LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Contractors will tear out the old railroad track at the Lincoln Children's Zoo to begin a $500,000 replacement project that will include gentler turns and wider rails.

The 100-passenger Z.O.&O. Railroad train will conduct its last ride of the season Monday, the Lincoln Journal Star reported . Workers will then begin removing the old rails, ties and ballast.

Railroad engineers studied the 2,752-foot circuit around the zoo this summer and recommended minor changes. Hausmann Construction will make changes to the layout and then a Kansas-based company will install new ties and wider rails.

The train itself will also get a new engine, new wheels, and new brakes on each car.

The locomotive, which has been operating for more than half a century, features four cars that make 30 trips every day.

"It's a historic railroad, but after all of these years it's kind of seeing the end of its life," said zoo spokesman Ryan Gross. "This is probably its biggest makeover in 55 years."

The project coincides with the city's larger $16 million expansion. The renovation began this spring and includes creating a new tiger habitat, giraffe enclosure, spider monkey area and education center.

"We wanted to pair it with the expansion," Gross said. "You're going to have this amazing zoo, this amazing train ride; it all goes together."

Officials expect the railroad will be operational again by December.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,