The 60's and 70's
This Page Last Updated on 02/13/2004
The only circuses moving by rail in 1956 were the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the Clyde Beatty Circus. RBBB closed in midseason 1956 and returned to its winter quarters in Sarasota, FL. Clyde Beatty Circus completed the 1956 season on rail, but changed to a fleet of trucks for the 1957 season. The era of the tented railroad circus had come to an end. For three years, RBBB moved mostly by truck, but finally returned to the rails in 1960. Since the show played only indoor arenas, the circus train of the 1960's was substantially different than that used by the tented circuses of the past.
Gone were the flatcars which carried the equipment. Several of the coaches were converted to "tunnel cars." These were coaches that had their ends removed. Containers were built that fit inside these cars. The containers were mounted on small, hard rubber wheels and connected together to form their own sort of small train. A small tractor would drive up the runs at the end of one string of tunnel cars and tow the entire string of containers into the tunnel cars.
This tunnel car had removable side panels for ventilation and probably carried cages for the big cats.
In 1969, RBBB opened a second unit and once again, there were 45 circus cars riding the rails of the two units.
The photos on this page were taken in the late 1970's in Phoenix, AZ. By this time, the circus had returned to flat cars, but not the Warren and Mt. Vernon flats of earlier years. Gone were the heavy hospital cars of the 1940's and in their place were more surplus coaches from the railroads. The train included a rack car, a double deck car, which were used to transport the personal vehicles on the top and cages on the bottom level. The "bulls" and other ring stock were transported in converted baggage cars rather than the stock cars of years gone by.