Elizabeth's Reviews > Trains of the Circus, 1872-1956

Trains of the Circus, 1872-1956 by Fred Dahlinger
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's review
Feb 27, 2012

Read in February, 2012

I almost want to put this book in my “Architecture-Go-Figure” shelf but it doesn’t really fit there. In one of my lesser-worn hats I have a history-of-the-circus interest, and I’ve even written a short story about a kid who lives on a circus train (‘Always the Same Story’ in The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales). Trains of the Circus got picked up for me by my RailSim-employed husband on a research trip to the train museum in Sacramento, CA.

If you know a lot about freight cars and the way they’re built, this is interesting and maybe even informative. I thought it could have benefitted from being more aggressively organized - by type, by year, by location, anything, really. I was very sorry there wasn’t more detail about where most of the pictures were taken. I liked the occasional editorial comments about the color scheme of the cars, because you do tend to forget, turning page after page of black-and-white photos of very similar looking “elephant cars,” that these trains would have all been gorgeously decorated.

There’s also very little human interest here, which is tantalizing - occasional faces of onlookers or workmen are intriguing insights into what really went on inside these carriages.

My very favorite picture is of Lillian Leitzel - ‘The Queen of Aerial Gymnasts’ and one of my off-the-wall childhood crushes - reading to a small girl in her private stateroom. She is so very beautiful. She plunged to her death on Friday 13 February 1931 when her aerial wire broke while performing in Copenhagen, and as a small girl I was so enamored of her fascinating story that to this day I can’t watch an acrobat performing Leitzel’s signature rope trick without getting all teary.

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