Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Wagons & Buggies

Deadwood, courtesy of Pinterest 
The old west’s primary source for transportation was the horse. But not everyone knew how to ride, nor was traveling long distance on the back of a horse comfortable. And farmers and ranchers couldn’t strap a pile of lumber or a cook stove on to a horse’s back and haul it home. Conveyances other than the horse were needed for comfort and to help with chores. Below are some of them.

Stagecoach courtesy of hansonwheel
The Stagecoach: Though not as comfortable as today’s automobile, the stagecoach was more comfortable than sitting in a saddle for long periods of time. Able to seat several and stow luggage on the roof, the American made coach was tall and wide and incorporated leather straps for suspension, making for a smoother ride vs. a steel suspension.  

Buckboard courtesy of Pinterest 
Buckboard Wagon: Used by farmers and ranchers, the buckboard was made with simple construction. The front board served as a foot rest and protection from the horses’ hooves if they bucked.

Conestoga Wagon courtesy of Wikipedia 
Conestoga Wagon: The Conestoga was large and heavy and constructed to hold up to 6 tons. With a floor curved upwards so items wouldn’t shift in transportation, the Conestoga was used as a freight wagon before the development of the railroad. Eight horses or twelve oxen were needed to pull the wagon, which was not used during the westward expansion as the Conestoga was too heavy for the prairie lands.

On average, the Conestoga was 18 ft long and 11 ft high and 4 ft wide. The seams of the body were caulked with tar, enabling the wagon to cross rivers without leaking. With tough white canvas stretched across the top, the frame and suspension were crafted of wood, the wheels were iron rimmed and a brake was located on the left side where a teamster walking alongside the wagon or the driver could easily pull the lever. The Conestoga is credited with the U. S. custom of driving on the right side of the road.

Schooner wagons courtesy of Pinterest  
Prairie Schooner: Similar to the Conestoga, the Schooner was the most popular wagon used in the westward expansion and typically carried up to 2,000 pounds. Lighter than the Conestoga, the Schooner had a flat body and the sides were lower. Like the Conestoga, the top of the Schooner was covered in white canvas and pulled by teams of 6 yoked oxen or 12 mules or horses. Convoys making the trip west traveled about 20 miles per day, with the overall trip taking about 5 months. (In my current WIP, I learned that when using oxen to pull a Schooner, one did not sit in the driver’s box and guide the team with the use of reins. One walked alongside the oxen and guided them with a whip and spoken commands.)      

Double buggy courtesy Pinterest 
The Buggy: The buggy was the main mode of transportation around town or between home and town, as horseback riding required more skill and wasn’t as common as it is today. (Horsemanship was more common among the military, scouts, and western pioneers.) The bodies on most buggies had low sides and side-spring suspensions. Sometimes they had a suspension of a pair of longitudinal elastic wooden bars known as sidebars. A buggy with 2 seats was a double buggy. The Stanhope buggy had a high seat and a closed back. Cities and towns used larger, railed buggies for public transportation of the poor and lower middle class. Middle class folks used the double or the Stanhope and the rich had their own elegant carriages.
Stanhope buggy courtesy of flickr

***Note: The two I incorporate most into my stories are the double buggy ad the buckboard.


Kristy McCaffrey said...

Great info. I always struggle with these descriptions.

Andrea Downing said...

Quite honestly I’d rather ride a horse than sit in a smelly bouncing stagecoach any day if the week! Talk about car sickness! thanks for an informative post Julie

Julie Lence said...

Hi Andrea and Kristy: Glad you enjoyed the post. I've always wanted to take a ride in a stagecoach, but I think once would be enough. All that bouncing would make me sick. The same with the buggies. We have a small western town/museum by us and they have some buggies people can climb into. Very narrow step, and the thing moves and bounces when you're trying to climb in. I don't know how women did it wearing those long skirts. Hugs!

GiniRifkin said...

HI Julie: Thank you. Loved the post, so much great info and the photos are wonderful for research.

Julie Lence said...

Glad you liked the post, Gini. I sometimes forget which one is which. I usually just say, she got into the buggy, etc. But my current WIP the heroine was traveling in a covered wagon and I needed to know some things, hence the research for a blog. Hugs!