In this second column, we look back to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train.
Mr. Thomas Horvath, of Bridgewater, N.J., is sharing some of the columns he has written for TRP, the railroad magazine.
The Ringlings ran two trains, a red unit and a blue unit. The following is their 2002 show schedule. The red unit started the season in Tupelo, Miss., with a two-day stop. There were seven stops in Texas, with 12 days in Dallas.
The seven Ringling brothers had lived in Baraboo, Wis., so they presented five days of shows in Green Bay, Wis. The red unit tour ended in St. Louis each November.
Train No. 2, the blue unit, started its show in June in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., their only Pennsylvania stop in 2002, and then traveled west, making their first stop in Oklahoma City; continuing to Las Vegas, Nev.; Arizona; more than a month in California, with 12 days in Anaheim; returning east for 12 days in Chicago; and ending in Savannah, Ga., Dec. 8.
The schedule of shows was flexible each year. The circus was presented for many years at the Spectrum in Philadelphia and enjoyed by capacity crowds at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In following the train, Mr. Horvath said, “Unique photo opportunities occurred when the train had a water stop for the animals. This interruption lasted about an hour on an assigned track or a train station. A 1.5-foot hose will be connected to a nearby hydrant to fill the animals’ water tanks and individual cans by animal handlers. The frequency of water stops depends on the trip’s length.”
Both red and blue units have a power car filled with generators that provide electricity for the people who live on the train.
When the trains arrived, city crowds would gather to watch the wagons get unloaded from the railroad cars and parade to the arena.
What a sight!
Mr. Thom Horvath, who followed the trains for years, recalled, “As the end of the train draws near, my mind momentarily travels from a hot, muggy trackside to a darkened Madison Square Garden arena, when a spotlight focuses your attention on the center ring. The ringmaster is closing the show with a traditional circus wish: “May all your days be circus days.”
In two weeks, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus trains pass into history.