GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum volunteers and board members welcomed their latest asset to its Third Avenue location Monday, a former Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s passenger car.
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.
“We’ve come a long ways in a couple years,” said Love. “We’d like to turn the car into a meeting place and modify it for educational purposes.”
Board Vice-President Jerry 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. “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 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 is now finishing up paperwork to receive around $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.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.