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Ringling Brothers Circus Train - Rolls Again

Ringling Train When Ringling Brothers closed the circus in 2017, America was left with a large cultural void, and the railroad world lost two grand trains - the Red Train and the Blue Train. For those who saw the spectacular circus performances in big arenas, the memory of the Greatest Show On Earth is etched in our hearts for all time. And, for those who saw the circus trains first hand, the show on the rails was every bit as impressive as the show in the rings. But not everyone had a chance to see the trains, and for that reason, John Rezuke is bringing the Ringling Brothers circus train back to life - in HO-scale.   “I first saw the Blue Train when I was in high school,” says Rezuke. “…and it had an impression on me that I didn’t expect. It was pretty overwhelming really.” However, John’s first exposure to circus trains happened years prior at the 2002 Railroad Hobby Show when he saw an N-scale rendition of the Ringling circus train built by Northeast NTRAK member Roland Kelley. Only seven years old at the time, John was fascinated by the train and this experience set him up to some day build his own train. However, modeling the Ringling Bros train in HO-scale was no easy task. “There wasn’t much out there from commercial manufacturers, so I started doing the research and planning to kit-bash and scratch-build the train as it was in the mid 1990s to early 2000s,” says John. “And, when Ringling announced the end of the circus and the circus trains in 2017, my modeling efforts went into high gear. There was no doubt in my mind that I could build this train. But, it had to be done in a way that preserved the legacy of the Ringling trains for future generations to enjoy.” So far, John has built a seventeen-car train. When finished, the train will be 32 cars, about half the size of the prototype Blue Train. “I’m using Walthers 85’ baggage cars as the base for the stock cars, and Walthers 44 seat coaches as the starting point for the performers’ cars. Then, I modify them to look like the real cars, similar to the way Ringling customized their cars.” John modifies Athearn 89-foot flat cars to get the feel of the Ringling flats. For many of the circus wagons, John starts with 20-foot Athearn containers, then adapts them to meet Ringling specs. Buses, trucks, and performers’ vehicles mostly come from eBay, then are re-worked and painted to represent the life-size versions. John’s HO-scale version of the Ringling Brothers Blue Train ran both days on the Dry Hill layout at the 2019 Railroad Hobby Show. When the 32-car train is complete, John plans to take it on tour around the country. John Rezuke is a member of the North Shore Model Railroad Club, and a member of the Circus Model Builders, an international group of circus enthusiasts that create, collect, and display models of the circus and circus trains to preserve the rich history and support the unique entertainment spectacle that is the circus.

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