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Western Railroad Discussion > Circus train question for rbx551985

Date: 07/04/01 17:18
Circus train question for rbx551985
Author: loleta

Thanks for all the info and anecdotes about the circus train. Regarding your schedule from an earlier post: do we assume that the train will depart a given city in the early hours, the date after the final show? For instance, the San Diego shows run through 8/12; will the train leave San Diego around 3:00am on 8/13?

Loleta Fernbridge

Date: 07/04/01 19:35
RE: Circus train question for rbx551985
Author: rbx551985

That's the way it normally goes. When I was an employee there, we usually departed a given city between 4 and 6 a.m., sometimes as early as 3 a.m.--it all depends on how fast (1) the flats are loaded and ready for joining with the coaches, and (2) how fast the RR dispatcher lets them go. There are more than 300 people helping to tear down everything and load it in wagons, and that process goes pretty fast, if the show's not too short-handed in a given city (they're ALWAYS hiring new crewmen--that's how I was originally hired). The wagons must be loaded on the flat cars in precise arrangements so everything fits (there are different arrangements each trip, and the flats are almost always in a different order for every trip).

The coaches stay in the same order ALL the time--until a car is replaced for whatever reason. But they keep the RBBX numbers now all the time; those don't change, so it's easy to keep up with them these days. The small, round, yellow "house numbers" on the coaches are like an address--so everyone knows where they live. It does get confusing. One year in Chicago they had rearranged the coaches for a new cast--before the old cast left! Needless to say, when we got home after teardown, none of us could find our homes! At least not for 15 or 20 minutes of walking around in the snow. (!!!)

After the flats are loaded--by the same guys who maintain the cars during daylight hours--the RR comes in & begins putting everything back together into that mile-long length everyone is so astonished at.

You asked about a 3 a.m. general departure, and that's about right. I'd bet on 4 a.m., but I'm not on the tour this year, so they may have a different load-out method that takes less time than I remember. NOTE: California carries what I'm told is the world's record for RBBB's fastest load-out: the San Francisco Cow Palace, and it was in 1989 during Gunther's Farewell Tour--which I was on. The train was a few blocks down the hill from the arena, and everything went like clockwork--and faster than normal. Here's the thing: three hours after the last downbeat of music, the train was AT SPEED on the S.P. mainline! No kidding. I remember seeing orange "Granite Rock" open hoppers on a siding, street cleaners with their drivers waving to us in the dark as we rolled by, and the flood lights lit up the right-of-way enough to see just about everything around us. THAT was one for the books.

Some of our greatest memories: the ATSF line along the Pacific Ocean, to & from San Diego. It was so wierd watching the thousands of heads on the beach, in the water, and on piers turn to watch us ride by like a WAVE going up and down. Seeing the Crystal Cathedral from on-board, on an S.P. branch line that I don't even know is still there anymore. Throwing surplus Gunther posters to people and railfans along the way from the vestibules. Rolling along the Modoc Route overnight, enroute from Washington state to Salt Lake City. Riding behind that tiny U.P. steam engine in Sacramento, operated by the Museum people, who spotted the stock cars & flats. Riding around Tehachapi Loop on that huge train, and getting mad that the !@#$%^&* MOUND blocked the view of the train there from on board. Meeting all those great railfans across the whole state, like Charlie Baden of "Flimsies!" fame, among many others. Experiencing my first earthquake (it was about 2 point something, if I recall). Mt. SHASTA! Yeah, those were the days.

ANYONE interested can do this! If you're an adventurous soul and like to keep moving, I recommend it. THEY ARE HIRING. Just ask--but I wouldn't tell them you want to do it just for the train ride. If you're like me, the train is just icing on the cake--those 349 other people aboard from everywhere else on Earth makes it worth doing. Those people ARE The Greatest Show On Earth! (Ask anyone around Bakersfield if they noticed cookouts around the coaches on the Fourth of July. It's like a year-round party there.) Even for a railfan like me, it's the PEOPLE that made the train feel like home. Go see the show this year, and you'll see what I mean.

Like they say of the peace corps: it's the toughest job I ever loved.

Date: 07/04/01 19:51
RE: Circus train question for rbx551985
Author: Ldub1932

Great post by RBX55198. You are a romanticist and I can really appreciate it...what do you do now?

