GALLIPOLIS — It might not have been the greatest show on Earth to everyone, but it certainly was to Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum board members and supporters Wednesday when a crane finally placed on rails a new favorite museum asset, a former Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s circus passenger car.
“It’s like Christmas in July,” said Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum Board Vice-President Jerry Davis.
According to information provided by the museum’s board of directors,” The RBBX 41307 (the car’s formal designation) was built in 1949 (then numbered) Pennsylvania RR (PPR) No. 8267, named the ‘Lewiston Inn,’ (and built) as a 21 roomette slab-sided stainless steel sleeper by the Budd Company, using the Pullman Floor plan 9513.”
The 10-by-86 foot car was rebuilt in 1963 as a 64-seat coach with a 12-seat smoking lounge and was renumbered PPR 1505 before then becoming Penn Central (PC) 1505 in 1968. It was eventually sold in 1976 to New Jersey Transit and renumbered NJTR 5439 before being traded to a private car owner in 1992 who then in turn sold it to the circus. It ran in the circus’ blue unit with a house number of 186 and reporting marks of 41307.
The car was received from private owners Nelson and Borden Black McGahee at a location in Huntington after selling the car to the museum for around $22,000, said board members. The pair purchased the car in 2017 after the circus went out of business, reported The Huntington-Herald Dispatch.
Board President Jim Love said the car was once used to house around five or six circus trapeze artists and was equipped with refrigerators, toilets, beds and more.
Jim Posey, of Rockmill Machinery Transfer, Inc., and his colleagues operated the crane to place the car on rails at the museum’s Third Avenue location. The company also helped move the museum’s caboose onto rails in summer of 2017.
“We’ve come a long ways in a couple years,” said Love previously. “We’d like to turn the car into a meeting place and modify it for educational purposes.”
Davis said, ideally, the car would be outfit with learning stations for all elementary school grades with age-appropriate content, as well as to serve other community functions, with monitors and informational displays discussing the station’s history.
“The support from the community has just been wonderful,” said Davis previously. “So many people have come to donate time, labor or money to the effort and we couldn’t be more pleased.”
Love first approached Gallipolis City Commission about turning the aging station into a museum in April 2016. According to him, the station had served as an old freight house and was built in 1901 by Hocking Valley, a rail company of the time. The building is roughly 118 years-old and Love had once served as the building’s telegrapher. It closed in the early 1980s.
The circus passenger car joins a caboose and a fireless steam locomotive at the museum. The first was acquired June 2017 from Wheelersburg and the second from Point Pleasant, W.Va., in August, last year. The locomotive had no firebox and was filled with steam to be utilized for a few hours in areas that could not have open flames. It was built in the 1940s while the caboose was built in 1969.
The museum board has received $125,000 in state funding to be put towards maintenance and restoration efforts. In the future, board members say they’re looking to potentially acquire another caboose and passenger car from the West Virginia State Farm Museum.
The museum has also laid piping outside of the museum to account for future bathroom facilities in the car as well as in its office. Currently, the museum is awaiting inspection before moving forward with placing toilets.
The museum is also looking to restore its passenger car and caboose and is reportedly in talks with a Chris Edwards, said Davis previously. Edwards reportedly has original plans for the car and had previously worked as a maintenance director over the same car when he worked with the circus. Museum board members are also in talks with the Ohio Department of Transportation to look for further grant funding opportunities.
For more information, visit https://gallipolisrailroad.org.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.