Country’s Last ‘Fair Train’ Returns to the Rails After Five-Year Hiatus

The Strates Shows “Fair Train” will run from Florida to New York in August for the first time since 2019. Courtesy Photo. 

Country’s Last ‘Fair Train’ Returns to the Rails After Five-Year Hiatus

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

The country’s last “fair train” is returning to the main line after a five-year hiatus. The James E. Strates Fair Train is being prepared by Strates Shows in Florida this month and will run via CSX to Hamburg, N.Y., near Buffalo, in August. It will be the first time the historic train has run since 2019. 

Since 2017, when the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus stopped running its circus train, the Strates Show has been the only operator of fair trains. It has been the only remaining carnival train since the 1980s. The train is 50 cars long and carries rides, tents, games, generators and employees from town to town. Following the pandemic in 2020, and various fair closures, Strates began using more trucks to haul its shows around. But this year, management decided to bring back the historic train. 

“We have found ways to modify our business model to include over-the-road trucks, just like we were back in the early 1930s,” Strates spokesperson Marty Biniasz said. “But the train is invaluable to Strates Shows heritage and brand. It means so much to our fair partners and to the generations of fairgoers who have waited by the train tracks to see the carnival come to town.” 

Presently the train is being painted orange to reflect the colors it was painted in the 1960s and 1970s, an effort spearheaded by retired show painter Jack McKissock. Strates Shows, founded in 1923, began using railroads to transport its attractions up and down the Eastern Seaboard in 1934. 

The “Fair Train” will move in general freight during its trip up the Eastern Seaboard from Strates Shows Winter Quarters in Central Florida to Western New York State. Details about the train’s arrival in Hamburg will be released at a later date.

This article was posted on: June 24, 2024