Winterquarters/Car Shops for circus and showtrains

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enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#1
A bit of backround for this thread;

Years ago, many circus and carnivals traveled by rail. When they took a break(usually) in the winter months, they would keep equipment , animals and other related items on company owned property. Most of these properties were owned by the shows and had building for housing, repairing and storing these items. Most have disappeared or have been converted to other use. One example is in Baraboo, Wisconsin. This is the site of the original Ringling Bros. Circus. The show first went on rails in the early 1900's and thus they needed a place to store their train, wagons and animals. The barns that housed the animals became what is known today as the Circus World Museum. The train sheds are still there and house the museum's antique train of former showcars. This is the train that made the annual trek to Milwaukee for the Great Circus Train. It should be noted that between the time the Ringlings combined their show with that of P.T. Barnum and James A. Bailey, the train shed were sold to the Chicago and Northwestern RR and served them as a reefer car repair shop until being donated back to the museum in the early 1960's. Much of the storage tracks have long been removed.

Here are a couple pics of the train shed.

In a photo by Bob Cline, here is what the sheds looked like when C&NW controlled them.


And in later years, Buckles Woodcock(elephant man extraordinaire) posted this pic of him walking elephants on the CWM property.


I shot the following pics while digging cars out to assemble the circus train while I worked for the Wisconsin Southern RR.

View looking directly at the main shops.


Cars stored alongside sheds.


Oddly enough, some reefers never made it off the property.


It is with this in mind, I will share my fantasy build in HO scale, a car shop along with some other support buildings for a fictional show.
I'll update the thread as I go and as you will see, I use a lot of mock-up style building techniques along the way. That is, things get placed and photographed before finalizing anything for the finished models. Right now everything is pink styrofoam, my preferred medium for construction. But it will change. Deciding placement, track arrangement and other early items of interest take a front seat. This is, after all, a place to photograph the work I do for clients. Remember the MadCow dioramas pictured here all began with pink styrofoam, the rockwork was ALL carved into the foam. No molds, just carved foam, it can be done.





I hope you enjoy the thread.

Johnny
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#2
Here we go,

The mainline is laid using N scale cork for sub roadbed. I find it gives a lower, more realistic look than does HO. The diorama is 2 feet deep and 14 feet long. It is being constructed so that it will be incorporated into a larger layout.


Placing track and buildings in very early stages. The car shops in the picture are being constructed from rescue buildings that I am bashing to make one long two stall shed. At this point, three of such kits are being combined.






I use these cars to test track work and for mocking up shots. As i build, I try to create 'scenes' for the finished photography.



Thanks for viewing,

Johnny
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#6
Thank you for following. If you like showtrains, you will not be disappointed.

I'll try and treat this like a blog of sorts. That way I will be able to keep up to date on the what where and why of this build and incorporate some older pics for comparison and reference. That being said, here we go.

I had started a similar diorama a few years ago, but a move before it was completed spelled the unfinished project. As with most of my builds, I try to photograph the progress. Everything on the new diorama, except the foam base is recycled. I usually save the foam, but it became unusable after the move.

All of the buildings on the previous model were at one time a 'circus' yellow in tribute to the color of the buildings at one time in Baraboo.

Here is a mock shot after the first layers of ground foam were added. This is about the extent of the scenery before dismantling. At this point the 2 stall shed was only 2 kits long, the building has now been extended to 3 kits and will hold 6 full length circus cars, or full scale coaches. This is in comparison to the 21 cars the Baraboo shed hold in it's 3 tracks. Think compression here.







This was the backshop area..



The old trackplan looked like this. I'll try and do another of the current one.




As seen in this picture of the current project, the buildings have all been repainted to 'Ringling' red.







See you soon,

Johnny
 
#7
Hi Johnny,

You mentioned Ringling Red. As I am close to the painting phase with my project, is this just a standard red or is there a specific color and/or brand you use that is a better match with the original red used on Ringling equipment? Thanks!
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#8
Hi Johnny,

You mentioned Ringling Red. As I am close to the painting phase with my project, is this just a standard red or is there a specific color and/or brand you use that is a better match with the original red used on Ringling equipment? Thanks!

