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1830s Both circuses and railroads begin to appear in the eastern
1940s Circuses begin using boxcars and stock cars for limited
movements. Horse wagons used between most towns.
1850s Rail expansion allows some shows to move entirely by rail.
1860s Flat cars first used to move circus wagons. Cars
were loaded from side at dock. The year of the transcontinental railroad
also saw the transcontinental circus. Circus personnel rode on scheduled
1870s April 18, 1872, the P. T. Barnum Circus was loaded on flat
cars "piggyback" on the PRR, using end ramps and bridge plates (circus style
loading). Rented sleepers made a solid circus train, the first unit
1880s P. T. Barnum joined with James A. Bailey to form
The Greatest Show on Earth! (R) 1884, the five Ringling Bros.
start their own circus. First 60' flat cars were designed for circus
1890s Best circuses moved by rail. Barnum & Bailey
had 56 cars, as did Ringling Bros.
1900s The railroad circus grows in size and reputation.
1910s High point of railroad circuses: in 1911 there were
32 railroad circuses. Circus cars increased to 65'. In 1919 Ringling
Bros. combined with Barnum & Bailey, increased to 95 cars.
1920s 1923, Ringling Bros. up to 100 cars. Circus flats
evolve to 70' all steel.
1930s The Depression cut circus business. Only 3 circuses
remain on rail.
1940s Ringling Bros. train reaches 108 cars.
1950s Only two rail circuses left. Clyde Beatty goes to trucks,
1957. Ringling discontinued using tents in 1956, goes to combined rail/truck
1960s 1960, Ringling Bros. returns to 100% rail. 1969,
second rail circus formed.
1970s Ringling Bros. continues with two trains. 1979, third
rail circus formed, Monte Carlo Unit tours US with 15 car train.
1980s Monte Carlo Unit dissolved. Ringling Bros. continues
with two trains.
1990s Ringling Bros. continues with two trains.
2000s Ringling Bros. continues with two train
J. William Misiura, Director of Transportation
Joseph DeMike, Transportation Manager
Source: 133rd Edition Red Unit 2003
Circus Train Information and Operations. February 3, 2003,
pgs. 5-6. Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, 1313 17th Street
East, Palmetto, FL 34221.