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Red Circus Train

Greatest Show on Earth

Ringling Bros. Red Circus Train

Leaving San Diego for Oakland. CA

Monday August 10, 2015

Text and photos by Robin Bowers

Chris Guenzler wanted to know if I would be interested in getting some photos of the RB Circus train relocating from San Diego to Oakland on Monday. I was definitely interested in doing this. On July 6, 2015 near Rosenberg, TX, I was traveling on Train 1, Sunset Limited, when we took to a siding awaiting the blue circus train to pass us. Ringling Bros. has two circus trains, the blue and the red. Every year during the summer, the Ringling Bros. train comes to southern California. One year it will be the red train and the next year the blue train. As I saw the blue train last month and will have a chance to see the red train this month, I will be one of the few people to see both trains in the same year. So I was definitely ready to see and photograph the red train moving up the coast.

Our adventure began at the Santa Ana station when we boarded Metrolink train #600 at 8:53 AM with arrival at San Clemente North Station at 9:33 AM. There we were meet by a former co-worker of Chris, Caroline, who lives nearby and gave us a ride to the San Onofre State Beach Trail. The trail runs along the San Mateo Creek (Spanish for: St. Matthew Creek) whose watershed mostly straddles the border of Orange and San Diego Counties. We walked the trail from I-5 to the ocean which ends at the Trestles, a well known surfing spot.


Trestles and San Mateo Point.

Soon we have Amtrak Pacific Surfliners speeding by.

# 566

Southbound # 566.

train 566

# 566.

566 b

# 566 crossing San Mateo Creek.

nixon w h

Location of former Nixon White House in San Clemente.

county line

Orange County and San Diego County line.



San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station in distance.


Northbound # 769.


Up close.

life guard

We leave the Trestles location and walked along the water's edge on the sandy beach. After about three quarters of a mile, we come to a high bluff with a lifeguard look out perched on the top. We ascended the steep side on a well worn trail made by surfers and beach goers.  GPS: 33 22.991, -117 35.074.

trail 69


Southbound # 768

768 b


768 b

Power for # 768.

After taking our photos near the lookout point, we moved south a few hundred yards to await the circus train.  GPS: 33 22.905,  -117 34.841.


Northbound # 573 crossing San Onofre Creek.

pwr 573

Power pushing train # 573.


Train # 572 approaching the lifeguard lookout.

single level 84

Train # 572.  Our west coast viewliner consist with cabbage car on end.

viewliner 85

At ocean's edge.

It is now 1:00 PM and still no circus train. So we wait and work on our sunburn.


Northbound train # 777 heading for a 8:30 PM arrival in San Luis Obispo, CA.

train 774 90

Southbound train # 774.

It is close to 3:00 PM and still no circus train. We had been hoping the train would pass by around 11:00 AM. as it has in past years. Chris had several spotters stationed along the route to relay train status. The consist was assembled as scheduled around 9:30 AM. Then it lost time. One story was the hand brake was left on one of the cars. Looks to be somewhere 4 hours late.

Happy Times are Here

circus start 7097

First sighting of the circus train at 3:05 PM.

red circus 98

cars 7100

cars 7101

 cars 7102

The first section on cars behind the engine houses the animals, the second section is the living quarters, offices and the pie car and the last section carries the hardware: cages, vans to shuttle performers from the parked cars and the arena, work trucks and tractors.




Red circle indicates train color.

car 7106

car 7107

                  green arrowTo watch video of train:  Click to watch red circus train near water's edge.

cars 7108

flat car 7110

trucks 7112

car 7114

last 7116

At 3:08 PM the last car passes by. 5 minutes for the complete train to pass by.
The last car has ramps that drop down on the ground for loading and unloading of the vehicles. Plates are placed in between the rail cars so the vehicles are driven from car to car to end car then unloaded.

After the circus train left we walked to the Old Pacific Highway where Chris's friend Caroline picked us up and dropped us off at the San Clemente North station. We had a few minutes before the Metrolink arrived so I bought a soda then walked to the beach and took one last picture.

surfliner 7117

Southbound Surfliner # 580 heading toward the San Clemente Pier. This train made a mysterious stop at the San Clemente north which is not on the Surfliner schedule.  

Our Metrolink train # 812 arrived on time at 4:50 PM. This is an Oceanside to San Bernardino train and picks up many riders at Irvine and Tustin. At 5:43 PM we arrived at Santa Ana. I dropped Chris off at his residence and drove home to end a good day and adventure.

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