Abandoned Ringling Bros train carriages caught fire on a track in the woods in North Carolina


SPRING HOPE, NC (WNCN) – The discontinued cars of Ringling Bros. and North Carolina State-owned Barnum & Bailey Circus caught fire Thursday morning, according to the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.

The carriages were on abandoned tracks in the woods about 518 S. Old Franklin Road from Spring Hope town limit, officials said.

Volunteer fire departments, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), and the Nash County Sheriff’s Office were at the scene of the 11 a.m. fire.

The historic carriages are now owned by NCDOT after they spent more than $380,000 buying nine when the circus closed in 2017.

“These cars have a wonderful and amazing history,” Jason Orthner, director of the NCDOT rail division, told CBS 17 in December 2020. “These are dormitory cars for all. Even the staff of the circus. They were built in the 1960s”.

Plans to refurbish the cars quickly stalled as NCDOT calculated the cost.

Orthner told CBS 17 at the time: “This is based more on the long game of really looking at our rail program and how we’re going to take it into the future.

NCDOT attempted to auction off railroad cars on the state surplus site in December 2020 for a minimum of $32,000 more than NCDOT paid for all carriages. No bids have been made.

At the time of the auction, half of the carriages were stored at the NCDOT warehouse in Raleigh. The other half are being stored in the same place where they burned this morning.

Before the fire, people could still see giant tigers, elephants and gorillas painted in eye-catching colors on the side of the car. It is not yet clear how badly the carriages were damaged.

The sheriff’s office said the trains were inaccessible because of their location in the woods and needed to send a locomotive to move the carriages to ensure that all fires were extinguished.

Authorities said it had not yet been determined whether the fire was intentionally set on fire. Abandoned Ringling Bros train carriages caught fire on a track in the woods in North Carolina

Russell Falcon

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