LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It was a sight Louisville Zoo visitors hadn't seen in nearly four years, as the zoo tested its new open-air train Wednesday afternoon.

The small train, which is expected to provide rides for children and other zoo visitors, was driven slowly down the tracks by zoo staff. Zoo visitors pointed and smiled as the horn let out a few playful toots.

The new train is not available for rides yet.

It's welcome news for area residents who grew up riding a train at the zoo. 

"The community loves the train," said John Walczak, director of the Louisville Zoo. "They've told us they want it back, and we want to make sure that this ride is, of course, a fun and wonderful experience that everyone enjoys. We are spending the utmost time making sure that every detail and every safety implementation is done and checked and checked again."

Historically, an open-air train ride has been a central part of the zoo experience, but no rides have been available since the June 2009 train crash. During that incident, the train flipped over on its side, sending 22 people, many of them children, to area hospitals. 

A report the Kentucky Department of Agriculture released in March 2010 pointed to three contributing factors that led to the accident: excessive speed as the train went through the downhill curve, the poor mechanical condition of the train, and inadequate operator training.

In November, a judge ruled that Louisville Metro Government is immune from lawsuits related to the incident. 

Judge Frederic Cowan also ruled that the Louisville Zoo Foundation and several individuals also are immune from a lawsuit.  Those individuals include Dan Cole, a Guest Services Supervisor who supervised the train operator, and Alex Holback and Ariel Saylor, Seasonal Guest Services employees who helped train the operator.


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