A Tyrannosaurus rex fossil is on its way from a museum in Montana to the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. where it is expected to be a star attraction, officials at both museums say.

The Wankel T. rex, named for the woman who discovered it, left the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University April 11.

"It's been such an amazing experience for our entire family," says Kathy Wankel, who found the fossil on federal lands in northeast Montana in 1988.

Shipped on a specially built FedEx truck in 16 crates, it is expected to arrive at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington on April 15.

"This is a really great day for the Museum of the Rockies," Shelley McKamey, executive director of the Montana museum, said as the fossil departed from Bozeman, Mont.

Kirk Johnson, of the National Natural History Museum, echoed the sentiment. "It's really exciting for us," he said.

The fossil has been at the center of scientific research since a team led by Museum of the Rockies curator Jack Horner excavated it.

The rare and almost completely intact fossil of the 38-foot-long creature that walked the Earth 65 million years ago is on loan to the Smithsonian for 50 years, where will attract an estimated 8 million visitors annually when it goes on display in 2019 as the centerpiece of a planned paleontology exhibit.

Prior to obtaining the 7-ton Montana fossil, the Smithsonian has only ever been able to display a cast of a T. rex skeleton.

In terms of its level of preservation and its completeness, the Wankel specimen is considered second only to the famed T. rex fossil "Sue" at Chicago's Field Museum.

The gender of the Wankel specimen is unknown, experts say.

FedEx, which donated its shipping services, says technology will help keep the fossil safe on its cross-country trip, with factors such as barometric pressure inside the truck monitored.

It will get "the first and best ride of its life," FedEx spokeswoman Parul Bajaj said.

It set off for the ride to Washington through downtown Bozeman with a police escort and cheering crowds looking on.

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.