Covered wagons are one of the simplest modes of transportation with a total composition of less than 20 parts. They earn a distinct place in United States history as pioneers made use of the vehicles in their journeys towards California and Oregon during the 1800s. The wagons allow anyone to make quick repairs on uncomplicated mechanics.
Storage is an important issue for long distance travels in the wagon. The jockey box is placed near the front of the wagon with a top that closes. Its use of hardwood material helps to resist the effects from any weather conditions. At the back of the wagon, a wooden feed trough carries food for animals. Tar inside both boxes also prevent water from seeping in and causing damage.
The structure of the wagon is solid to resist the elements as well as rough terrain. One passenger sits at the front along with the driver with a footrest under both travelers’ feet. The wagon bow forms an arch that goes across the top. Most of these vehicles have six bows made from hickory tree wood. Homemade covers utilizing cotton or canvas drape over the bows to make a bonnet. On the sides, sideboards point outward to prevent inclement weather from getting inside the wagon. The yankee bed underneath can float if necessary and works in situations such as crossing a river.
Connecting Animals To The Wagon
Animals like oxen, horses and mules are a necessary component for pulling the wagon. A neck yolk goes over the head of each animal and settles on its neck. The singletree or doubletree harness connects each set of two animals in rows. Their connection to the wagon comes through the tongue, a straight piece of wood that attaches to the front axle.
Tires, Axels And Brakes
Tires, axels and brakes are needed to propel any vehicle and the covered wagon is no exception. Felly rims line the outer part of the wheel and lead into the iron tire. Spokes attach the tires to the hub of the wheel and are usually made of oak. As a rule, there are between 16 to 20 spokes for each wagon. The felloes sit between the spokes and the iron tire to create a side. Axles attach to the spokes by means of the hub, which comes from Elm tree wood or Osage tree wood. Iron skeins hold the axle tightly in place. A break lever fits the brake to one of the rear wheels. Pull the lever to cause a complete stop. Made from iron and wood, the rectangular brake block at the back of the wheel pushes against the wheel in conjunction with the brake lever.
- western wagon image by maiky911 from Fotolia.com