On May 1st, 2017, I set out for a historic, but bittersweet, railfan outing. The last fully-loaded circus train would be passing through Washington, D.C., and I had set the whole day aside to chase it south through Virginia. The Blue Unit had just finished its run of shows in Baltimore, and was heading for Charleston, West Virginia, for the second-to-last stand ever in the history of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus. The Red Unit was in the process of finishing its final shows in Rhode Island, and that train would be split up shortly after the final loadout, with cars being shipped to their new owners, saving for the flatcars which first carried the production equipment home to Florida.
The train departed Baltimore in the late morning after several delays with switching and locomotive issues, finally reaching the Potomac River (border between D.C. and Virginia) in the afternoon, after I had spent a fair five hours waiting for the train in blistering sunlight and heavy winds. I have yet to decide if I'll upload my "Circus Train Pre-Game" videos (several other trains through the CP Virginia interlocking adjacent to Long Bridge Park) as the wind was so violent, it nearly took a bite out of my camera multiple times! I actually gaffer-taped my tripod to the railing to ensure that it wouldn't fall over while I was taking still images.
Without much fanfare, though plenty of attention from the dozen railfans and various park-goers, the Blue Unit entered Virginia on CSX rails, and would soon transfer to Norfolk Southern at Alexandria, only a few miles south. I made the foolish mistake of trying to see the train at Van Dorn Street, where it was scheduled to sit for a few hours before continuing towards Lynchburg and points west. Instead, given that the train was already behind schedule, a brief stop was made to drop off the CSX crew, and then the train highballed out of the yard. I did my best to catch up, but unfortunately the train was late enough that evening Rush Hour traffic had begun, and I soon realized there was no way I would catch up to the train. I wasn't planning on Long Bridge Park being the last time I would see the circus train, but at the same time, I'm grateful I got to see it at all. Two more circus trains would pass through Washington D.C., but both would be devoid of people, merely ferrying equipment back to home base in Florida, stopping along the way to drop off passenger cars heading to new homes. And so, I bid a tearful goodbye to the Greatest Show On Earth, carried by the Greatest Train On Earth, for 146 years of American entertainment. May the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus rest peacefully as we treasure their legacy.
Below is a photo gallery and YouTube video link, and as always, thank you for reading!