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Circus Train Derails; Traffic a Zoo

The “Greatest Show on Earth” caused what seemed to many the greatest commuting headache in Anaheim when six circus train cars derailed Wednesday morning, blocking Katella Avenue during rush hour.

About 75 performers and crew of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were aboard the cars when they derailed about 5 a.m. on the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks north of Katella and just east of the Santa Ana Freeway. No one was injured and none of the railroad cars carried circus animals.

“We didn’t break the elephants’ trunks,” quipped Southern Pacific spokesman Jerry Pera in San Francisco. He blamed the accident on a faulty track switch that failed to operate as the 44-car train was being assembled to head for the show’s next stop, a four-night stand in Long Beach after appearances at the Anaheim Convention Center.

He said that locomotives went ahead and hauled the equipment and animal cars to Long Beach while the performers took charter buses. Crews were expecting to have the derailed cars back on the tracks by this afternoon.

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Circus spokeswoman Susannah Smith said the accident didn’t delay the show. “We haven’t had any serious accidents in the past 20 years that I can remember,” she said. “But occasionally we have a glitch.”

The derailment led to closure of the Katella off-ramp on the Santa Ana Freeway for about an hour, the California Highway Patrol reported. And it also led to some circuitous rerouting of traffic by city officials to get commuters around the street blockage.

“It wasn’t that bad,” said Chris Dahl, Anaheim’s associate traffic engineer. He said there have been worse traffic jams on Katella after a major event at Anaheim Stadium--and this time city crews and police were ready with detour signs, traffic cones and flashing arrow lights.


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