Sad Note For Train Buffs And Great Circus Parade Fans

Your Blogger With The Famed Train In Madison in 2001


This is sad.  While the Milwaukee parade is slated for this summer, the Great Circus Train will run no more. Every kid (regardless of age) should be able to experience the joy of the circus train rumbling along the tracks.

The parade, in past years, was always preceded by the circus train meandering through southern Wisconsin, including Madison, a week before the big day. The journeys began at Circus World Museum in Baraboo, where the equipment has a permanent home, and ended with the parade and a display of the circus wagons on Milwaukee’s lakefront.

Circus World Executive Director Steve Freese told The Capital Times today that the train would not be assembled next year to haul the wagons and equipment to Milwaukee because the flatbed train cars used to haul the 60 circus wagons and other equipment are too old and not up to modern safety standards to be permitted on railroad tracks anymore.

The circus wagons will instead by hauled by flatbed trucks, eight at a time, starting July 1, 2009. It has not been determined if there will be a designated route for the flatbed trucks to take so circus fans can see the colorful wagons roll by.

“The train is not possible,” Freese said. “The rail cars are so old they would need to be updated. Even our newest flatbed train cars are over 20 years old. It would cost at least $1 million to get new cars.”

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13 thoughts on “Sad Note For Train Buffs And Great Circus Parade Fans

  1. Mike Balog

    Good Day:

    I am trying to find photographs of the Steam Locos
    that hauled the Circus Trains. Such as the locos used
    by the Miliwalkee RR. I have picked up a used HO Scale
    Model RR Steam Locomotive, a 4 – 6- 2 AHM Heavy Pacific Steam Loco. The Tender has the modern two tone
    brown and orange paint scheme with the RR Name Logo in
    the center of the tender. I would like to know,if the
    entire locomotive was painted black, or some other
    colors ? I have a complete H.O. Scale Circus Train as
    made by Walthers Hobby Distributors. I wanted to paint
    the locomotive the correct color to complete my depiction of the Circus Train as being pulled by a
    modern steam locomotive. Thanks again. Waiting for your reply.

    Mike Balog

  2. Brian Allen

    In the early 2000’s, I had the pleasure of riding and working the Circus Train from Baraboo, Wisconsin to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was a volunteer member for the host railroad (Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Company). It was the trip of a lifetime for me.

  3. Donna Murphy

    Have just been checking out the websites for the parade, as I had hoped my train buff son from Regina, could join me in Baraboo for the trip to Milwaukee and the parade next year, only to find out that they haven’t even had the parade since 2003 and that there will be no train to get the wagons to Milwaukee when it returns in 2009.

    I saw the unloading of the wagons, by elephants, the 1st year of the 40 horse hitch and it was ALL so beautiful and moving, and really hoped to make sure my son had the pleasure of seeing it and riding that train. Too bad!

  4. Diana Witte

    The train will be greatly missed. As a former Madisonian I can’t remember all the times we used to go to the station to watch the train come in and to see the wagons and animals. It will be a sight my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will never know.

  5. Ray Breyer

    There has to be something else going on. There are literally thousands of TOFC flat cars parked all across the country, not being used (thanks to recession). Baraboo could easily rent the cars, just like any other shipper, and get the wagons to Milwaukee that way.

    I smell insurance liability on priceless antique circus wagons, rather than “can’t run trains no mo”.

    1. Brian Liddicoat

      I agree that the train will be missed, but part of the magic was seeing the actual cars from shows of the past, and to restore these to current railroad specifications is far beyond the budgets. Let’s face it, the parade is something we nostalgians love, but the funding is just not there to keep up with current industry standards. Somehow, system flats would not be the best choice, as trucking can transport wagons door to door, and this is the way these beauties make it to other venues when used for displays or other parades, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC.

      As GM of the Big Apple Circus in 1989, when we were doing “Grandma Goes West”, I was the first to arrange for the Pawnee Bill wagon to appear in the parade. Unfortunately, morning of the event, the team could not get the Cat started to pull the wagon off the flatbed, so the Hallamore team from Massachusetts had to use their dray wagon for the Richard Whitmarsh band I had also hired. Since that time, however, the wagon has been paraded a number of times.

      I am looking forward to Milwaukee.

      Brian Liddicoat

  6. Leslie Juckem

    I am saddened to hear about the circus train. Perhaps you could ask for some stimulus money, everyone else seems to have. I am over sixty years old and I remember the train from my childhood and also my children have memories of the train. This is very sad news indeed.

  7. Matt walton

    But Wait A Minute I Finally Got it!
    It’s A Snapshot of The 2 KCS NW2 Diesel Engines #’s 4200, & 4201 Pulling The Diesel Powered 1992 Circus Train From Baraboo At Daylight Singing America The Beautiful Remasterd! Because It’s Nearly The End of The Day, And The Diesel Powered 1992 Circus Train on The KCS Railroad is Now Covered By The Softlight of The Summer Wisconsin Sunset!

  8. Matt walton

    Walthers Produced 2 HO SCALE Red & Orange Warren Circus Flatcars #’s 52, & 57 in 1989!
    In 1990 13 HO Scale Colorful Warren, & Mount Vernon Flat cars #’s 50, 51, 53, 54 ,55, 56, 58, 59 ,60, 62, 63, 64, & 65, 2 WARREN CIRCUS RAILROAD CARS! AN HO SCALE WARREN STOCK CAR #49, And The JAMES E. STRATES SHOWS ELEPHANT CAR IN HO SCALE #44!
    3 Circus Passenger Made By Walthers Were Also Introduced!

    Walthers First Re-presented The first And Only Great Circus Train Diesel Engine From The Burlington Northern Railroad #’s 9760, & 9735 + #786 in 1991!

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