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Circus Train Facts

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

Circus Train Facts

Information provided by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and presented here by Carl Morrison of

Personal interviews, observations, and photographs may be found at:

Train Facts


Unit Trains

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

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

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:

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

Railroad Regulation

The following organizations conduct unannounced inspections of each unit on a regular basis:

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

Association of American Railroads (AAR)

Individual Railroad Inspectors

In addition to Ringling Bros. staff safety inspectors, Ringling Bros. hires two independent firms to certify the level of safety on our railcars:

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