Project Description

Clyde Beatty Circus Props Wagon # 85

(1) This wagon was built by the Lewis Diesel Engine Co. from Memphis, Tennessee.

While many of the wagons on the Clyde Beatty Circus had come from the defunct Sparks Circus and been originally built by the Lewis Diesel Engine Co., this wagon was not a former Sparks Wagon. It was an almost perfect twin to the existing Clyde Beatty Circus big top canvas wagon # 90. Both were built 23 feet long. Both had two up and down angular braces on each side. The major difference was that # 90 was a former Sparks Circus stringer wagon that had the sides added by Lewis Diesel for the Clyde Beatty Circus and # 85 the new props wagon was built by Lewis Diesel as a new wagon in 1954. It remained # 85 , painted red with yellow lettering for the Clyde Beatty Circus in the 1954 – 1956 seasons. At the end of the 1956 season, the show decided to convert to a truck operation.

(1956 – Paul Tharp photo)

(2) This wagon along with six Warren flatcars, 10 other wagons and three tractor / mules were all bought by the James E. Strates Shows carnival. The wagon was re-numbered 262 for the Strates Shows. While it was re-painted a couple different times, it always remained in use as the Electrical Shop Wagon until it was retired after the 1972 season closed.

(Late 1950s – courtesy of Jack Silar)

(Ellicott Family Collection, courtesy of the Erie County Fair – NY)

(3) Once it was parked at the Taft, Florida winter quarters of the James E. Strates Shows, the wagon was left to rust away. Eventually, the wagon was cut up for scrap metal at $0.10 a pound and hauled away by Georgia Boy Simpson. Just exactly what year this happened is unclear.

(1) Correspondence from Jim Dillman – Head Electrician on the James E. Strates Shows

(2) Carnival Midway, Nov. / Dec. 2004 article about Sparks wagons at Circus World Museum by Fred Heatley

(3) Correspondence from Bill Hall, James E. Strates Trainmaster