Old Ringling Bros. rail cars catch fire in North Carolina

SPRING HOPE — Nine railroad cars once owned by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and had been slated to be refurbished for passenger train service caught fire Thursday in North Carolina, officials said.

The Nash County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that the decommissioned cars were just outside the town of Spring Hope.

The sheriff’s office said the rail cars were inaccessible because they are located in a wooded area. A locomotive was sent to move the affected cars to make sure any remaining fires are properly extinguished, the news release said.

WITN reported four of the nine cars were destroyed.

The N.C. Department of Transportation said it bought the train cars in 2017 to refurbish them to use in the state’s passenger train fleet. But after it won federal grants to purchase new cars, the state chose to auction off the old circus cars, and they were sent to the Nash County site for storage.

Ringling Bros. ended its shows in 2017 after a 146-year run.

Nash County said it has for help from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation with an investigation.