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Railroaders' Nostalgia > The circus train was a circus

Date: 09/15/19 06:03
The circus train was a circus
Author: atsfer

One trip, the luck of the draw had me called to be engineer on Barnum and Baily's circus train, blue section I think, called on duty at Arkansas City, Kansas.    The 78 mile trip to Newton was in daylight at least, and at Newton, Kansas we would have to spot the cars(mostly circus performers quarters, the lions, tigers and bears were on another train) into some storage tracks right in front of the Newton ATSF office building.  From there the performers were bussed to Wichita where they were to perform.
     When we taxied to the train in Ark City, I found the circus trainmaster sitting on the steps of the lead locomotive, they were behind schedule, and he was a little concerned.   He gave me some literature about the train, some technical stuff about the type of air brake equipment and so on,(which I still have) and was helpful and friendly yet clearly anxious about getting rolling.  I inspected the engines, and surprise, the two sd40-2 units were nearly out of fuel, in fact the second unit was already out and dead.   The fuel gauge on the lead unit was sitting just above empty, and I decided we would try and make it work as is, given the short run and the train being already late.
    The trip north was uneventful until we got to Wichita, when we received a tornado warning from the dispatcher.  Great, at the time, there was no criteria as to what exactly we should do, the conductor and I looked at the clouds and sky and made a judgement call to keep rolling.   We made it fine to Newton, by now it was dark, spotted the train, in the storage tracks, and received a thank you from the circus trainmaster.    The bonus, I got 5 free tickets to the circus!    

Date: 09/15/19 06:25
Re: The circus train was a circus
Author: radio

Nice story. Thanks for sharing.

Date: 09/15/19 06:47
Re: The circus train was a circus
Author: rbx551985

What year was this? And, do you recall if this was the Red Unit's train, or the Blue Unit's train?

Date: 09/15/19 10:13
Re: The circus train was a circus
Author: mundo

His post says the Blue Train!!

Date: 09/15/19 17:02
Re: The circus train was a circus
Author: LarryDoyle

I never worked on a circus train, bud did work on yarding them.  This was in 1962-65.

Apparently there were newsletters or some similar communications network read by carnies, 'cause several days before such a train was due to arrive, the yard would begin to collect bunches of people (mostly men) who associated themselves with the circus trains.  Were they "roustabouts?"  They were a tough, unshaven, unwashed (extremely unwashed) crowd.  Everything they owned was on their back or in their "bindle."  They were not to be feared.  They knew they were "guests" in our yard, and that pissing off  any of the home guards would mean we get our local "Bull" (RR Cop) and they'd all get kicked out and they'd miss getting a job with the local circus' show.  Then, the other roustabouts would deal with him, convincing him to NEVER make the same mistake,

They'd sleep on the ground (Tent?  What's a tent?) in nearby woods or swamp.  Sometimes, even between the tracks of the yard.  Be careful what (or who) you step on.

When the train came thru, it stayed in the yard for a few hours - change crews and engines, inspect, etc.  I imagine these guys would then try to talk themselves into work with the circus.  Other people - performers, actresses, clowns, etc. (Mostly hard looking women)  would stand in vestubiles.  Talk to us rails.  They seemed  like "hard" people.  Looking for somethinng, that this 19 year old wasn't quite ready to face.

Thnaks for the memories.



Date: 09/16/19 07:17
Re: The circus train was a circus
Author: Cumbres

I had an aquaintance who had been a carney.  Whenever the circus train came by he would work his way past security and talk to his friends on the train and would often ride the train for awhile.  I don't know if he worked or not but he enjoyed traveling with them for short periods of time.  

Date: 09/20/19 04:19
Re: The circus train was a circus
Author: blackcatd9

05/23/2010 - RBBB Red Unit parked in front of the ATSF Depot, Photo on our site.
bcd9  ∑:=)

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