In 1878, The Sentinel newspaper reported that the Castle Dome mine built the largest wagon in the world. The above picture of one of the wagons is from my photo of a less-than-pristine image now on display at Castle Dome.
William Miller, one of the largest operators of the Castle Dome mines, needed wagons capable of hauling silver ore twenty miles from the mines to Dome Landing on the Colorado river twenty miles away. From there, the ore was loaded onto steamers to be shipped to the to the smelter at San Francisco. He ordered ten of these wagons built.
|Section of on an 1883 Arizona map showing Castle Dome Mountains and Dome Landing|
The wagons cost was $2,000 dollars each, a princely sum in those days. Their carrying capacity was 20 tons, about the same capacity as a semi-tractor trailer today. To pull a loaded wagon took 40 horses or 40 mules.
They were built by Christopher Horner, a veteran blacksmith and machinist whose shop was on Gila Street in Yuma. At the time it was one of the finest equipped shops in the territory. Much of the steel for building the wagons, which came around the Horn by ship, was purchased from a large eastern firm. It took a year for the steel to arrive in Yuma.
Sizewise, the front wheels were five feet high and the hind seven. The hubs, the largest ever made were 2x2 feet, and the arms or shoulders were 18 inches in length. The axles were solid steel, and the tires were five inches wide and one and a quarter inches thick.
It was intended that these wagons replace the five ton ten mule team wagons. Horner made it a rule to build one of these wagons in ten days with the assistance of a helper, and when completed he could run it all around his shop with one hand.
Zina Abbott recently published two books as part of the multi-author series, LOCKETS & LACE.
The first, the prequel to the series, is titled The Bavarian Jeweler.
The other, book 3 in the Lockets & Lace series, is Otto's Offer.