SAN ANTONIO – What were once scary moments 50 years ago for passengers aboard a small train were reenacted on Saturday for a completely different purpose — to help keep the San Antonio Zoo afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Brackenridge Eagle train, which took passengers on a tour around the zoo and the Brackenridge Park area, was robbed at gunpoint by two masked men.
Decades later, the event is being used as a learning experience and a way to raise money for the zoo.
Greg Hargis had an 11th birthday that stands out from all the rest. He was one of 75 passengers aboard the Brackenridge Eagle train when two masked men robbed it at gunpoint on July 18, 1970.
Zoo officials said it was the first time in 47 years that a train had been robbed in the Wild West, and the last known train robbery in the state.
”There was a man sitting right behind the engineer that was laughing at him. They thought it was a big joke, and one of the gunmen held a gun to his head and he just laughed at him,” Hargis said.
But Hargis and his brother Jeff soon learned what was happening was nothing to laugh about.
”He started grabbing purses and cameras and all that talk went away. And so, then it just got quiet for a while,” Jeff Hargis said.
Five hundred dollars worth of stolen goods were confiscated by the suspects who were later caught and served time for crime. Though the moments were scary, no one was hurt.
On Saturday, for $10, passengers were able to hop on board and take a trip down memory lane. All of the proceeds go toward buying a new engine for the current Eagle train.
”Instead of real robbers holding you at gunpoint, we have actor educators dressed in full costume asking for donations at bubble gun gunpoint. So, bubble guns are being used. It’s a very fun time,” said Vice President of Communications for the San Antonio Zoo Hope Roth.
The ride may have helped keep the train on its tracks for years to come.