The Circus was in town again this July and I learned the
location of the "Animal Train"from Feld Entertainment, Inc. The time
was corrected to being four hours later than scheduled. The show had finished
in Los Angeles and was moving to Long Beach, California. The unloading
was to take place at 2 pm and the walk to stgart at 2:30 for about a mile
and a half from Pier F in Long Beach, California, to the Long Beach Arena.
I arrived about 45 minutes before the unloading time to find 17 empty flat
cars (flats) and four animal cars (stocks). I assumed I'd been
given the wrong time and that I'd missed the whole thing, so I began to
photograph the empty cars.
Double-decked, open-topped car #RBBX 84712, with P&O container passing
behind headed for the port.
I started recording the numbers on the 17 flatcars: 84714,
80701, 85701, 84706, 84702, 80705, 84707, 80716, 80709, 80717, 80713, 84709,
84711, and the four animal cars: 64004, 60004, 63006, 60002.
I spotted Frank, an employee of Morton Salt at 1050 Pier F Avenue, Long
Beach, CA 90802, across the street from the animal cars. He said the
cars had arrived about 6 a.m., and had unloaded all the vehicles on the flats
about 10 am. He confirmed that this is where the cars were parked for
the show last year also, so if you search for Morton Salt on Pier F Avenue
in following years, you should find the animal portion of the train across
By now I had noticed an elephant trunk moving inside one of the cars!
This meant they had not been unloaded yet! As Frank
and I talked, at precisely 1:50 pm, animal handlers appeared, seemingly
out of nowhere (perhaps from handler quarters within the train or from a
white Ringling Bros. van). More vehicles arrived at the point including
Soon the handlers began their unloading preparations. First sliding
out the heavy ramps from under the cars. Then sliding out and attaching
sides to the ramps. Finally moving down the line of four cars repeating
the ramp installation.
Other Circus personnel were arriving and I was most fortunate
to meet Mark Gaipo, Red Circus Touring Unit General Manager. For those
who can remember "The Circus Strong Man" of yesteryear...Mark fills that
image, after shaking hands with him. I asked him a few quick questions
and he answered with seeming pride about the Red Unit Train. I asked
about the Residential Coaches which make up the rest of the train and he
said there are 37 such coaches for the staff, cast, and crew. There
is a complete food service car, called the "Pie Car," which is the social
center for the train. During runs between show towns, the Pie Car is
open 24 hours a day and is accessible from the whole train. The train
has four Catapillar generators onboard making self sufficient cars. He
said there are 57 cars on the complete train including the four 'stocks'
we were near at the moment. He had to take charge of the walk, so quickly
looked on his cell phone directory for the phone number of Tim, the Red Unit
Trainmaster. My last question was about the refurbishing shops in Florida
where cars are remodeled before joining the unit trains and he gave me the
phone number of the person to contact for further research in that area.
I'll have to say that this was the most informative and pleasant interview
I had all day, and with the most important person on the property!
As the horses were taken off the first car and staged, followed by the
I chatted with Charlie. He pointed out that the Red Unit cars all
had a red background to "The Greatest Show on Earth" logo on each car, the
bridles on the horses were red, as well as the logos on the elephants heads
and the shirts on the helpers. At that moment, I recalled the train
logos being blue when I photographed the animal cars last year. So,
remember, there are two Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey trains, one
is the Red Unit Train and it currently houses the 133rd Edition Show, the
other is the Blue Unit Train housing the 132nd Edition Show. Today the
Blue Unit is playing in New Orleans. The Shows have a 2-year duration
and no geographic area ever sees the same show. The Blue Unit was here
last year and the Red Unit this year, and both units reorganize this winter
for the next two years' run.
Quickly, the walk began with the (All-Asian) Elephants taking the lead,
hooked up tail in trunk:
As Charlie predicted, when the elephants passed,
the pipeline workers stopped for a moment to 'watch
the parade pass them by.'
Identical colored manes.
Immediately after this photo, the handler on the right
corrected a problem with the black horse's hoof, and
all was well again.
The fellow on the left had a large belt buckle that
referenced a Rodeo...made me wonder if he had
been a champion rider.
A large handler, or dwarf horses?
By 2:45, the whole company had left the train behind and
they were on our way. I quickly returned to my car and became part
of the police escorted walk to the Arena. The last vehicle in the parade
was a street sweeper...for obvious reasons. Earlier when I asked a
port officer if the animal train was nearby, he said, "Just down there...you'll
I had read on the Ringling website, in a journal by a Boss Clown, that
clowns had the duty during the walk of entertaining the crowds along the
way so the handlers could tend to the animals. On this walk, for whatever
reason, there were no people along the streets watching the walk, and no
The glimpses I had from my car of the parade ahead of me made me realize
how incongruous these Asian Elephants looked in an urban society.
The Queen Mary
, a modern cruise ship,
and the dome that formerly held the
Spruce Goose, were visible from the
bridge we crossed.
We proceeded eastbound on Shoreline Drive,
the same route of the Long Beach Gran Prix, but
at a few hundred miles per hour less.
I left to find the residential coaches in Anaheim. Mark said he had
decided to have the coaches parked in Anaheim, the next show town, since Long
Beach was only a two-day stand. Performers could be in one place for
twelve days this way, instead of picking up and moving after only two
days if they had stayed here in Long Beach.
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