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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow EARTH'S GREATEST SHOW PAUSES THROUGH TOWN

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EARTH'S GREATEST SHOW PAUSES THROUGH TOWN

ELEPHANTS RIDE THE RAILS: At left, an Asian elephant with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus looks out of a rail car during the circus train's brief stop at the La Grande depot Tuesday afternoon. Above, Clarence Bells of Bend snapped photos of the train and circus animals. (Observer photos/PHIL BULLOCK).
ELEPHANTS RIDE THE RAILS: At left, an Asian elephant with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus looks out of a rail car during the circus train's brief stop at the La Grande depot Tuesday afternoon. Above, Clarence Bells of Bend snapped photos of the train and circus animals. (Observer photos/PHIL BULLOCK).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Somehow, even the first day of cold, chilly rain failed to dampen the curiosity of the few people standing outside the La Grande railroad depot Tuesday afternoon.

After all, the circus train was coming. The Greatest Show on Earth. The 132nd edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

It came, cameras clicked as elephant trunks waved, and it left.

The mile-long train, privately owned by the circus, was transporting more than 500 tons of equipment, people and animals between its last stop in Washington state and this weekend's four days of shows at the Idaho Center in Nampa.

The Union Pacific Railroad engines pulling the line of silver cars needed a crew change at La Grande.

Susan Gerry, manager of train operations in La Grande, stood by with her camera in the drizzling rain.

"They just went through Perry," she said, as train crew members began lugging their duffel bags toward trackside. She remembered last year, when the circus train also briefly stopped in La Grande and the car doors were opened to let the animals get fresh air.

Gerry said the train had also stopped briefly at Hinkle, where two more engines had been added to pull the train over the Blue Mountains.

This year the stop, a matter of minutes, revealed llama faces pressed against screened openings in the car, swaying elephants — two to a car — occasionally reaching out of the open sliding car doors with extended trunks, and a chance to make guesses about how a circus travels.

Watchers got to wave at circus folks standing at the front ends of passenger cars. A small dog, and, in another car a cat were perched on passing window ledges.

At the back of the train, flatbed after flatbed hauled equipment trailers and motorized equipment. Another vehicle transport car carried several SUVs and passenger cars.

According to the Ringling Bros. Web site, there are two trains that transport the two editions of the circus across the country for 11 months of each year.

The one moving through

La Grande, on its way to Nampa, will deliver the equipment and animals needed for the shows Thursday through Sunday. It takes about 14 hours to set up the circus, and six to dismantle everything.

And then, crew switched, the train rumbled away.

Reach T.L. Petersen at tpetersen

@lagrandeobserver.com.

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