Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus Train

I have always been a fan of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus train going down to the rail siding when it pulled into El Paso. I had looked high and low for replicas of the cars in ready to run for my own N-scale layout. I found both passenger and flat cars in other scales but never in N-scale. So I set out to scratch build my own train. I had some old smooth sided Santa Fe passenger cars that resembled the cars I found in pictures of the Ringling Bros. circus train online.

I started by painting out the Santa Fe stripes and markings on the passenger cars to give me a clean surface to work on. It has been a long and tedious project locating logos online that I could reproduce to scale, print them on self-sticking labels and use them on my cars. Each car would need to carry as many as four of the Ringling Bros. round circus logo along with the traditional banner down each side of the cars. I went ahead and printed the car identification markings on a clear decal sheets after trying to use The Woodland Scenic's Dry Transfer Decals and struggling to get them straight and making them look professional. The decal sheets were much easier to use and worked the best.


Right after I started this project and was into about 3 weeks of work, Micro-Trains announced several different runs of Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus cars sporting the famous circus name and logo. I have actually seen the Micro Trains flat cars with the circus wagons and have to say I was very disappointed in the quality.

Online, I found several different versions of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Red Unit stock cars. I chose to model the Red Unit. Currently, the circus maintains two circus train-based shows, the Blue Tour and the Red Tour, as well as the truck-based Gold Tour (which began in 2004). Each train is a mile long with roughly 60 cars: 40 passenger cars and 20 freight. Rolling stock belonging to the circus bears the reporting mark "RBBX". The Blue and Red Tours present a full three-ring production for two years each (taking the month of December off), visiting alternating major cities each year. Each train presents a different "edition" of the show, using a numbering scheme that dates back to circus origins in 1871— the first year of P.T. Barnum's show. The Blue Tour presents the even-numbered editions on a two-year tour (beginning each even-numbered year), and the Red Tour presents the odd-numbered editions on the same two-year tour (beginning each odd-numbered year). The Gold Tour presents a scaled-back, single-ring version of the show, designed to serve smaller markets deemed incapable of supporting the three-ring versions.

The photo above features my scratch built car on the right of the photo and the Micro-Trains stock car on the left. The main difference in the two cars is mine carries the famous banner logo down both sides of the car along with the round logo. It is modeled after an actual car that was used by the circus. The Micro-Trains car has added ventilation windows and features only the round logo. Both cars are or were actually used by the circus at one time or another.

I had already purchased three 89'4" flat cars for my train and had painted them silver. The scratch built wagons are made from semi trailers that I painted white, removing the existing double wheels on the one end and adding single wheels on each corner of the trailer. I used the extra wheels I had from some Atlas pickup trucks that I no longer use and were tossed in my parts bin. I save all parts because in model railroading, you never know when you might need something. After adding the traditional logo, while they may not be to exact scale, mine look just as good as the ones being offered by Micro-Trains.

When Micro-Trains came out with a set of just the wagons, I ordered a set and mixed them with the wagons I had built. The prototype cars have anywhere from three to four wagons depending on the size of the wagons. The first flat car pictured above has three Micro-Trains wagons with the second from the left being one of my scratch built wagons. The next flat car has two of my scratch built wagons and a Classic Metal Works - International Harvester R-190 A&P Supermarket Truck that I painted the box white and added the logo.




On the left is a Micro-Trains 89'4 flat car prepainted in the Ringling colors and logo carrying a load consisting of a custom Classic Metal Works 1954 Ford F-700 Delivery Truck that has been wrapped in a reproduction of a Ringling Bros. advertising poster. Next is a Micro-Trains wagon followed by one of their Vintage Circus Wagon. Next is one of my scratch-built wagons made from a Union Pacific trailer.




The photo on the right is a Micro-Trains 89'4 flat car that I painted and lettered myself. The trucks will eventually be painted silver like the proto type. This car is carrying 3 Miro-Train wagons and a custom Classic Metal Works 1954 Ford F-700 Delivery Truck that has the box wrapped in a reproduction of a Ringling Bros. advertising poster.



The photo on the left again is a Micro-Trains 89'4 flat car that I painted and lettered myself. The first two wagons are by Micro-Trains, Micro-Trains Vintage Circus Wagon followed by another of my scratch built wagons.

Shortly after finishing most of the passenger cars, the sleeper cars were released by Micro-Trains along with a pie car (diner) and a replica of the auto rack the circus had customized to fit their needs. I did purchase a couple of sleepers, the pie car and the auto rack to mix in with my own scratch built train. They look great together and I am very pleased with the outcome.

I have enjoyed this project and still have some detail work to finish. I was able to go online and Google the Ringling Bros. Circus Train. There are many pictures of all the different cars as well as a history of each car. This was a great help to me while creating my own train.