Lloyd Williams

Date: 07/04/01 20:25
car site question
Author: emdgealc

A while back, over a year by now, there was a post either on this board or the eastern board where a fellow put/had a site that listed all the cars currently owned by the circus including those disposed of over the years. He also listed some company that seemed to be where all the cars were stored/maintained.

Would you happen to how the address of the site, I had it in a book but a nephew managed to flush some of the pages.

He also told of how the train was set up, staffed and delivered to the CSX.

Any idea of the site?


Date: 07/05/01 04:22
RE: car site question
Author: rbx551985

Thank you for the complement, Lloyd. That brought a smile. I guess when it comes to the Circus, I can be quite the romantic. One particular year I was riding in a vestuble. It was night, and the weather was warm; the moon was very bright, and it reflected like mercury on the rails of the parallel track. My mind's gears went into overdrive and that romanticism came out: I began to think of the train as "The Moonlight Lady." And that's the title of a [book?] I'm putting together on the up-to-date/current operations of the show and its two trains. I'm debating on weather or not to go with one of two publishers interested, but which would both be too limiting by virtue of the media (I can't put EVERYTHING in a book I'd like to). Or, maybe I'll self-publish it directly onto the World Wide Web--and charge some slight fee to download it. I have access to the entire company records, personal and public, and am writing it with the intention of having the show's owner provide the introduction--and perhaps even put notice of it in a future program book, which is sold at the shows.

(By the way, for those of you going to the show: don't waste your film inside the arena, unless you have a REALLY big flash. It just doesn't take in such a large environment. Buy a copy of the program book--it's less than $10, and has specially-produced photos of EVERYTHING you'd want to take pictures of anyway, plus info & stories behind the scenes. That's my recommendation. If they're still selling video versions of the program book, then that's a good one, too.)

Lloyd asks what I'm doing now. Whew. I'll try to say it all in two or three sentences. Both sides of my family (retired and/or deceased) were with CSX predecessor companies; my mom's side with RF&P and by [step] dad's side with ACL. My dad was a railway enthusiast (he was crazy about steam AND diesel, anything mechanical. He could also tell what kind of ship or airplane seen in the distance, a lot like fellow railfans can tell what kind of EMD or GE on the point of a particular train. My mom likes riding trains. So why did I become a railfan? HA!

I live, at this time, in Richmond, Va., where I recently stopped working for a RR crewvan service after three years (carrying crews for CSX, NS, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express), where I witnessed the Conrail split first hand. WOW, did I see it all. And then some. My posts at TO.com usually reflect that experience. Following the progress of highER speed passenger rail in America is a passion now, as I'm acquainted with several of the key officials working to make that happen in the southeast. (You meet a lot of interesting people when you just walk right up and introduce yourself. I can often be bold that way.)

I'm in the middle of a year-long computer training school, where I'm learning website design, and am recovering from a particularly bad period of financial difficulties (prices have risen dramatically, but pay has NOT). I started using the net less than a year ago, so I'm still not too keen on all it can do, and how to manipulate it. But I learn fast. (And it helps in typing when you play piano.)

So much for three sentences...

I'm into modeling, and have a collection of HO equipment based on Proto-Freelance stuff, such as V&O, Utah Belt, NEB&W, and others. I'm into detailed weathering with chalks, sprays and such. So I'm one for noticing the details, when it comes to freight cars. I've been following freight car types and reporting marks so long I usually remember what kind of a car it is--and what it carries--just by seeing the car's initial & number. (I'm having some difficulty with some of the newer reporting marks, though.) My favorite book for reading? The Official Railway Equipment Register. Is that romantic, or what?

My Circus adventures began on a whim. I was "between" jobs and a friend who was the NS Trainmaster in Richmond suggested the show was hiring for "Train Crew," knowing I wanted to work for a RR, but none were hiring at the time. So I asked. They said "Come in tomorrow morning." I did, and stayed there--with one break--for 5+ years. The guy who hired me was the Red Unit's current Trainmaster, Tim Holan. And I was a terrible mechanic. (They eventually put me in Ring One, where I had the GREATEST time I've ever had anywhere doing anything.)

If you REALLY want to hear my take on riding the train, read the article I wrote for PASSENGER TRAIN JOURNAL. It's in the Mar. 1994 issue (no. 195), on pp. 28-35. But realize that this is an extremely short version of a much longer story, based on the four-day trip we took in 1987 from Philadelphia to El Paso. I intend to use the WHOLE THING in the [book?].

