Allen Keller Builds Circus Flatcars

With spring approaching, the management of the Keljan Circus realized they needed more flatcars to get ready for the new season of performances. In winter quarters the circus crew had built several new wagons, but didn’t find a place for them on the existing flatcars.

The engineering crew decided to make the new Mt. Vernon style cars themselves using leftover pieces from an old kit. New sides were made from styrene with appropriate styrene angle side strengtheners. The top and bottom webs are 2×6 styrene strips. The new sides followed an old template from a retired car. The crew decided that this car did not need a lot of super-details to make it useable; after all this is a low-budget circus!



As you can see I added a hand brake, some grab irons, and stirrup steps. Just enough detail to make the car presentable.

The Underframe

The underframe was kept simple. It would not be seen because of the deep sides, so details were kept to a minimum. Extra weight was forced into the center sill and stuck in place with white glue. Everything was painted black.


Then another view shows the ends with placement of the bolster for the new trucks and space left on the end for the coupler pocket.


Admittedly the finish is a little distracting, but not to worry.


A little gray and tan chalk solves the problem!


Here’s a shot that shows this more clearly. There is just enough detail to show that the underframe is not blank. Most of the emphasis on this car will be the wagons anyway so this is one of those places that you do not have to super-detail. If you were building a contest quality model you would of course super-detail the underframe.

The Deck


The upper deck is scribed wood to represent individual planks. Along the edges are wooden rails that will support the wheels of the wagons. These rails were attached with white glue.

Painting the Car Sides


The sides were air brushed silver. Then decals were added and finally Solvaset was applied to make the decals snuggle down and attach to the sides of the car.


After the decals had dried, the sides were sprayed with Dull Cote flat finish. This seals the decals to the sides and protects them from wear and tear.

Adding the Sides


The sides were glued to the underframe with contact cement and allowed to dry. Then the end sills were glued on with the same cement.


The Finishing Touches


Now it was time to add the trucks with screws. Notice they’ve been weathered with the same gray and tan chalk.


After the trucks I added the coupler boxes on each end with screws and the car is ready to ply the rails.

The Flatcars at Work


The circus now has more capacity to hold the added wagons that were built over the winter months. And now at last the cars gets to work on the railroad.

Here are some closer shots.



And so with very little additional expense I’ve got two new flatcars for the Keljan Circus.

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5 Responses to “Allen Keller Builds Circus Flatcars”

  1. Dan Olson

    I grew up on the carnival my dads carnival was the Olson Shows , it had both mt vernon and warren flat cars I have a silver HO scale mt vernon flat but am un able to find the right size decals to put on the side. I really just want it for show as I can remember as a young boy running up and down the flat cars when the wagons were unloaded.

  2. John W Brown

    seeing your work brought a childhood memory back . I lived in Concord Mass when I was a child. The house I lived in was on Old Marlboro road .on the other side of the road was a sand spit where Through used to watch snapping turtles lay their eggs .on the other side was a railroad track . one mistey summer evening I got to see the Barnum and Baly train pass by , a sureal moment of mist , lightning bugs and bright cars appearing and fading into the evening leaving behind the impression of another reality and a faint sent of circus perfuming the air .

  3. David Lindsey

    Nicely done. Gives me inspiration to scratch build one for my roster. Thank you for sharing your work.

  4. Doug Bender

    Shame on you. That's a Warren Flat, not a Mount Vernon. Nice to see the interest though. You could maybe turn up a Simmons kit for one. Its to bad that company vanished. James E. Strates used one for loading. It was a A.L. Barnes flat as was quite a few of their wagons in the 50's and 60's

  5. Radford

    Heard of your building circus in a live broadcast and wanted to contact Allen. I have been checking many sources for measurements, drawings and other detail of Mt Vernon cars used by the circus. I have some circus flats build with some detail parts added but non build from scratch. I want to build one for my last achievement for MMR. I have checked many sources, NMRA library, web but unable to find any drawings. Some photos. I have several books on circus train but most are only photos. Any idea where I can get more information. Any help is appreciated. Rad Jones