Ringling Bros. and
Barnum & Bailey
Blue Unit Circus Train Report and Photos from
Anaheim, CA, by
Comments welcomed at Carl@TrainWeb.com
Town Without a
Zip Code, Ringling's nickname
for their Circus Train.
Red Unit and Blue Unit trains criss-cross the country 11 months
out of the year, logging more than 25,000 miles as they bring America's
Living National Treasure® to millions of families in more than 90
cities! More than a mile long, each of the privately owned Ringling
Bros. and Barnum & Bailey trains is an international melting pot of
cultures and skills.
Setting Up The Show
After the train arrives in a new city,
the show's equipment is brought to the building [from the train] in
specially designed wagons. Each touring unit of The Greatest Show On
Earth® travels with approximately 500 tons of equipment. The weight
of the overhead truss alone, which sits three stories in the air and
supports lighting and rigging, is 40,000 pounds!
All the equipment is laid out on the
floor as it will be positioned later, high in the arena. Guy wires are
attached, and the rigging is raised to a height where workers can
attach and secure lighting fixtures, trapezes, aerial apparatus, rope
ladders, and all the technical elements you see throughout the
performance. More than eight miles of rope and wire are used in setting
up each production!
As the assembled rigging is hoisted on
pulleys toward the top of the arena, workmen on catwalks balance and
secure the frames to specially constructed joints and rings in the
arena roof. It takes 60 rigging points in an arena ceiling to secure
the truss 36 feet above the hippodrome track! Once the completed
rigging is in place, each and every element is checked for safety, a
process that is completed before and after each performance.
Over the course of about 14 hours, approximately 175 people will
be involved in setting up the show. It's hard work, to be sure,
but every second of effort pays off in the smiles on the faces of
Children Of All Ages at The Greatest Show On Earth! --
As I request each year, the publicist in
this area for the circus got me an interview with the Ringling Blue
Unit Trainmaster, Keith Anderson. Each year the Red and Blue
Units rotate into this Southern California market. This allows
them to have each Edition of the Circus run for two years, and guests
never see the same show twice.
(Click any photo in this report to
see a double-sized copy; Click BACK in your browser to return to this
When I arrived at the area, off Katella Avenue between Lewis St. and
the 5 Fwy., where the coaches for the circus are always placed in
Anaheim, CA, my view of the circus coaches was blocked by a UP
freight picking up product from local businesses:
His office is at the end of the shop car.
Keith's work truck is an F-350 crew cab.
Since the Ringling Blue Unit Train hauls circus wagons; performers
and staff; and animals, I asked Train Master Keith Anderson, How
is this train treated with such a diverse cargo? Answer,
There are 61 cars in the Blue Unit consist this year.
There are 36 coaches (residential cars), 2 container cars, 19 flats,
and 4 animal cars making the train 5,409 ft. long (129 feet longer than a mile)!
This prompted me to ask, I ride Amtrak a
lot, and many times we have to take a siding since the freights are so
long these days, longer than some sidings. With your length are you
Keith said, Actually the
freights can be 2 miles long nowadays, so we get stopped sometimes as
well. We're supposed to get priority because of the animals, but
it doesn't always happen.
I asked, How is the train made up considering
your cargo of animals, passengers, and circus wagons?
Keith answered, "95% of the time it is Animals first,
Coaches second, and Flats third. Coming down just 20 miles from
Los Angeles, we split the train in two. We do this when we go
through New York City also, because freight cannot go through the
are the animal cars first in the consist? Because those are the smoothest riding
Then I wondered, 'Is that why the sleepers are first on an Amtrak
I mentioned that I'd seen animal rights activists at previous
circuses. Keith mentioned that he'd seen a guy holding a sign
saying, These animals work from
fear. Keith responded, I
work from fear, these animals have it made, working only 2 hours a
day. If they weren't here, they'd be logging.
I mentioned that the elephant cars have misters and fans.
Keith concured saying they can lower the temperature 20 degrees with
misters and fans, but air conditioning would make them sick because of
the temperature change. Their previous two venues had been much
hotter before they came to Los Angeles then Anaheim.
