One family had an extra special day out at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on Monday 20 July, when they were surprised with a once-in-a-lifetime animal experience and hamper of memorable gifts for buying the 5 millionth ticket to ride on the Zoo’s steam railway.
The Ferrier family from Marston Moretaine were delighted to discover they were the 5 millionth passengers on the Whipsnade Steam Railway. Seven-year-old Isaac, said: “All of the prizes we won are amazing but my favourite is this massive toy giraffe.” His nine-year-old brother Oscar was particularly delighted to have won a Meet the Giraffes Experience for the whole family. “I can’t wait to feed the giraffes!” he said.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo also treated the railway team to a cream tea to celebrate Whipsnade Steam Railway’s success over the past four decades.
Station Master Ron Goddard, said: “It takes a lot of hard work to run steam engines. Every day our brilliant team spend about three hours prepping the engine and getting the train ready for passengers. We have to maintain a fastidious regime to keep the engines looking pristine, but it’s all worth it. For a life-long steam enthusiast like me, working with engines is incredible, and getting to meet our 5 millionth passenger is the next best thing!”
Whipsnade Steam Railway, which first opened in 1970 to transport the Zoo’s visitors to the rhino enclosure, was opened in its current form by Princess Margaret in 1973. For the past 42 years, the Zoo’s engines, including Excelsior (1908) and Superior (1920), have been transporting visitors on a loop around ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s Asia section, treating them to unique viewing points of animals including elephants, yaks, deer, ostriches and sloth bears.
Whipsnade Steam Railway - a Timeline
1931 – ZSL Whipsnade Zoo opened to the public.
1968 – Letters between Pleasureland Ltd and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo discussed the possibility of building and running a steam railway at the Zoo.
1970 – Whipsnade Steam Railway opened to public. Originally it belonged to Pleasureland Ltd. A short line took visitors up to the rhino enclosure and back.
1973 – Princess Margaret opened the current (loop) track, which transports visitors around the Zoo’s Asia section.
1975 – 94,132 passengers rode the railway.
1976 – 126,039 passengers rode the railway. A very hot summer meant that in August of 1976 the railway broke passenger records, and this record remained unchanged until the summer of 2014.
2014 – 166,095 passengers rode the railway. This is the most ever in a year, and may well be broken again in 2015.
20th July 2015 – The 5 millionth passenger rode the Whipsnade Steam Railway.
Whipsnade Steam Railway's Engines
Excelsior - 1908 / Colour: Green / Class: Brazil / 1 of 4 / Weighs: 14.5 tons / Can pull 100 tons,
Superior - 1920 / Colour: Red / Class: Baretto / Only 1 of its design / Weighs: 18.5 tons / Can pull 120 tons.
Both were built by Kerr, Stuart and Co. Ltd.
A third engine, Chevalier, is on a formal loan to the Zoo.