Martha C. Buford Safari Express

Martha C. Buford Safari Express

Location: Wichita, KS Owner: Sedgwick County Zoo Architect: GLMV Architecture

After assisting Sedgwick County Zoo with more than two years of planning, Eby Construction was selected for the construction of the Martha C. Buford Safari Express in the Fall of 2021. The train officially opened to the public on Friday, July 22, 2022, following a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Buford family, Sedgwick County commissioners, and Zoo board members.

Eby’s contract included grading installation of right-of-way for 1.3 miles of track, construction of two train stations and a shop and maintenance shed, and the installation of precast for a 100’ train tunnel. An interesting challenge of the supply chain was the 20-pound rail used on the project was imported from Spain as there was not enough available in the US to complete the job. Close coordination with the Zoo staff and keepers was required during construction to minimize disruption to the Zoo and to keep the public safe.

Sedgwick County Zoo purchased two electric C.P. Huntington locomotives and four cars that can carry up to 80 passengers. The train was built and delivered by Chance Rides based in Wichita, KS. The path of the train takes passengers on a 20-minute ride that includes behind the scenes vantage points never had before. All along the route, the Zoo has added signs that tell visitors which exhibits they’re passing. Some of the Zoo’s residents are visible from the train, most notable the elephants.

One interesting fact about the train:  Because it’s electric, it makes very little noise as it travels the tracks. The Zoo wanted people to feel like they were getting a full train experience, so it pre-recorded the train sounds that are piped in over the speakers mounted in the ceiling of the train cars.