I asked, I know as Train Master you call for
power/locomotives to move your train, what kind of power do you
require? It depends on distance and type of
track. We used 4-axle locomotives from Los Angeles to Anaheim
because the short turns once we get to Anaheim. Usually, such as
going to San Diego, we use two 6-axle locomotives on long hauls.
special considerations do the engineers need to know? First, our speed restriction is 60
mph. Also, the older engineers are the best because they remember
how to do power breaking or stretch breaking to eliminate the jerky
motion for the animals and performers on the train. Most new
engineers use dynamic breaking which is too rough for the circus train
As I walked the train looking for Keith when I first arrived, I
noticed that car 174 looked brand new to me. I asked about that,
and Keith said the trains get 1 or 2 reconditioned cars a year,
depending on needs. This season he has 2 new cars.
Coaches are reconditioned in Palmetto, Florida, where the RBBB
shops are located. Flats are reconditioned elsewhere.
Specifically, I found the following info. on the Internet:
Barnum & Bailey
1313 17th St E, Palmetto
Exporter / Importer
railroad cars Railroad support equipment and systems, Railway and
tramway machinery and equipment, Locomotives and electric trolleys,
Railway and tramway cars
About 200-plus circus staff that live on the train. I
wondered how their single room was paid for and how the cost of food in
the Pie Car was set for them. He said that their union contract
states that they are to pay $1 a day for the room, but at the end of
the season, they are reimbursed $5 a week. So if they are still
with the show at the end of the show, you will have paid $2 a week for
your room on the train for the 11-month run. As for food, the
contract says it should be reasonable.
The publicist neglected to call me for the Animal Walk from the
train to the Honda Center, so I asked Keith how one could find out when
that would be. He says the arrival walk is hard to tell because
the tents must be up and ready to receive the animals before they are
taken off the train. The animals are walked back to the train
after the last show, however. I did not know this.
Therefore, to assure yourself of seeing an animal walk, check the
schedule for the last show in your town, add about 3 hrs. for the
duration of the show, then you will know about when the animal walk
back to the train will take place. Go to
http://ringling.com/schedule/ to check the schedule for your state and
town. For instance, the last show in Anaheim is Aug. 3, at
5:30. I'll be on the route between the arena and the animal cars
about 8:15 to photograph the animal walk.
Do you see
many rail fans along the way when your train is on the move? Yes, especially when we went through the
Tehachapi Loop on our way to Los Angeles.
(Keith added that if anyone had a picture of his blue unit going
through the Tehachapi Loop earlier in July, he'd sure like to have a
copy. If you have such a photo, e-mail it to me,
Carl@TrainWeb.com, and I'll forward it to him with your name and e-mail
so he can respond to you. I'd like to use the same picture in
this story, with credit to you, if you don't mind.)
St. Louis is the hometown of Keith Anderson, Train Master of the
Blue Unit of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Circus. Before coming to work with Ringling, he was an Inspector
of Freight Repairs for Norfolk Southern RR. He has been Chief
Mechanical Officer. He was Assistant Train Master of the Red Unit
last season, and on April 17 this year became Train Master of the Blue
It was a joy to interview Keith. He enjoys his work and is
very well-qualified, informative and friendly and has the respect of
his workers. Thank You, Keith.
The east side cut seemed to stretch to the horizon
The shield on
the side of the cars (right) indicates by the background color
that this is the Blue Unit. This blue shield also adorns the
in the animal walk and the uniforms of staff. (The red unit shield has
a red background.)
One car had the Old School logo.
At the Circus,
more than one hour before the
performance, you can walk among the animal cages, and buy programs and
souvenirs at the All Access Pre-Show.
ever dreamed of joining the circus, then our Free All Access Pre-show is your chance – and you don't even have
to run away! Step onto the all-new open arena floor for the All Access
Pre-show, free to every ticket holder, one hour before every
performance of the 138th Edition of The Greatest Show On Earth® and meet our awesomely athletic Ringling Bros .® stars!
Mix and mingle with an amazing
amalgam of acrobats, aerialists and animals, find out what it takes for
them to stay in phenomenal CircusFitSM condition and attempt awe-inspiring
activities in a circus-sensational experience that makes The Greatest Show On Earth come alive!
Converse with Cossacks, and cavort
with clowns. Fit yourself out in circus finery, dabble with dancers and
sign up for a chance to win a "mammoth masterpiece" painted by the
Picasso of Pachyderms. There's so much to do and see, and the show
hasn't even started!
So join our popular Free All Access
Pre-show, a one-of-a-kind Ringling
Bros. experience that starts one
hour before The Greatest Show
the Ringling.com website
Jenny Vidbel's barnyard act
Original painting by an Elephant.
Souvenir photos can be taken.
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