Track Gang

Railroads of Madison County - Circus Trains

Circus Tiger
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My...
and the Carnivals too.

In the days when the circus and carnival shows traveled by rail, they stopped in the smaller cities and towns as part of their tour season. Anderson was no exception. No matter what Railroad they came in on, the carnivals would set up in Athletic park at the Anderson Fairgrounds and their trains would be routed onto the Panhandle (Pennsy) to unload at the Freight House at 5th and Main. The trains would then be pulled forward onto the siding by the passenger station to the south at 9th and Fletcher. Their cars could be easily seen by the traffic using the 9th Street bridge and underpass. Johnny J. Jones and Rubin and Sherry were the most common shows to work Anderson in the 40s. For the most part, the carnivals moved to trucks for transportation leaving only the circus traveling by rail.

Cole Bros. The circus would use Harter Field just off of 2nd and Sycamore Streets for their shows. They would unload along John Street on the NYC where there were two tracks, the Michigan Division (today's DOW) and a siding. They would unload their cars from the end of the train spotting a 'Ramp Car' at the end and then running the wagons and vehicles across ramps laid between the flat cars. The smaller circus would unload 6 cars at a time while the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey would unload up to 9 at a time, half a section. Circus trains were broken into sections containing the materials that would be needed at specific times in setting up the show and they would be unloaded and reloaded accordingly.

Cole Bros. Circus and Clyde Beatty Shows also made stops in Anderson as did other smaller shows with all of them parading their wagons and animals down to Harter Field for the set up of their shows. The unloaded train cars would then be pulled north on the NYC toward the dow interlocking for storage until needed.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey last played Anderson on July 18, 1955 just a year before they retired their Big Top and went off of the road on July 16, 1956 and began the schedule that they currently use. The show was not well attended. That is all the more remarkable when considering that the Cole Bros. show playing Athletic Park a year or so later was a sell out, but the era of the Circus Train visits to smaller communities had come to an end and would be relegated to history and memory.

It's 1946 and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has come to town. Sections one and two are in position to begin unloading.
And this is the setup for the circus exhibit at the Madison County Historical Society, Inc. It was created by Robert Trueblood (deceased 2017). I had a terrible time getting him to give the layout to the Museum of Madison County History. He had it stored in the attic of his garage (not good). I had talked him into an exhibit earlier and I worked on him on and off about presenting it to us. He finally said he might but he wanted to do another exhibit with it first. We set it up in parts for display in the lower level and he sat by it all throught the Christmas display. When it was over, he said, "I'll sign it over to you." We immediately moved things around and put in into a permanent place where it is now. Bob died last year (2017) but he and others were in a few weeks before he died and he was busy showing them the details of his layout. His memory was fantastic.

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Last updated November 03, 2018.
This "Railroads of Madison County" page is written, maintained and hosted by: Roger P. Hensley
Copyright 1997/1998 by Roger P. Hensley.
An addition to the original work by Roger P. Hensley Copyright 1995.