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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tagan Jack Garcia, 5, waves as the Challenger 3985 steam locomotive pulls the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus train away from the Greeley Train Depot on Tuesday morning. The circus will be in Denver from Thursday through Oct. 10.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Historic locomotive chugs through Weld County
By Mike Peters
They came early Tuesday morning to the tracks, waiting for the event to start, watching for the steam cloud in the distance, listening for the blast of the whistle.
It was Locomotive No. 3985, Union Pacific's largest steam locomotive, and it was pulling the 61-car Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus train, and passing through Weld County on Tuesday from Speer, Wyo., to Denver.
At one point a girl shouted: “It's coming!” Unfortunately, she was a little early. The train arrived about 30 minutes later.
For Evelyn Fletcher of Greeley, it was reminiscent of the time many years ago when her father took her to see the first diesel train come through the county.
“We had all steam trains until then,” Fletcher said, “and dad took us to see the new train as it came through Kersey.”
Coincidentally, the train stopped Tuesday near the Greeley Train Museum, and also just blocks from an area once known as “Circus Block.” That block was purchased in the late 1800s by P.T. Barnum, so his circus would always have a place to set up the circus tent in Greeley.
Many of the train watchers were children, whose parents took them out of school for an hour to see the historic train.
At the downtown Greeley Train Depot, Richard Laster was with his son, 5-year-old Ricky, who said he likes trains.
“He stayed home from school this morning,” Laster said. “We explained to his teacher and she agreed it would be a good experience for him.”
Melissa Long had four of her five children at the downtown train depot to see the train.
“I saw it the last time it came through,” Long said, “and we wanted the kids to see it this time. We're using this as a field trip for home schooling.”
Other kids were there for various reasons. Brenna Snell, 3, covered her ears when the train arrived, because, according to her mother, Brenna “loves trains, hates loud noises.” Eight-year-old Seth Abe was there early to place five pennies on the tracks, later getting the souvenirs of flattened pennies from the circus train.
When the train stopped in Greeley, the circus ringmaster and some clowns got off a passenger car to greet the crowd.
All along the tracks, people gathered the length of Weld County, taking photos from overpasses, on bridges, at every intersection and crossing. At the depot in La Salle, dozens of people gathered to watch the historic train pass through.
The journey through Weld County was the beginning of the trip for the circus train, which will travel through six states and 2,200 miles to Gorham, Ill., and Sedalia, Mo., for those communities' special celebrations.

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