Ringling Bros. Has A Rich History With Trains
During the late 1800’s, the show stock of Barnum and Bailey’s circus were wintered in Pine Plains on various farms. $5 a month was paid for each animal’s board and a regular circus employee was with each lot of animals, and was boarded by the farmer for $10 per month.
Among the animals were camels. llamas, zebra, water buffalo and yaks – also ponies, racing bulls and a Burmese cow. Farms where the animals were cared for included those of Isaac Carman, John Duxbury, A. H. Barton, Adam Strever, Monroe Strever and the Sackett Brothers.
Ringling Bros Circus Train Facts
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.
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
The Railroad Tradition at Ringling Bros.
1830s Railroads and circuses begin to appear in the Eastern United States
1840s Circuses begin using boxcars and stock cars for limited distances
1870s April 18, 1872 Ð the P.T. Barnum Circus loaded onto flat cars “piggyback” -style on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Rented sleepers serve as solid circus train, the first unit train concept
1890s The best circuses move by rail: Barnum & Bailey has 56 cars, Ringling Bros. has 56 cars
1920s Ringling Bros. totals almost 100 cars traveling by rail
1950s Ringling Bros. shifts to combined rail/truck transportation
1960s Ringling Bros. discontinues using tents and returns to 100% rail transportation
1969 Ringling Bros. forms second rail unit
The following organizations conduct unannounced inspections of each unit on a regular basis:
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
Employs 400 inspectors operating out of 47 offices throughout the country
Monitors railroad compliance with federally mandated safety standards
Performs spot checks of the railroad cars for federal regulation compliance
Association of American Railroads (AAR)
Member Inspectors perform various regulation checks to ensure cars are working safely and properly
Member Inspectors also ensure shop standards
Individual Railroad Inspectors
Each rail line has its own safety inspectors who monitor circus railcars
In addition to Ringling Bros. staff safety inspectors, Ringling Bros. hires two independent firms to certify the level of safety on our railcars:
The Robert W. Hunt Company performs three exterior railcar mechanical inspections and three interior railcar safety inspections per year.
Amtrak inspects and certifies the mechanical aspects of new and refurbished cars that join the unit from the Ringling Bros. railcar rebuilding shop in Florida.