Sarasota man to restore historic railcar - WFLA News Channel 8

Sarasota man to restore historic railcar

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Behind a storage facility on Fruitville Road an old dilapidated railcar is rusting away after years of exposure to the harsh southern climate.

Luxury and opulence don't always stand the test of time.

But to Bob Horne, this railcar is a thing of beauty and a historical landmark worth saving. The car's name is 'Jomar'. It stands for John and Mable Ringling, its former owners.

John was a member of the famous circus family- the Ringling brothers, and 'Jomar' was the couple's private railcar.

Bob Horne is restoring it. He said, "it was almost lost, they were getting ready to cut it up for scrap metal when I got it."

Bob Horne says Jomar was built in 1916 and ferried Ringling and his family members across the country until 1967.

Horne said, "It cost John Ringling $100,000 a year to operate that one railroad car in 1930. 1930 dollars. That was a very expensive way to travel.  It's like travelling on a 747 jet today."

Years of neglect have taken its toll on the railcar.

There's rust and corrosion throughout and insulation is exposed.

But if you look closely there are still hints of its splendor- the bunks are still there, there are buzzers for the waiters, and Horne even recovered an original stained glass window.

There's also a small bathtub that was used by famous guests like Army General John Pershing and President Warren G. Harding.

Horne plans to bring ‘Jomar' back to its former glory.

"I've given my own self my word that I'll do it, and I'll do it," said Horne.

It's going to take a lot of work. He has a team of volunteers that come to help him on Saturdays, and he hopes to turn it into a museum.

He's been able to identify the paint colors used in the interior, and he's also located original artifacts from the train, like  John Ringling's voice recorder.

Horne took out old dusty cylinders that stored John Ringling's voice as he used the device. He'll soon start working with the Smithsonian to extract audio from the cylinders.

He wants to save 'Jomar' for all posterity.

"Once it's saved, it'll never get lost again. 100 years from now, people aren't going to let an old railroad car disappear," said Horne.

It's an old private railcar that will return for the whole public to see.

Horne's ultimate goal is to ride this beautifully restored railcar as it travels around the country on its 100th anniversary.

He wants to take it on a nationwide tour and then provide nightly dinner rides between Sarasota and Tampa.

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