Local circus model builder contributes to Army museum
Sheldon and Mary Ann Endy went to Norfolk and Williamsburg, Va., for a vacation in 2016. They were only 15 miles north of Fort Eustis and decided to extend their trip.
They visited the U.S. Army Transportation Museum to learn about the association between the Army and circuses. The relationship began in Europe around 1900. Various European armies studied the circus methods used to load and unload their trains rapidly and feed a group of people quickly, which was done with mobile kitchens and small ranges that could be taken apart and set up quickly.
The piggy-back method was accomplished by loading from ramps at the rear of the train and moving the wagons forward instead of lifting them on the train cars. Spanners were placed between the cars like bridges to fill in the gap.
Although some interest was shown in America, it was not until 1917 that representatives were sent to the Carl Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus to learn how to load and unload wagons in this style. After World War II, Ringling Brothers bought surplus military equipment. For example, ammunition wagons were turned into cages.
This information can be found on panels providing the background for Sheldon Endy Jr.’s HO-scale model of the Army visiting the circus. He is a member of the Circus Model Builders.
Endy traveled to the museum to learn about the connection between the Army and circuses and look for pictures of wagons that showed a relationship to the Army.
Endy said he left his card with curator Marc Sammis. Shortly after, he received an email asking for a meeting.
“He didn’t realize how far away we were. We were going to be in Williamsburg in December, and he emailed me that he would be there to meet,” Sheldon said.
“He asked if I would be interested in making a diorama. I volunteered to do it if they paid the cost of materials. On Sept. 10, on our anniversary, we delivered it. They did the panels.”
He started with the design and visited the Circus World Museum at Baraboo, Wis., sent a letter to Sarasota, Fla., and the Barnum and Bailey Museum in Bridgeport, Conn.
He didn’t make exact copies of what he saw. If he liked something, he could put it with other things to fit his design. He had trouble finding Army people to populate his diorama and finally used figures from a German company and painted the uniforms in U.S. military colors.
Horses standing still were easy to find from Jordan Company, which is also where the buckboard came from. Horses in motion were found at Prizer’s, where, for a dollar, he could buy anything on a casting strip, a strip that held the left and right sides of an animal when it was molded and then were fitted together.
Mary Ann said by then he was driving her crazy because he couldn’t find the horses he wanted. She was making phone calls for him.
Wagon wheels that once cost 60 cents were now $6.
Endy said he built most of the diorama from scratch, including an elephant, a lead stock and four baggage stock cars.
For a while, he doubted he would get it done in time. He used one-half-inch plywood and built a box to fit the diorama in tightly. Ribbons were placed under the platform and used to lower it into the box. He used a suitcase to level the platform, storage boxes on the sides and then blankets.
Mary Ann said she was sure it would need repairs, but everything stayed put.
“Nothing came apart. It was amazing,” she said. “They were concerned about the hurricane, but we were told it would not cause a problem.
He was told it would be a temporary display, about a year, and then put in storage until it is displayed again on a rotational basis.