park and we are taking our big green Zephyr train with us!”

In the lawsuit, the city quotes a section of the original contract signed in 1996 with Texas Special, which reads that “all permanent concession facilities and all fixtures shall become the property of the City upon expiration or cancellation of this Agreement.” The final contract extension the two parties signed ends on Feb. 28.

The Zilker Zephyr has been closed for repairs since rainstorms last may caused erosion along the Colorado River and runoff along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

According to a Jan. 29 Facebook post from the operators of the Zephyr, the group had spent “countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars on designs and preparing paperwork for Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and City of Austin permits” when the city’s parks and recreation board voted to reopen the bid rather than extend the contract.

According to the lawsuit, on Dec. 6 the city made its final offer to Texas Special for a three-year contract with two one-year extension offers, an offer the company turned down.

After the lawsuit was filed, the city provided a written statement.

“We regret it’s come to this but when we learned the contractor was attempting to remove the track, which would limit our ability to bring in a new operator, we had no choice but to ask the courts to confirm the City’s ownership and protect the train infrastructure,” the city wrote. “The Zilker train is part of Austin history and our Parks and Recreation Department is working as quickly as possible to have the train operational.”


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