Skip to main content

New first-class, open-air cars join Indiana Rail Experience

By June 4, 2024June 11th, 2024News

NORTHEAST INDIANA – The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has introduced two newly created passenger cars to the Indiana Rail Experience. Converted from two former Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus cars, the additions combine parlor-style seating with generously sized open windows and four large Dutch viewing doors for a unique combination of first-class amenities and vintage railroad charm. Tickets to ride in these cars during special events this year, including the Tri-State Scenic in June and the Wine & Chocolate Train in July, are on sale now at

“Many of our guests want to experience the thrill of riding behind a historic steam locomotive up close and personal, and these cars combine Jazz Era and Art Deco furnishings and decor, comfortable seating, and plentiful opportunities to see, hear, and enjoy the train and passing countryside,” explained Kelly Lynch, Executive Director for the Fort Wayne Railroad. “Many traditional open-window cars are over 100 years old and can be prohibitively expensive to acquire and maintain, so we decided to create our own to maintain the iconic adventure of riding behind a vintage steam locomotive in a way that preserves the sensory experience.”

The cars collectively add nearly 70 seats to each train, and feature table and lounge-style seating, a small bar, water closet, and one car retains its original elephant carriage, which will be available on select occasions for private groups. With its open-air capabilities and casual refinements, the cars will also offer cigar-smoking luxuries during designated events.

The cars carry a silver paint scheme similar to their original circus train appearance and a red stripe signifying that they were once part of the Ringling Ringing Bros. “Red Unit Circus Train,” a one-mile-long, traveling road show that supported the itinerant performances. The circus train ended in 2017, concluding a 145-year-old tradition.


For many years, the circus’ arrival by train was an annual ceremony in many towns. In Fort Wayne, the Ringling Ringing Bros. Circus Train was delivered by the Nickel Plate Road and then unloaded at 4th Street, where Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 would eventually be placed on display in 1963. From there, the elephants paraded up Clinton Street where the circus performed at Centlivre Park, which was named for the nearby brewery that once produced Nickel Plate Beer. Recognizing these connections, the first-class table car has been named Centlivre Park. The second car, as of yet unnamed, will be listed as Car 5735. Sponsorship opportunities and naming rights are available.

Originally built as baggage cars No. 5735 and No. 5762 for Union Pacific Railroad in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The cars were adapted by the circus in the 1990s, operated No. 60019 and No. 63009, and used until 2017. The cars were acquired by Norfolk Southern in 2017, later sold to the Everett Railroad, and then purchased by the Fort Wayne Railroad in late 2023 where they have been undergoing restoration since last winter with support from a local donor.


For over 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has created unique and memorable experiences through its celebration of the Golden Age of Railroading – a special era of American transportation, innovation, and connectivity between the 1930s and 1950s. The Fort Wayne Railroad has operated historic steam locomotive Nickel Plate Road no. 765 extensively in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and its events routinely welcome visitors from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. In 2023, its rail tourism program the Indiana Rail Experience was named Indiana’s Best New Experience by Visit Indiana and since 2022, its events have had an economic impact of over 3 million dollars on Northeast Indiana. The Fort Wayne Railroad’s operations are made possible entirely through volunteers and funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships. For more information, visit