Eric,

As soon as I posted that I realized the proverbial can of worms that might ensue. Ringling red has always been the subject of deep discussion among those who model circus. I come down on the side of the fence with those who use guard red. For me it is as close as I can get without further mixing. It should be noted that if equipment need touch up while on tour, the show would use whatever came close that was available.
So with that in your worm can, I guess that's about all I know. The Ringlings at one time had a color that was actually formulated for them and was called 'Ringling red'. If memory serves me it was, and still might be, available thru Sherwin-Williams.

Hope this helps, and I would enjoy seeing your work.

Johnny
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#10
Great thread Johnny!
Thank you.


As I mentioned, everything on this diorama is recycled. I am of the old school and perhaps my alma mater isn't cared for in the world of out of site prices for new stuff. I operate on a limited budget and prefer to use my skills to breath new life into my models. All of the buildings have seen previous use somewhere. The pics I post here are in no particular order and as you will see things will change position until I get the right feel and look.

For example, the building shown here, behind the sign, was aquired from forum member Chip Engleman(Spacemouse) quite a while ago thru a mutual trade. This building will be used to house some of the draft horses used to load/unload the trains.




The track was all recycled as well. The track is Atlas code 83, the turnouts are Atlas #4 and #6. While it is true that some of the longer circus cars look a little large for the #4's, selective compression does require their use. I did spend a bit of time soaking, scrubbing and cutting the track that was glued down and had scenery applied to it. But it saved me a shit-ton of money (think Amtrak vacation this year), lol. Some of the turnouts have been shortened so much that if I decide to rip this one up they will have seen their last use. BTW, my wife, who is rather new to me and my cheapskate ways, had a look of bewilderment at the site of her hubby, track strewn all over the driveway, spraying it with a garden hose and hanging it from the clothesline.....




While en route at each location the circus has to unload and reload it's equipment. For this they use portable ramps. The ramps were broken down and the jacks (circus term for wooden horses) and runs rode on the flatcar deck under the wagons lengthwise, between the wagons' wheels.
The ramps were referred to by the circus as 'runs' and here they are in place for loading.




And on the flats. The jacks were tipped over to get them under the wagons.




Here is a loaded flat chocked and secured. You can see the space available to place the runs and jacks beneath the wagons.




A team of two horses called a 'pull-up' team, was driven alongside the flats and pulled the wagons onto the decks of the cars. It was fun to watch the heavily loaded wagons and the amount of effort the horses exerted while pulling them up the ramps. Most shows used a pulley system fastened to the car for very heavy wagons to reduce the amount of force required to get them up on the decks.






Once on the deck of the car, the team was cutoff and a 'pull-over' team was attached to the wagon to move it into position. The cars had portable cross over plates to move wagons from one car to another. The wagons had steel rings fastened to all 4 corners in which a hook at the end of the ropes was inserted to make a quick attachment to the wagon. As in this photo, you can see the 'poler', a man that steered the wagon via the tongue. This job was one of the most dangerous as he could easily be flung with great force if one of the front wheels hit something causing it to stop one of the wheels and violently swing to the side.



The rings for hooking can be seen here. Rings were also on the rear for unloading. A hook was attached to it, the the rope was wound around a snubbing post (attached to the flat) and this arrangement allowed the wagon to be controlled (braked) as it came down the runs. One man could brake the heaviest wagon using this method.



When the wagon was close to it's position behind the wagon ahead, the tongue was removed and place in the center of the deck under it's respective wagon. The crew would then manually steer the wagon as it was pulled into it's final position by handling the front wheels, a man on either side. Space was always a premium for shows as they were charged on a per car basis by the road that was handling the move.



The reason for the educational on loading, is that I am going to incorporate a permanent ramp for winterquarter use in my diorama. This ramp is similar to one I saw as a boy used for loading semi-trucks in the era before cranes. A time when men backed the truck up ramps and onto flats then continued to back them up the length of the number of flats that were to be loaded. A lost art indeed!

