Disposition Of Circus Trains

On January 14, 2017, Feld Entertainment Inc., parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® and the world’s largest producer of live family entertainment, announced that the iconic 146-year-old circus would hold its final performances later this year. Ringling Bros.®’ two circus units will conclude their tours with their final shows at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., on May 7, and at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on May 21, 2017.

The company said their decision to end the circus tours was made as a result of high costs coupled with a decline in ticket sales, making the circus an unsustainable business for the company. Following the transition of the elephants off the circus, the company saw a decline in ticket sales greater than could have been anticipated.

“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey was the original property on which we built Feld Entertainment into a global producer of live entertainment over the past 50 years,” said Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “We are grateful to the hundreds of millions of fans who have experienced Ringling Bros. over the years. Between now and May, we will give them one last chance to experience the joy and wonder of Ringling Bros.”

“This was a difficult business decision to make, but by ending the circus tours, we will be able to concentrate on the other lines of business within the Feld Entertainment portfolio,” said Juliette Feld, Feld Entertainment’s Chief Operating Officer. “Now that we have made this decision, as a company, and as a family, we will strive to support our circus performers and crew in making the transition to new opportunities,” she added.

In view of the the impending demise of this famous circus, “The Greatest Show on Earth”, we may assume that the company will no longer have a requirement for their large fleet of passenger cars that are used to transport the two (Blue and Red) units of the circus.  Although no announcement has been made about plans for disposition of this equipment, we anticipate that AAPRCO members will follow news of this subject with considerable interest.


PALMETTO, FL (WWSB) – The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey train car has been moved from Palmetto to the Showpeople’s Winter Quarters in Seffner.
The site is home to a retirement facility for those who worked in the circus industry. The train car was built in 1953 for the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1972, Feld Entertainment acquired it and converted it.The unit stayed in operation with the circus until the very last show earlier this year.The train car will be converted in a community center at it’s new home on Highway 932 in Hillsborough County.


Some comments from Rail Forum

Relying on a TRAINS article a while back, the cars have been “gutted” to such extent that their heritage is simply gone. Of note is that at one time, ex-NYC “Sandy Creek” bore an RBBX reporting mark. However that car was saved and is part of the NS “Executrain” fleet liveried in Tuscan Red.

These cars are probably not Amtrak Certified. However, that is a One-time expense that in my opinion would be well worth doing. Think about it EVERYTHING in these cars works: HVAC, HEP, Trucks !!, Retention Toilets, Roller Bearings, Diaphragms, etc.

These cars are historic in their own right, as RBB&B Circus Train cars, and a few of them should be preserved as they are now.

Most current RBBX equipment is former UP, much of it approaching 70 years old. The roster shows the bulk are postwar coaches from ACF, P-S, and Saint Louis Car Company. There are a few Budd cars, both sleepers (ex 10-6 PACIFIC series) and coaches in the fleet. The newest car is about 54 years old.

At first glance, the announced shutdown of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus would appear to be a boon to railway passenger car preservation. There may suddenly be available a vast fleet of heritage passenger cars that Ringling Bros. maintained in excellent mechanical condition. You won’t find rust and rot in Ringling’s fleet, all of which has been equipped with head-end electrical power.

The problem for museums and preservationists is there is a little if anything left of the original interiors, says Brad Black, a vice president with Virginkar & Associates, Inc., which consults on passenger car and rail transit rolling stock, equipment, and locomotive projects. Black says the cars have been “tunneled out,” with the interiors stripped to empty shells. So the cars bear no resemblance to when they were in their previous service. In fact, Black says, in recent years Ringling has been purchasing old coaches rather than sleeping cars, because there are fewer interior walls to tear out


Ringling Bros Circus Train Facts

From Showpmens Museum.org

Currently Ringling Bros. is divided into two simultaneously traveling unit trains: the Red Unit and the Blue Unit.

Each circus train has a designated trainmaster who is responsible for the safe operation and timely movement of the unit train. Each railroad train crew is provided with a circus radio for operational and emergency communications. In addition, the circus trainmaster monitors the carrier railroadÕs radio frequency to be aware of other traffic on the railroad.
Ringling Bros. provides an instructional booklet detailing train operations and emergency procedures to all employees.

Maximum train speed is 60 miles per hour.

The stock cars, for the elephants and other animals, ride directly behind the locomotive where the ride is the smoothest.

Individual stock car water tanks and electrical generators provide continuous water and power supply while the stock cars are separated from the coaches for unloading.

Unit Trains

Average number of personnel who ride the train (performers, staff and maintenance crew): 326

33 conventional passenger cars for circus personnel and their families

4 custom-designed animal stock cars

2 container flats for concession storage

17 piggyback flats which carry equipment, props and vehicles

6 hours to unload the train and 12 hours to setup the show

Red Unit: 55 cars, 3,985 tons and 4,877 feet long

Average number of miles traveled by train in the last six years: 16,378

Blue Unit: 56 cars, 4,055 tons and 4,959 feet

Average number of miles traveled by train in the last six years: 16,265

Special Accommodations for Animals

Ringling Bros. stock cars are specially designed and custom-built to meet the needs of each animal species. Elephants face each other in railcars and are tethered for their safety and that of their handlers. At each venue, elephants disembark the train and are led by their handler to the venueÕs animal facility, where they remain for the duration of the stay in each town. All elephants will then board the train right before the circus leaves for the next town.

The elephant stock cars have the following special design elements:

Fresh supply of water available in every car

Food storage locations that are accessible to animal care staff while en route

Fans mounted in roof for air circulation; windows and doors open for cross-ventilation

Heating and misting systems for climate control

Direct access to the animals for handlers in all cars and working/living facilities for handlers in some cars to provide uninterrupted supervision of the animals while underway

Specially treated, non slip flooring to allow for fast, easy cleaning and disinfecting

Drains in car floor which function regardless of whether the train is moving or standing still

Specially designed ramps for loading and unloading animals

Additional generator to supply electricity to the stock cars when separated from main power source