I have a background in theatrical performance, and play drums & keyboard. I'm writing a little bit of music, and am trying to get a recent arrangement off the ground, based on a song called "Life Is What You Make It," by Mr. John Davis of Sherman Oaks, Ca. But I've lost his address & am having trouble finding out where he is. (Used to have something called "Monster Productions" or "Monster Orchestra."
And this is part of what I like about railfanning the net: you meet the most interesting people, with all sorts of takes on various subjects, with opinions of all kinds based on their backgrounds. That's why I don't like to flame at TO.com--there are too many reasons not to get upset when someone posts something here I don't like or agree with. I like, instead, to discover WHY they feel that way, and if I know info to the contrary, I'll post it. Read some of my posts, accessed in the TO.com database with "rbx551985" and you'll see my approach. I do this because in Scripture it says "Come let us reason together." I like that! Yes, I'm a believer as well.

Let me cut this short--I'm taking too much space here. In the posting just below Lloyd's it's asked where a website is about the show's RR fleet. I don't have an answer for that. The show's Winter Quarters has moved, in recent years, to Palmetto, Fl. where they have a massive facility, like a mini Beachgrove. There are 54 cars on Red show, 56 on Blue show, and at lealst 50 more in a "recycling" process in Florida where old cars are completely rebuilt so that their life-span is extended for many more years. FRA and Amtrak regularly inspect their work, and both companies rate their cars for 60 mph (it could likely be a lot faster, but not with a train THAT long.)

RBBB's executive H.Q. is in Vienna, Virginia (!) and is called Feld Entertainment. There's an office tower at Vienna, or Tyson's Corner, at 8607 Westwood Center Drive, where they design every facit of the show--including the railroad oeprations. They have, arguably, the most up-to-date railroad map of North America, and a great heritage list of the cars they own--for restoration purposes. (The builders drawings and history of repairs helps immensely in their recycling efforts.)

Feld, Inc. also runs 8 Disney on Ice shows, Sigfried & Roy in Las Vegas, and a whole lot more.

I'll go & look for a Chicago website showing the Circus cars there. In another posting below this one, I'll put it up. It may not be what the other posting was asking for, but that's all I know right now. Until we type again.....

--Rhett Coates,
Richmond, Virginia

Date: 07/05/01 04:43
RE: car site question
Author: rbx551985

Here's the LINK:


It's Harold A. Driscoll's great website showing the other train, the Blue Unit. Both trains are nearly identical, except for globe logos reading "The Greatest Show On Earth," which are blue on Blue show's train and red on Red show's train. Apart from the cars themselves, that's the ONLY noticable difference. And the paint jobs of the various flatcar-riding wagons.

If anyone knows of another such website, I'd appreciate know about it myself. When I publish that [book?] an all-time roster (from the late 60s forward) will be included. I have all of that info; it's just too much to put on a TO.com posting. WAY too much. I hope to have that [book?] thing ready in about a year. Time will tell.

I guess I could keep everyone POSTED. (Pun intended; I'm also known for my literal humor...)


Date: 07/05/01 07:26
RE: car site question
Author: emdgealc

Thanks for the response, but not quite the site that I saw.

The site in question listed those cars that were not in the show but parked.

I will keep looking, I was curious about some of the cars, about 2 years ago several UP baggage cars along with about 9 various passenger cars in UP lime green? MOW cars passed through town heading south?

The paint job was so thin that you could still see the UP yellow through the MOW paint job, when they moved out of town at night, and I put the cars lights on the cars the reflective UP lettering showed up rather well.

I knew they belonged to the circus by the spray painted RBBX numbers.

If I can find I will get you the site info, it would be great to include with any history of the circus, if you find please post here or to the TO e-mail.

Date: 07/05/01 09:21
car site found sort of
Author: emdgealc

here is the address for a site similar to the one I lost.

still does not have the disposal of older cars, so this is not the exact site that I orginally had

It might help with your book


Date: 07/05/01 09:44
RE: car site found sort of
Author: rbx551985

I remember this site; it's another part of Harold A. Driscoll's webpage concerning the show's RR equipment. WOW, he did a lot of work putting this all together. The only thing he doesn't have is the full heritage of some of the cars. I do have that, but as stated in another post it's FAR too much to post to TO.com, only to have it vanish in less than a week. But it IS planned for the [book?] version I'm preparing. I keep typing that as "[book?]" since I don't know what form it will take just yet--hard copy, soft-cover, or internet. I'm betting the internet at this point, since I'd be able to put EVERYTHING in it, and every photo could become a LINK to some other facit of the show. That's just ONE idea I've had.......