The ramp I speak of was made by removing the trucks from one end of an old flat. It made for correct height at the higher end where the flats were positioned. Here is the one in Madison, Wisconsin in the C&NW Monona yard, the one I watched as a boy. I was lucky to have photographed it as it is now long gone. Somewhere, I do have pics of it being used with a Falcon service trailer. If I find it I will post it.





Here is why I have gone to the lengths to explain. My winterquarters will use this method for loading/unloading at home.







I'll let you take all that in and be back later in the week. Thank you
for viewing my thread. All of the photos were taken by me, unless otherwise noted. Some have been published so copyrights apply.

Johnny
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#11
Just found these, thought I'd throw 'em in.

Here is what we used to dig the cars out of the shops and up to where the train was loaded near the main line. This was for because of 2 reasons; 1) limited lead track on shop grounds, 2) weight on bad museum tracks. Norm Anderson, who maintained the museums fleet of cars was the only guy who could run this engine without killing it. So it was he who ran when we were on the car shops property. Plus he loved this part. The flats came out 2 at a time, all 20 of them and the 5 coaches came out 1 at a time as that's all the lil shit could push!





And here is yours truly, riding up out of the shops on a Ringling flat. BTW, the Pentrax video 'Circus Trains' was filmed this year and features me at the throttle putting the train together. At one point the narrator makes a comment about how gently I handled the coupling of cars. Quit a compliment from a company who witnessed thousands of such occurrences in their travels.




These pics shot by a friend for me.


Johnny
 

Gary B

The Fox Valley Railroad
#12
Johnny - Love the thread! I have been to Baraboo several times and it stirred my modeling Muse to create a couple of larger scale circus wagons. At the time I didn't have the space you do to create something like you are. Secondly your work is really nicely done and lastly your recycle, low budget methods are right up my alley. Looking forward to more.
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#13
Johnny - Love the thread! I have been to Baraboo several times and it stirred my modeling Muse to create a couple of larger scale circus wagons. At the time I didn't have the space you do to create something like you are. Secondly your work is really nicely done and lastly your recycle, low budget methods are right up my alley. Looking forward to more.

Hi Gary,

I must say that visiting the museum can make the bug bite. What scale did you build the wagons in?
Thanks for the kind words. To me there are so many modeling opportunities available using cast off or by chance findings. A while back you posted a thread about some bead covers you found in a craft store. They do make great lampshades! I am always on the prowl for cheap, er.., inexpensive ways to get the job done.

BTW, when I was younger, I watched the first museum circus train from my backyard in 1965. My backyard butted up to the Chicago and Northwestern monona yard in Madison. That train was led by ex-CB&Q 4960, which was later donated to the mid-continent (North Freedom) railway museum before eventually making it's way to the Grand Canyon Railway. NOT MY PICTURES but here she is pulling what is arguably the world's most beautiful train....







And in a scene I can still remember, laying over at the C&NW roundhouse in Madison...



And to think, I grew up to not only railroad where I watch trains as a boy, but to run this one of a kind train as well. I was never steam qualified, but even with diesels (even the set of Wisconsin and Southern E-9's), what more could this lucky guy ask for?

See ya,

Johnny
 

Gary B

The Fox Valley Railroad
#14
Johnny,

I've never really been sure of the scale of the two wagons I built (at least 1/2 inch). Here's two poor photos. The calliope was a wooden kit I modified and the other started out as a beer wagon. I used the scalloped pieces meant to hold the barrels as the signs on top! The horses are Breyers that a nice lady went through a lot of trouble to find for me. The driver was from a toy locomotive of my sons.
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#15
Johnny,

I've never really been sure of the scale of the two wagons I built (at least 1/2 inch). Here's two poor photos. The calliope was a wooden kit I modified and the other started out as a beer wagon. I used the scalloped pieces meant to hold the barrels as the signs on top! The horses are Breyers that a nice lady went through a lot of trouble to find for me. The driver was from a toy locomotive of my sons.
Gary,

Having the calliope myself, I would also guess it to be in that range of scale. I really like your converted beer wagon, very nice job seeing that circus wagon in a kit designed for something else. BTW, there is also 1 or 2 more circus wagons in the series produced by the company that made the calliope. My box is long gone, but if memory serves me, I believe the manfacture was AMF or something to that effect. Hard to find, but they do pop up on ebay every so often. Thanks for sharing the pics, I'm sure they make great displays.

