Sparks Circus # 20 / Clyde Beatty Circus # 41 / James E. Strates # 330
(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.
Sparks Circus # 20 was one of these with a serial number of 2006, measuring 18 feet long. The license number was SC-1. The wagon was listed as Side Show Supplies. The rear door configuration including a drop gate on the bottom half and double swing doors on the upper half.
( 1947 – Taken in Dayton, Ohio by George Hubler )
(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 Side Show supplies but now carried the number 41 on it. It traveled with the Clyde Beatty Circus through the 1956 season. By 1956, it was being used for concessions.
( 1956 – Richard J. Reynolds III slide )
(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 # 330 on the Strates show. It kept the same number for almost thirty years while being used by the James E. Strates Shows. According to carnival historian, Fred Heatley, this wagon had seven different paint schemes on it during the thirty year run with Strates. It was used primarily as the Kiddieland Shop wagon and carried some of the Kiddieland train at one time. here are some of the various paint schemes over the years.
( 1968 – in Savannah, GA. on April 15, 1968 – Hal Guyon collection )
( 1971 – Glenn Evans collection. )
( 1983 – loading in Anderson, South Carolina – Hal Guyon, Jr. photo )
The wagon was painted with the diagonal stripes for the first time in 1980. In 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984, the words “Kiddieland Shop” were painted in the orange stripe. for the 1985 season, it was re-painted and simply said “Kidland shop.” 1986 would be the last year this wagon was used by the James E. Strates Shows.
( 1984 – Robert Spivey collection )
( 1985 – James E. Strates winter quarters – 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.
( 2006 – Circus World Museum barns beside railcar shops – Bob Cline photo )
(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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