Sparks Circus # 132 / Clyde Beatty Circus # 91 / James E. Strates # 332
(1) James Edgar had leased the title of Sparks Circus from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for his 1946 truck show. He also leased a couple elephants from the Ringling show for this show. At some point during the 1946 season, he decided to expand the show’s horizons by going out on rails in 1947. He placed a large order for all new steel wagons to be made by the Lewis Diesel Engine Company of Memphis, Tennessee. Many of you may recognize this company as the one that built all of the Ringling / Barnum seat wagons in 1948. The order included 20 wagons and 6 cages totaling $ 46, 301.88.
(1)As the Center Pole wagon, the wagon was built 32 feet long. The serial number was 2002 and the license number was SC-7. While on the Sparks Circus the wagon was number 132. The show title, Sparks Circus was lettered from the top , down on the front upright braces.
( 1947 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 78, photo # 18B – Sparks Circus as seen in 1947 in Bratford, Guelph and Galt, Ontario – E. W. Cripps photo )
(2) Sadly, the Sparks Circus railroad Show only went out in 1947. Suffering losses all year long the show folded. The wagon sat in the former Boeing plant in Renton, Washington until re-possessed by the Lewis Diesel Engine Co. for non-payment. It was not needed through the year of 1948. The Clyde Beatty Circus then bought several of the former Sparks Circus wagon including this one. They were moved from the Lewis Diesel plant in Tennessee to the El Monte, California winter quarters of the Clyde Beatty Circus. This wagon was still used for the Big Top Poles but now carried the number 91 on it. It traveled with the Clyde Beatty Circus through the 1956 season.
( 1953 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 5, photo # 6F – Pole Wagon – August 9, 1953 in Watertown, WI. – Bob Kitto photo )
(3) In 1957, the James E. Strates carnival bought six Warren built flatcars, three mule/ tractors and eleven wagons from the Clyde Beatty Circus. The Beatty show had decided to switch over to trucks and therefore the train was no longer needed. This wagon was one of the eleven that was bought from the Beatty show. It became # 332 on the Strates show. Walls were built up on it to allow the wagon to carry the Motor Drome walls.
( 1960s – Bob Cline collection )
It kept the same number for almost twenty years while being used by the James E. Strates Shows.
( 1972 – Jim Dillman Photo )
In December of 1986, this wagon was donated to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. It was never used at the Museum and has resided in one of the barns beside the railroad car barns ever since.
(1) Sparks Railroad Circus, season of 1947, by Joseph Bradbury, Bandwagon, Jan. / Feb. 1970 pp 4-14.
(2) Sparks Railroad Circus, season of 1947, by Joseph Bradbury, Bandwagon, March / April 1970, pp. 20-26.
(3) Article about these wagons in Carnival Midway, Nov. Dec. 2004 by Fred Heatley
The wagon is currently housed in a barn beside the railroad car barns at Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin
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