Johnny
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#16
Sometimes I spend hours re-arranging the scenes before deciding final position. I wanted to use this building to have circus use as it did on the previous diorama, but so far no go. I'm still trying though....



For now it is tucked into a corner with a siding to reach it.



Far from the rest of the circus buildings in the foreground.




Logistics can be such a pain.

Johnny
 

Gary B

The Fox Valley Railroad
#17
Johnny, Thanks for the kind words. I think the colliope was put out under the General Mills, MPC brand (which seemed strange for a plastic kit company) And by the why, I HATED IT! The box proclaimed it was made out of redwood. Redwood is a terrible wood for modeling! It's grain is huge and its very hard and splinters easily. I never saw another kit in the series but if I did i would avoid it.
 

enjineerbill

Avid People Watcher
#20
Thank you everyone, and I like the clock too. For those who might not know it, it is a Lionel clock and on the hour delivers sounds of the different locomotives that are pictured where the numbers of the clock should be.

After going back over this thread, It dawned on me that unless one has an interest in show trains, you might not know much about what types of equipment were used and how they evolved, so, once again, here we go!


In the early years when shows first struck out on rails, shorter, 40 and 50 ft cars were used. But, as the show owner quickly found out, it was more economical to have special 'double length' cars fabricated for their own use. The reason being that the host railroad would charge per car. They would also provide rates that favored handling cars in increments of five, hence shows were usually 5, 10, 15, 20 and so on in cars while en route. These cars became 70 and 72 ft in length for flats and stocks, while coaches were standard length as most came from railroad surplus. Also, the circus did not own any locomotives. They were supplied by whatever railroad was handling the movement. So don't go painting any Cole Bros. Circus steamers,lol.

Some of the different types of cars.

ADVERTISING- These cars traveled ahead of the show, usually two weeks. Some shows had as many as three, most had one. The men assigned to the car had bunks for sleeping in and the rest of the car was filled with paper, paste and a big boiler in which to mix paste. These men were charged with putting up all the paper in and near the town the circus was coming to. Some shows had cars with names like 'War Eagle' in which they would fight the posters from rival shows, covering up or otherwise distracting from, the competition. Things could get ugly between these crews.

Here are some pictures of the last advertising car to be used in the United States. It is a former WWII army hospital car. The Ringlings took delivery of
25 of these as surplus in 1944. At first they were painted red but that gave way to the silver that remains to this day. This type of car saw many uses I will point out later in this blog, but these cars last saw active service in the mid 1970's. A number remain today but very few in circus paint.

The Circus World Museum has two ex hosptial cars with the advertising car painted like it was when in service for the show. This car was last used in 1955.







The other car they have is still painted in the last scheme it wore, you can still read the name in the letterboard. This car was saved by a former circus employee who also rescued some other cars.






Here are the shows' ex army cars in use in the early 50's.(credit to original photographer)






Earlier examples of advertising cars can be found by searching online, some could be quite ornate while others very simple. But usually, they were brightly painted so as to scream out...THE CIRCUS IS COMING!! (these 2 photos are not mine, credit to original photographer)







Hope this will help you in discovering more about show railroad operations. The railroads for the most part didn't have all that good relations with the circus and carnival trains as they were scheduled as extras that had some logistical elements which could be a nightmare, but somehow they always manged to get the trains to where they needed to be on time.

Remember this; The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey combined shows at one time had 100 cars and traveled in three or four sections, set up gave performances and reloaded and moved to the next town....ALL IN ONE DAY.




See you down the road,

Johnny
 





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