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Miscellaneous: Operating Equipment & Practices

Miscellaneous Equipment: misc_equip342

A 1939 Bertram Mills Circus Special Journal showing a special passing through Warwickshire en route to Cheltenham

Circus Specials were regularly occurrences as the railways transported their equipment and animals across the country and here is the official journal of a Circus special. This is part of the Bertram Mills Tenting Circus whose trains toured the provinces between April and October from 1929. The journal shows that this circus train travelled at the dead of night from Banbury (scheduled departure 3:20am) to Cheltenham via Hatton, Bearley, Stratford-upon-Avon and Honeybourne on Thursday 11th May 1939. The train was 25 minutes late leaving Banbury and the delay had increased to 27 minutes at Bearley West and 30 minutes at Honetbourne West (due to signals), but the delay had reduced to 17 minutes at Toddington and was only 7 minutes on arrival at Cheltenham.

The train was hauled by 4-6-0 (Manor Class) No 7800 'Torquay Manor' (driver Hedges) and assisted up Hatton Bank by 4-6-0 No 4933 ‘Himley Hall’ (driver Bird). The load was calculated as 503 tons and comprised the following wagons in the order listed:

Owner Description Running Number(s)
GWR Passenger Brake Van No 177
LMS Saloon No 2985
LMS BCK No 1230, No 1231 and No 1209
GWR Monster (Dia P18) No 585
LMS BSK No 37521
LMS BK No 387
SR 40t Macaw No 57877, No 57815, No 57869, No 57983, No 57785, No 57808, No 57837, No 57844 and No 57841
GWR Goods Brake Van No 17864 (Guard DR Parker)

It is likely that this train carried all (or part) of the circus equipment and that another faster train(s) transported the circus animals. This arrangement was certainly the case a month later, when three Bertram Mills Circus specials left Devonport (SR) for Truro. The first and second trains had a similar formation to the one above with a large number of Macaws, but the third comprised the following:

Owner Description Running Number(s)
GWR Locomotive (4-6-0 Hall Class) No 4989 ‘Cherwell Hall’ (driver Clarke)
GWR Passenger Brake Van (Dia K41) No 184
LMS 3rd class Coach No 2962
LNER Python (Carriage Truck) No 1286
GWR Beetle C (Pedigree Cattle - Dia W14) No 722
LMS Paco (Horse Box) No 42516, No 42491, No 42511, No 42515, No 42499, No 42513, No 42572 and No 42510
GWR Paco (Horse Box) No 306, No 673, No 621, No 650, No 144, No 225, No 396, No 605 and No 288
GWR Siphon G (Dia O33) No 2756
GWR Passenger Brake Van No 229

There are further details of Bertram Mills Circus Trains operating between Walsall and Leamington Spa in May 1954 at: leamington_circus_1954

Robert Ferris

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