The operator of the soon to be last traveling (by rail) circus in the United States said it plans to continue riding the rails and is even looking at expansion to rail routes it has not used before.
Trains magazine reported on Thursday that Strates will continue operating by rail although officials said it is premature to talk about whether it will acquire any rolling stock from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which announced last week that it will end the self-proclaimed “Greatest Show on Earth” in May.
Strates now offers about 24 shows a year and owns its own railroad rolling stock.
Founded by Greek immigrant James E. Strates, the company continues to be family owned.
Unlike the Ringling Bros. trains, Strates trains no longer carry passenger cars. They were dropped three years ago because of the high cost of liability insurance.
Instead of traveling with the train, its 400 performers and support staff travel in company or personal vehicles and stay on the road in bunkhouses.
The passenger cars that once traveled with the circus are kept at the base in Orlando, Florida, and sometimes used as dormitories during the winter.
The Strates circus train is a string of its own flatcars, as many as 42 in recent years. It is loaded in March and returns to Florida in November.
“We’re in shock just as everyone else is about what’s happened to Ringling Brothers,” Dan Wallace, the company’s controller and transportation coordinator, told Trains. “We have a long, cordial relationship with Ringling, in fact the Ringling trains in the past when they played Orlando have occasionally stayed on our siding.”
Wallace said rail continues to be an effective way to move equipment.