The show is aware of Mr. Driscoll's efforts, and I'm told have viewed his site. I must say I'm impressed at the staggering amount of info he's included. Above I mentioned the "full" heritage. His list is quite correct, but for instance, two flatcars show being built in the early 1970s (?) by Maxon as Wisconsin Central cars. WC didn't exist back then, at least not with piggyback flats like those. They came to RBBB with WC marks, but were previously owned by another road. THAT's the kind of info I'd put in there, and let me tell you the list of THAT stuff is vast, vast, vast. I even have what number every car they own carried as RBX, and later RBBX. That's a lot of info. (I've been working up such a list ever since I found out the car I lived on was built the same month I was born. If ever God had a sense of ironic humor, this HAS to be one of those times! There are several people across the country who have helped--from as far away places as Houston, Denver, and Memphis. They know who they are, and they will be credited when it's released. I love sharing credit--it gets so much more attention that way, and this is one subject deserving of more attention!)

Maybe I'll create a LINK page for each individual car, showing a full heritage from building to after 2001. Ideas, ideas. Time will tell.
Thanks for posting the web address; I'd lost that other LINK. Good reading, for those interested in following up on this huge fleet of American heritage passenger equipment.

Maybe I'll post the Blue Unit's train consist & heritage, FYI, soon at TO.com, like I did Red show's a couple of weeks ago. Note that I only showed the BUILDER heritage, and not if it ever came into Amtrak use. Many did, but that's for a future list, not at TO.com.


Date: 07/05/01 12:39
RE: car site found sort of
Author: rbx551985

BLUE UNIT Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus 2001 CONSIST
Total 56 cars.......4,055 Tons.......4,960 Feet (official show data)
"RBBX" is official F.R.A. marks for these with 5-digit car numbers
(See below the consist for particulars on how they were numbered.....)

RBBX 60017 STOCKCAR Horses ex-UP 6304
RBBX 60010 STOCKCAR Elephants ex-UP 6318
RBBX 60006 STOCKCAR Horses ex-UP 6312
RBBX 63009 STOCKCAR Elephants ex-UP 904707 (M.O.W. #)
RBBX 63005 SHOP/STORAGE ex-UP 904819 (M.O.W. #)
RBBX 40014 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 1103 American View
RBBX 42005 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5407
RBBX 42009 COACH (sleeper) ex-GTW 4808
RBBX 42006 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5410
RBBX 42104 COACH (sleeper) ex-GN 1231
RBBX 41402 COACH (sleeper) ex-B&O 7103 Kingfisher
RBBX 40013 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 1102 American General
RBBX 43012 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5541
RBBX 41312 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5513
RBBX 41404 COACH (sleeper) ex-SAL 52 Pinehurst
RBBX 42103 COACH (sleeper) ex-GN 1230
RBBX 42101 COACH (sleeper) ex-GN 1221
RBBX 43001 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5493
RBBX 42105 COACH (sleeper) ex-L&N 3453 Green Pine
RBBX 41304 COACH (sleeper) ex-PRR 8257 Elmira Inn
RBBX 41302 COACH (sleeper) ex-PRR 8245 Bedford Inn
RBBX 41310 COACH (sleeper) ex-N&W (no #) Pulaski County
RBBX 60011 480V GENERATOR ex-UP 6319
RBBX 63001 PIE CAR (diner) ex-UP 6327
RBBX 42203 COACH (sleeper) ex-SAL 6240
RBBX 42110 COACH (sleeper) ex-C&O 2603 City of Mt. Hope
RBBX 41305 COACH (sleeper) ex-PRR 8263 Jeanette Inn
RBBX 43003 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5507
RBBX 41303 COACH (sleeper) ex-PRR 8253 Coatesville Inn
RBBX 42109 COACH (sleeper) ex-RF&P 410 Byrd Island
RBBX 42102 COACH (sleeper) ex-GN 1222
RBBX 43009 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5488
RBBX 40006 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5459
RBBX 43007 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5540
RBBX 40011 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5550 Alpine Pass
RBBX 40016 COACH (sleeper) ex-UP 5461
RBBX 84802 COFC (concessions) ex-JTTX 151227
RBBX 84801 COFC (concessions) ex-GTW 304235
RBBX 84708 BILEVEL (autos, etc.) ex-SP 515415
RBBX 85703 FLAT, 89' ex-GTW 303070 (acquired as WC 5901)
RBBX 85704 FLAT, 89' ex-GTW 303071 (acquired as WC 5902)
RBBX 80702 FLAT, 89' ex-SHPX 99500 (builder's #)
RBBX 80703 FLAT, 89' ex-ACF 4 (delivered new from ACF)
RBBX 80704 FLAT, 89' ex-GTW 303063
RBBX 80706 FLAT, 89' ex-GTW 303122
RBBX 80707 FLAT, 89' ex-GTW 303461
RBBX 80708 FLAT, 89' ex-SHPX 99503 (builder's #)
RBBX 80710 FLAT, 89' ex-ACF 2 (delivered new from ACF)
RBBX 80711 FLAT, 89' ex-ACF 3 (delivered new from ACF)
RBBX 80712 FLAT, 89' ex-ACF 5 (delivered new from ACF)
RBBX 84704 FLAT, 89' ex-GTW 303076
RBBX 84715 FLAT, 89' ex-JTTX 911820
RBBX 84717 FLAT, 89' ex-JTTX 930349
RBBX 84718 FLAT, 89' ex-CREX 351 (original marks unknown)
RBBX 84719 FLAT, 89' ex-CREX 352 (original marks unknown)

