Ringling Bros. train car gets permanent home in Seffner

The same way people came out for decades to watch the Ringling Bros. circus train roll into their city, one of its train cars rolling into Hillsborough County on Wednesday brought a crowd, many of them former performers.

Train car number 57 made its final journey from Palmetto to State Road 92 in Seffner at the Showpeople's Winter Quarters. The mobile home park serves as a retirement community for former circus performers.

"Around 2001, we discovered in Sarasota some circus people were homeless. Circus people can fade into the woodwork, and people don't know who they are," said Father Jerry Hogan, the national circus chaplain.

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Hogan helped establish the retirement community through the Circus and Traveling Show Retirement Project.

Since the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended, nearly all of its train cars have been sold or donated to railroads and private collectors.  Car 57 was donated to the Seffner retirement community.

Hogan said they are working to transform the train car into a community center.

"We're going to gut it out. We're going to have a library in it, and we're also going to have a kitchen," said Hogan.

Tom Dillon, who lives in Sarasota, helped deliver the train car. It brought back fond memories of his time working as the train master on Car 57 from 1985 to 1995.

He said being on board as the circus traveled across the country was more than a job.

"All your friends are there. We used to call ourselves the city without a ZIP code, you know, because we moved so often," said Dillon.

It could take months for the community center to be constructed inside the train car. The mobile home park is collecting donations to help with the project.

The railroad tracks the train car will sit on were built by the Florida Railroad Museum.