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"Circus Trains" Big Hit At Local Parades
"One of my hobbies is entertaining children, which is why I've built a variety of ęcircus trains'. They provide a lot of enjoyment for kids and adults alike at parades and family picnics," says 81-year-old John Rogers of Sherwood Park, Alberta.
Rogers, who started building his "circus trains" 26 years ago, has won numerous prizes in local parades for his entries. They're all built from plywood on steel frames. The star attraction is a 50-ft., five-unit train that includes a steam locomotive, coal tender, Bosch gondola flat car with "caliope", and caboose. The train holds up to 20 children - nine in the gondola, nine in the gondola flat car, and two in the caboose. "I originally built it for my grand children several years ago. Every year I improve and add onto it," says Rogers.
The locomotive is powered by a 12 hp heavy duty Wisconsin gas engine connected to an automotive transmission that provides four forward speeds and one reverse. It rides on 10 wheels - four 10-in. dia. semi-pneumatic wheels in front, followed by four large drive wheels, followed by another pair of semi-pneumatic wheels. The entire train has 26 semi-pneumatic 10-in. tires and four large pneumatic tires. The differential is from a power cement buggy. The locomotive's bell is operated by a windshield wiper electric motor. A tape machine plays music and as the train chugs along it sounds like a real steam train.
But the real highlight is the "caliope" which displays five animated clowns. One beats on a drum, one strikes a bell, two wave Canadian flags, and another one sits at a piano key-board with his hands going back and forth and his head turning from side to side.
"All the axles can pivot so whenever the locomotive turns, all the other cars loop around behind it," says Rogers. "I never drive straight in a parade. I do figure eights and circles and sometimes stop and ask kids which way the parade went. It adds color and entertainment. The caliope is based on real caliopes that were made in England. They have a pipe organ that's operated by steam and animated clowns. I start up the animated clowns right from the locomotive by simply flipping a switch. Since it hauls kids I re-moved two seats from the caboose and in-stalled a chemical toilet."
Rogers has built a number of other train-powered parade floats including a replica of a Stevenson "rocket" steam train, a locomotive that pulls a small "coal tender" car be-hind it followed by a 10-ft. long flat car, a "senior citizen street car", and a self-propelled "Santa's sleigh" that rides on small, out-of-view wheels.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, John Rogers, East Whitecroft, 373-52313 Range Road 232, Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada T8B 1B7 (ph 403 467-5771).

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1997 - Volume #21, Issue #4