Southwick’s Zoo recently purchased 2 new GOPO Trains from Marcotec LLC which is owned by Luc (pronounced Luke) Goemaere out of Naples, Florida for the Woodlands Habitat. Visitors can board the train and take a leisurely ride through the zoo’s largest habitat covering 50 acres. The Woodland Express Train offers zoo visitors the opportunity to view the zoo’s elk as well as native wildlife.
GOPO Trains was created by Luc Goemaere in 1986 in Belgium. Luc’s experience was in agriculture machinery manufacturing. His grandfather had an ingenious idea to create tractors out of military vehicles, which were left in his homeland of Belgium after the WWII. While the farming industry flourished, the tractors were sought after and purchased. The family business thrived with Luc and his father carrying on the tradition. However, the farming industry had some very difficult years during the 1980’s, so Luc had another vision. He began producing trackless trains for tourist transportation. During the summer, he would transport tourist between the Red and Black Mountains and in the winter, he would manufacture more trains.
In March of 1987, three new trains were ready for tourist transportation on the Belgium West Coast. He then began production of smaller trains, electric trains, and diesel trains. In 2000, 18 trains were shipped to Abu Dhabi. GOPO Trains began shipping trains all over the world. Luc sold the operation in 2004 due to the difficult winters in Belgium and focused on manufacturing out of China. During this time, he manufactured 900 trains which were sent to 60 countries.
In 2012 he bought Tschu-Tschu Trains out of Germany and closed that plant, however he kept all the molds. After several years of traveling to IAPPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) in Orlando, Florida to showcase his trains, he decided to take up residence in the U.S. Along with his wife and two children, Luc continues to manufacture trains out of his property in Naples, Florida. He plans on providing spare parts and assistance to those clients who find it difficult to work with foreign operations on keeping their engines and cars in excellent condition.
Ken Jowaiszas of XAT sales was Instrumental in the sale of the trains to Southwick’s Zoo. XAT Sales is a sales and marketing company for the GOPO trains. Located in Clifton New Jersey, Ken has over 25 years’ experience in selling people movers that include both rail and tire vehicle trains. He works with zoos, farms and resorts throughout the USA. Ken consults with customers and follows through with them to determine which models will best meet their desire and needs. Prior to their purchase Ken visited Southwick’s Zoo to make sure the train would perform safely and properly on their Woodland Habitat route. Ken works closely with Luc developing ideas for new models and marketing strategies. He was at the Southwick’s Zoo with the arrival of the trains and worked with Luc on testing and making some minor adjustments to ensure the trains operated to GOPO train brands highest standards.
Southwick’s Zoo offers the Woodland Express Train every day during the season, weather permitting. With this new state of the art train, the zoo will be able to offer the train for certain unique events as well. When the zoo launches its themed event, “Winter Wonderland” in November and December, the train will be available for zoo tours, weather permitting. The new train has LED lighting all around, including under the train, 3 coaches with handicapped accessibility, an engine car, articulate steering, and larger seating capacity.