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AYER -- Word spread through the railfan community: the circus train would pass through town on April 17.

Just when, nobody knew.

Straggly groups combined and split where the north/south tracks cross the east/west main line by the commuter rail platform. Using cellphones and guesswork, the camera-toting crowd tried to guess when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey train would appear.

It was at the Devens golf course, a woman learned from a friend on the train. A half hour later it was stopped at the Ayer rail yards, just on the other side of the pond behind Moore's Lumber.

Cries of "It's coming!" were proved wrong as first one than another commuter train passed by.

Then, a different whistle from a different track sounded. The shiny, blue locomotive, followed by several other shiny, blue engines, came to the signal and stopped.

A third commuter train pulled into the station.

Once the circus train got moving again, car after car emblazoned with circus logos, chugged past. The ground vibrated with the power of the diesels.

The cars showed their age; patches of once-glittering silver paint succumbed to blisters.

However, not a trace of graffiti could be seen, at least not on the south-facing side of the train.

A few folks on the train waved out the windows and from the doorways. For the most part, the occupants, animal and human, remained hidden.

Enclosed cars gave way to flatbeds bedecked with equipment.


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After less than ten minutes, the final car passed into the distance on the way north from Worcester to Manchester, N.H.

The Greatest Show on Earth will close forever in May.

Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.