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Strates Shows Prepares Fair Train For A Return To Rails In 2024
Last Remaining Show Train In World To Be Celebrated This Summer
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ORLANDO, FLORIDA – The railroad yard at Strates Shows Winter Quarters in Taft, Florida is busy with activity as crews prepare the famous James E. Strates “Fair Train” for a journey up the Eastern Seaboard to Hamburg, New York (Buffalo). Rail cars that have been dormant for the past several seasons are being mechanically overhauled and restored, including the application of a retro-inspired paint scheme and lettering.
This will be the first time since the Fall of 2019, and the subsequent 2020 pandemic related shutdown of the fair industry, that Strates Shows will utilize the train. The James E. Strates Shows is regarded as the operator of the last remaining “show train” in the world.

The reactivation of the Strates Shows rail program will coincide with a celebration to commemorate its partnership with the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York (Buffalo). 2024 marks the 100th year relationship between the Erie County Agricultural Society and the James E. Strates Shows that began in 1924. The exclusive partnership is a historical milestone in the modern amusement industry and is considered the longest continuous run of any carnival midway in the United States. The 2024 Erie County Fair opens on Wednesday, August 7th through Sunday, August 18th.

“We have worked extremely hard with all of our railroad partners to make this summer's run possible,” said Director of Operations, Jimmy Strates. “Our carnival train is a beloved aspect of Americana that deserves to be celebrated. We are immensely proud of our railroad heritage as part of our overall outdoor amusement business operations.”

Strates Shows, founded in 1923, began using railroads to transport its midway attractions up and down the Eastern Seaboard in 1934. It was common for dedicated Strates trains to be more than 50 cars in length carrying everything from rides, tents, and games, to attractions, generators and employees. In December 1953, James Strates purchased a tract of land, south of downtown Orlando for its "Winter Quarters" base of operation and constructed a mile-long spur to accommodate the “Fair Train.” The train was the primary method of transporting the carnival through the end of the 2019 season. Following the 2020 pandemic related pause of the fair and large event industries, Strates Shows increased its use of “over-the-road” trucks to move its modern carnival.

“We have found ways to modify our business model to including over-the-road trucks, just like we were back in the early 1930s,” Strates spokesperson Marty Biniasz says. “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.”

Strates Shows flat cars that will make the journey to New York State are being painted orange to reflect color schemes used during the 1960s & 1970s. Retired show painter Jack McKissock, who has been painting unique murals and ride panels for Strates Shows for nearly 40 years, is hand lettering each car and adding his own artistic touches. One of Strates' oldest rail cars, a circus-style Warren Car Company flat car used as the “ramp car,” has been freshly outfitted in blue paint with bright yellow ramps.

Since 1982, and the end of rail operations by Royal American Shows, Strates Shows has been the last remaining railroad traveling carnival. In 2017, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus announced it closure, ending its circus train tradition, making Strates Shows officially the last show train on American rails. Railroad and carnival historians are hard pressed to find another “show train” operating anywhere in the world.

Strates Shows has worked closely with its mainline railroad partner, CSX Transportation to enable the historic show train movement to occur. 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 into Hamburg, New York will be released at a later date.

To commemorate the “Fair Train,” Strates Shows has partnered with Atlas Model Railroad Co., Inc. to release models depicting trains from two different eras. The models will be announced for pre-order reservations in Atlas' O scale catalogs, beginning with the first of the announcements during Summer 2024. For more information and to be notified of future announcements, please visit and sign up for Atlas' email newsletter – the Atlas Insider.
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