Customer Story: Ringling Brothers And Barnum & Bailey Circus

Customer Story: Ringling Brothers And Barnum & Bailey Circus

Tight deadlines are the norm on the railroad. Everyone needs their freight where it’s expected to be when it’s expected to be there. While there are some tolerances built-in in most cases, this was not the case with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train when they were touring.

There is always great excitement when the circus moves through the Sacramento Valley Railroad (SAV) track. A few years back, there was a little too much excitement when a derailment up the track threatened a major delay about 30 minutes before the 115-car Barnum and Bailey train was set to reach our yard.

Another train had middle cars hit the ground about halfway back. Our team knew they had to act quickly to get that train out of the way, and the track cleared so the circus train could make it through and get unloaded in time for the performers and crew to set up in time for a show. The SAV team’s expertise and the excellent relationships they have built with the Class I railroads they work with both came into play.

Our Crew Knew What To Do

The first thing that the SAV crew had to do was remove the cars located on both sides of the derailment. In a coordinated effort, the teams brought locomotives from either end and pulled the functional cars out of the way. Now the real excitement could begin.

Fortunately, the derailed cars remained close enough to the track so that our crew could correct them using locomotive and rerailing blocks. These are ramps designed to fit over the tracks and provide a natural path for the locomotive to pull the cars back into alignment and drop back onto the rails.

Time was of the essence, but safety could not be sacrificed for speed.

“You definitely don’t want to be in the wrong spot,” said SAV Operations Manager Joe Gallegos. “When things are moving like that, especially when something is off the tracks, there’s no way to be 100 percent sure it’s going to go the way you expect it to. A locomotive engineer can pull it right off the blocks, and it’ll slam back onto the ground.”

Fixing A Derail

Engineers regularly prepare for rerailing, and fortunately, everything went precisely as our crews had hoped. Our locomotive’s well-paced pulling got the cars back up where they needed to be, and they slid right into place. Everyone on the ground followed the procedure, and no additional incidents related to the derailment occurred. Following protocol, the derailed cars were pulled to safety off the main tracks and set aside for inspection to ensure they were not damaged before continuing their journey. The track had to be closely inspected as well. 

Once our team determined that a track defect didn’t cause the derailment and the derailment didn’t damage the track, the circus train was given clearance to move into the SAV yard to unload and get everything they needed to the venue. As Joe Gallegos recalls, “It was pretty amazing to see how the guys were able to clear the way, get things together, and make solid decisions on how they were going to break that train up. It was very cool. We were able to service the customer, so they could almost immediately start doing what they needed to do to hit their deadlines.”

The Show Must Go On

At Patriot Rail and Ports, we understand that “the show must go on.” Due to exceptional training, perfect execution, and timely coordination by our SAV team, the circus fans of Sacramento were able to enjoy the Greatest Show On Earth. Most in attendance were probably not aware that another spectacular performance out on the tracks just a few miles away made it possible.

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