Ringling Bros. rail cars on display at Williston farm

- After a 146-year run, the final curtain came down on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus last year. Now, a big piece of circus history is in its final resting stop in Williston, between Ocala and Gainesville.

"From what they tell us, we're the largest collection of circus cars in the world now, so we're quite honored to be that destination," said Daryl Kirby, owner of Kirby Family Farm.

Feld Entertainment helped Kirby get 16 coaches and four flat cars to house at his charity farm, where he holds events and mentorship programs for children in foster homes and others who are at risk.

The Ringling rail cars were once used to transport performers and animals across the country for shows. The train was nicknamed "the city without a zip code," because many whole performers and their family lived most of their lives on board.

Kirby said he has had a fascination with trains and their history most of his life. His grandfather worked as a railroad engineer.

"I got to play on the old engines and stuff and pretend I was driving those, so that was definitely where the seed was planted," said Kirby.

Since moving the cars to his farm with the help of CSX, Kirby said several former performers have stopped by to get a glimpse of their old home.

He hopes to turn some of the "star cars," which were cars designated for ringmasters and trainmasters, into dormitories for children during overnight camps.

"Everybody has been making dibs on their car. 'I want to move in one!'" joked Kirby.

He plans to use at least one car as a small museum, housing memorabilia to honor the legacy of the circus.

For more information on Kirby Family Farm, visit www.kirbyfarm.com/.

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