Wagons of the Old West - Part I

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Perception is reality’ but, the truth is, sometimes it isn’t.  Over the last twenty years, I’ve heard a lot of statements made about early western vehicles.  Some are based in documented facts backed up by primary sources while other remarks are merely a repeat of comments heard so often they’re assumed to be true.

Part of the function of any historian is to help point out false perceptions from reality.  After all, while perceptions can fluctuate, true history is fixed.  The same thing occurs with the design of early western vehicles.  Some technologies on vintage wagons were not available until certain timeframes.  Cast thimble skeins, steel skeins, rotating reaches, hub band variations and many other features all had innovative beginnings as they were incorporated into heavy wagons and work vehicles.     

Despite these realities, some of my favorite – even well-researched – western theme movies have persisted in employing 20th century-built wagons on early, mid and later 1800’s sets.  I’ve covered many of the “general” differences between vehicle brands and time periods within several vehicle presentations I’ve given to groups all over the U.S.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough space in these short blog posts to cover every variation and distinction.  That said, one area that can be briefly examined is the way in which the gear is assembled on an early, dead axle wagon.  There are two general forms of constructing a wagon’s running gear (undercarriage).  One is the ‘through-bolted’ method and the other technique involves ‘clipped’ gears. I’ll cover more on this in next week’s post.  In the meantime, if you have a specific question you’d like answered, feel free to drop us a line at info@wheelsthatwonthewest.com    
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