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The Chase of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Train 7/9/2012

by Chris Guenzler

I knew that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Train was going to run over the Tehachapi Loop and over Cajon Pass on Monday July 9, 2012 and had always wanted to chase and photograph this train. I called Carl Morrison who thought that was a fantastic idea. We agreed to meet at my house at 10:20 AM because I had to take my mother to the eye doctor for an 8:50 AM appointment. I drove her there and waited outside. At 9:50 I went inside and she still hadn't been seen yet. She turned me loose knowing I had to meet Carl and we left my house at 10:15 AM. She got a ride home from Pilar and I want to thank both of them for allowing us to get going. I knew of an accident on Interstate 5 so we took the 57/210 routing to get to Interstate 5. As we started up the Grapevine it was 101 degrees outside. As we got near Fraser Park it was only 86 degrees and down in the San Joaquin Valley it was only 94 degrees when we stopped at the Subway at Laval Road. I called Winston Walker to see if there was an update on the train's location and was told 1:40 PM into Bakersfield from a post on We headed up north to 7th Standard Road and crossing the UP saw a headlight coming.

A Union Pacific light engine move. We relocated north to Lerdo Highway and got set up. My phone rang with Winston telling me the train was in Bakersfield with a high green at Kern Jct. Talk about wrong information. We headed back to Bakersfield hitting every red light coming into town. Carl and I kept our cool knowing that we would somewhere catch the train. He was not at Bakersfield nor Edison and there was no sign of him at Sandcut or Bena. After the double track ended at Bena we came around the corner and there sitting was the rear of the Circus Train. Talk about two very happy railfans. We headed straight to Tunnel 2 and got set up with me pointing out to Carl all the different photo options this spot gives the photographer. We waited and soon we saw the train exiting Tunnel 1 and heading our way. Special thank you to Winston Walker for that update that got us here.

The Blue Unit Circus Train at Tunnel 2

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Blue Unit Train Consist

Block Totals Loads: 61 Gross Tons: 4664 Length: 5427 ft.

Carl and I were both very happy with what we had just taken pictures of. From here we headed to the hill above the Tehachapi Loop. We hiked the trail and got set up. There we met several other real nice railfans. Carl really liked this location as it was his first time taking pictures from here. We spotted the train coming through Woodford then we knew the fun would start again right below our vantage point.

The Blue Unit Circus Train rounded the Tehachapi Loop and headed for Marcel. We headed straight to Mojave where we gassed up the van then drove to the CA Highway 14 bridge over the mainlines south of town. I went up on the bridge and Carl took his pictures below.

The Blue Unit Circus Train left Mojave with the BNSF 5271 West waiting for him to clear the junction. We got back in the van and drove along Sierra Highway finding a spot for our next pictures.

Click here for Part 2 of this story