Posted by: marymarthatours | June 28, 2011

It’s Summer and the Circus Parade is in Town

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Back when my sons were still little boys, we bought them a gift that I thought every child should have — an HO gauge electric train set. I thought that every child should have a train, because as a little girl, I didn’t have one even though I would have loved it. The kids enjoyed running the trains, but the fun for me was in creating the 4’ X 8’ layout, with hills and roads, farms and town. It was my very first venture into miniatures.

And although it never got added to the layout, I always envisioned a place for a circus train to be parked on a side track with a miniature circus set up beside it. As a child, I had always loved the circus, and growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I had many opportunities to watch the annual Schlitz Circus Parade. So I began to collect circus-themed railroad cars and HO size circus wagon kits, ready for the day when I would add the circus to our train layout.

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Somehow Life happened before my circus took shape. The boys grew up; the train and layout moved to another family; and my circus cars and kits were put away. Years later, after getting hooked on building dollhouses and room boxes, I remembered those kits and found the dusty boxes. I decided that it was time for my own Circus Parade.

I started with the kits that I had, mostly wooden models by Circus Crafts. When those were done, I started looking for what was available today. The circus was a popular theme for HO gauge hobbyists in the 1960’s and 70’s, but no one is creating wagons or circus train cars today. I resorted to searching on-line for vintage kits and with luck and persistence found wooden, plastic, and metal models available, some of them quite old. I was also able to find two Joseph Schlitz Circus Parade train cars to give me inspiration.

As I started assembling my kits, it became clear that I was going to need an awful lot of draft animals to pull my wagons. Thank goodness for the Highway Miniatures Eight Horse Beer Wagon kit. I bought several of them just for the horses, which were painted not only as the suggested Clydesdales, but as Percherons, Belgians, and assorted other draft breeds. Other animals got draft duty as well — mules, oxen, and even a team of camels pulling the calliope. Many of the animals in the cages were purchased from LadyBug at the Chicago International Miniature Show.

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At this point, the parade needed a street to march along. I constructed this in six sections, each 15” long, with a roadway, a sidewalk, and a back wall featuring a city street-scene. I used a wallpaper border for the street-scene, finding one in the right scale and with a pattern that didn’t repeat too often.

A circus parade must have spectators, so people along the route came next. I also needed wagon drivers and circus personnel in the parade. Because I needed lots of folks, I ordered the package of 130 unpainted spectators and passers-by made by Preiser and then hand painted the over 80 people that line the sidewalks. I also purchased seated people for the wagon drivers, and a few specialty people, like the clowns, horse trainer, and balloon salesman all in HO scale.

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I have two favorite pieces in the parade. One is a spectator holding a sign reading “P.E.T.A” (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who is protesting the parade. The second is the end of the parade, with the Highway Miniatures Circus Water Tank Truck and cleanup crew following the elephants.

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The completed circus parade and the train that would accompany it are housed on shelves. I’d love to have one long shelf to display the full 7 ½’ parade on one level. Guess I’ll just have to add that project to my list.

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(by Mary)

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