RBBB 5-digit number series particulars:

4 = 4-axle passenger-type cars
6 = 6-axle passenger-type cars
8 = freight-type cars

0 = ACF
1 = Budd
2 = Pullman
3 = St. Louis Car
4 = Bethlehem
5 = Maxon (correct spelling Maxson?)

THIRD DIGIT: Car's body type, such as Aluminum, Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, and other various metal types.

LAST 2 DIGITS: Car # in Circus series after above three categories were first filled.

NOTE: The above listing can change without notice, as the show "recycles" cars and changes them out on a regular basis, even out on tour. New cars are shipped via freight train to wherever the show is, and the old car is returned to Palmetto, FL shops the same way.

Date: 07/05/01 13:55
RE: Circus train question for rbx551985
Author: fruitgums

From an English guy unused to circus trains - except as small boy sleeping in the cinema right through 'The Greatest Show on Earth' until the train wreck - I thought your description on life on a circus train captured something of an America that second hand July 4th razamataz here totally missed.

Thank you.

Date: 07/05/01 20:02
RE: Circus train question for rbx551985
Author: rbx551985

You're quite welcome. Everyone. Now if I could just get Steven Spielberg to pick up on that, I might be onto something. Actually, I wrote a sequel to that story Cecil B. DeMille used in the movie. I wrote it as a class project at The Art Institute of Pittsburg, in film-writing class. Aced it. However, now several years later I've gotten no further on the project, despite even having C. Heston express interest (yes, he did). You see, I have no "agent," and it's SO difficult to get anyone interested in becoming your agent unless you've already gotten something on the silver screen. Well, I haven't.

Don't you just love vicious circles? I can't sell the story to Paramount for the big screen (they're the co. that made the movie in 1951) until I have an agent (those are the rules), and I can't get an agent (or so I'm told) until I get some of my work on the big screen. Rules & regulations. Point: If any of you railfans out in Ca. are also Hollywood agents, CALL ME! (Garth Brooks' song "Shameless" cues up now...)

Really, though. It makes a difference sharing what I experienced as a Circus employee with others--that's how even a favorite railroad's fallen flag can be preserved, waving high and proud, as long as it's stories are told. That's what I like most about TO.com--the SP, WP, Santa Fe, N&W, Southern, RF&P, and all the rest will live forever here on these posts. In this July 4th time, I'm thankful to be in America where something like TWO mile-long Circus Trains traveling the country year-'round lightens the heart and seems to make all things new again for those who see it pass. And where railfan friends, even from overseas, can share the adventure and the thrill of both the Circus, and Trainorders.com.

Keep posting stuff! It's fun to respond. How else am I going to keep up with railroading these days? What do they say at Toys R Us? "I don't wanna grow up......." I think anyone seeing the Train(s) or the show could easily identify with that sentiment. I certainly do.

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