Preparing for the Ringling preservation movement

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey rail equipment rests at Colorado Springs. Photo by Jim Wrinn
Money, like in the rest of the world, gets things done in railroad preservation.

So now is the time to start a fundraising campaign for any museum that may want to acquire a piece of the soon-to-be-idle Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus trains. The trains are in use until May. That gives many organizations a great head start on fundraising for any possible acquisitions related to the circus trains.

Even if the preservation group manages a donation of the equipment, fundraising is still needed. There are, after all, plenty of other costs to consider.

Does the group have enough open track space – or even enough land – to accept such a donation or pursue an acquisition? If not, what will it take to build, even with volunteer labor? Remember, these cars will consume almost 100 feet of track each. Depending on the climate, the organization may want to look at building a shelter for the new equipment as well.

Then there are administrative costs: Travel expenses to inspect the equipment and complete paperwork, publicity expenses so the community knows about the new arrivals, and exhibit expenses to properly display and interpret the equipment. Equipment donations, it seems, aren’t cheap.

Let me be clear, I do not know what the circus plans for the equipment after the end of the tour. There may already be agreements in place to sell or donate the equipment. It’s possible that none of it will see disposition at all. However, now is the time for interested organizations to discuss what needs to be done should an acquisition be possible.

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