Moving Antique Wagons In Tight Quarters

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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If you own an old wagon, at some point,you’ll likely want to move it.  Maybeyou’re just rolling it across the floor a few feet or possibly hauling it completelyacross the county.  Whatever the plan, theprocess should be done with plenty of forethought and care.  After all, the downside of getting in a hurryhas the potential of creating a less-than-positive experience.  Over the years, I’ve actually come across folksas they were gathering the shattered pieces of a family treasure scatteredalong the highway.  Stories like that,with pieces coming loose on an open trailer, are the kind no one wants toencounter.    

I’ll share some details about methods ofand preparations for long-distance hauling in a later blog.  Today, though, we’ll cover something thathits even closer to home – moving a wagon within an enclosed space like a shopor garage.  In and of itself, the moving activitiesaren’t something that would typically warrant many comments – even for a shortblog.  That said, it can be easy tooverlook obstacles within tight quarters and it’s not always possible to undo amistake.  Ultimately, no matter how faryou’re moving a piece of history, you’ll want to do all you can to protect it.      

If some of this sounds a bit over thetop, let me share some negative things that can happen – even if an old wagonis only being rolled a few feet...
  • Loose tires falling off
  • Spokes being manhandled and pullingloose from felloes or hubs
  • Other weakened wooden elementsloosening and becoming less stable
  • Severely worn rub irons getting hitby sudden turns of a wheel with the possibility of them breaking in half
  • The wagon hitting and damaging somethingwhile marring itself or another vehicle.
Truly, there are countless unforeseenproblems we can run into when moving an older vehicle inside a structure.  Vigilance is always important in the processand, no matter how limited the space, never drag or skid a wagon sidewaysagainst the floor surface.  Those actionscan severely weaken and heavily damage the wheels and other parts.  So, what’s the best way to move a heavy,antique wagon in a crowded environment? The first thing to remember is that the more the vehicle is handled, themore opportunity there is for something to be damaged. 
As long as the floor is of a relatively smoothand solid type – concrete, wood, tile, tightly woven carpet, or even asphalt –one of the best ways is to use individual car wheel dollies.  There are multiple types of dollies and eachhas its benefits.  One of the leastexpensive is a fixed position dolly.  Thedownside to this one is that it requires a jack to be placed under the wagonaxle so the dolly can be placed under each of the wheels.  I’ve used these and like them but have neverbeen comfortable with jacking up the wagon. It leaves too much opportunity for the jack to fall and parts of thewagon to be damaged. 

Fixed position (non-jacking) dollies are inexpensive but require a separate jack to be placed under the wagon axles.
My favorite types of dollies are thosewith built-in hydraulic jacks.  Thesesmooth-rolling tools sit on four caster wheels, permitting 360 degrees ofmovement.  The handy devices are U-shapedto slip in around the base of the wheel and allow you to jack them up withoutthe instability sometimes encountered from using taller, stand-alonejacks.  With carrying capacities up to 1250to 1500 pounds each, the only downside I’ve found is they can be a littlepricey.  A set of four can run from$350-400 or more – depending on the size. The base set I use was designed for cars with tires up to 32 inches indiameter.  Translated into wagon wheelsizes, this particular dolly works well for wagon wheel heights measuring up to45 inches.  That said, I have done some anglingand finagling that allowed the same dolly to work on narrow-tired, 52 inchwheels.  A better size for these higher52 inch wheels would be jacking dollies made for car tire diameters up to 36inches.  Of course, they’re a bit moreexpensive.

The other benefit of these types ofdollies comes into play with vehicles that are stationary for long periods oftime.  Whether in a museum setting orprivate collection, wheels should be rotated on a regular basis to relieve andeven out stresses.  The self-jackingdollies I use actually allow the wheel to be spun fairly easily while it’s raised,making it a simple task to rotate wheels without moving the wagon.  They’re relatively easy to find on theinternet and in certain automotive outlets. Amazon, Harbor Freight, National Tool, and others carry both theself-jacking dollies as well as the fixed position designs.

Car dollies with built-in jacks allow 360 degree movement.  Their use can make moving wagons on solid surfaces quick and easy.
At the end of the day, these types ofcar wheel dollies can make a challenging job of wagon moving quite easy, inspite of tight quarters.  The cost,ultimately, is a small price to pay for something you likely have a lot moreinvested in... And, for the hard-to-buy-for collector, this just might be theunique Christmas or birthday gift you’ve been looking for!
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Please Note:  As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved.  The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives.
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