SANFORD, Fla. (May 25, 2023) — It’s full steam ahead at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens for one of the most exciting announcements of the year. The Sanford nonprofit’s new train brings back a beloved guest experience.
The Zoo held a ribbon cutting today for the train, which carries guests on a loop around the Zoo’s property through natural Florida landscaping, across realistic crossings and into the depot near the entrance to the Zoo.
Rides are now available for guests for $5 per person, or $4 for Zoo passholders. VyStar Credit Union members receive a $1 discount on train rides when they show a VyStar debit or credit card.
The train will run approximately every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. daily.
“It’s always exciting when we can bring something new to the Zoo,” said Richard E. Glover, Jr., the Zoo’s CEO. “We know the families and community members who love the Zoo will be excited to have this attraction back and will look forward to taking a ride on our new train.”
The train, called The Champion, was built in 2021 and is a one-quarter scale model of a real Atlantic Coast Line Railroad streamliner. The real-life version of the train provided daily service from New York to Miami starting in 1939. The Zoo’s train was made possible by several sponsors, including VyStar, which sponsored the train’s engine.
“This exciting partnership with the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens demonstrates our commitment to supporting communities throughout Central Florida and providing our members with unique opportunities to enjoy top local attractions,” said VyStar Credit Union SVP, Florida Market President, Lysa Barbano. “We are thrilled to be working together to create amazing experiences and look forward to seeing our members enjoy train rides, animals, and other attractions at the Zoo.”
Wharton-Smith, Inc. is also a sponsor of the train station and donated construction services to prepare the attraction for opening.
“The miniature train has been a fixture at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens since 2003. It was always a treat with every Zoo visit for myself and my children growing up,” said Tim Smith, President and CEO of Wharton-Smith. “Wharton-Smith has been a committed and proud partner to our hometown Zoo for 37 years. This was our first gift from the Wharton-Smith Foundation. We could not be happier with the impact of our donation and to have our name on the train station. Many thanks to our team that partnered with the Central Florida Zoo to make improvements to this historic attraction. We are thrilled to be a part of its future.”
Finally, the train’s caboose is sponsored by D&A Building Services. D&A President and CEO, Albert Sarabasa Jr., is a longtime Zoo board member and supporter.
“Families across Central Florida love coming to the Zoo and riding the train,” Sarabasa said. “We are as excited as everyone to have our family and yours enjoy the train once again.”
To make way for the new attraction, the Zoo made updates to its tracks and crossings, working with state and other independent inspectors.
“Cutting the ribbon on this attraction today is sure to be one of the highlights of our year here at the Zoo,” Glover said. “We look forward to seeing all of the smiling faces on the train in the weeks and months to come.”