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"How do wagons work?" Topic

8 Posts

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Comments or corrections?

JSears04 Dec 2017 7:22 p.m. PST

I thought I knew: A cart with wheels, hitched to an animal and away you go.

I picked up a wagon from Blue Moon and was trying to figure out how all the pieces go together, and checking photos on their site became very confused.

Check out manufacturer photo:


So those two wooden bars sticking out of the front of the cart appear to just be hovering next to the horse's knees. Shouldn't they be attached to its yoke or harness or something?

Also, the solid wooden wheels would be archaic for mid-17th century right? I've stuck to Medievals or earlier in my wargaming but recently started some mid 1600s gaming and needed a booty wagon for our Caribbean pirates to raid. Should I replace the solid wheels with spoked wheels?

Thanks for any advice you can provide!

historygamer04 Dec 2017 9:06 p.m. PST

That appears to be a medieval cart and yes, this is how it should look:


Grelber04 Dec 2017 9:11 p.m. PST

While you and I understand how a spoked wheel works, I for one could not make one--it's skilled labor. Farmer Jones could make solid wheels, though. I suspect that a cart like this would be used by poorer farmers.

I think the two poles should connect to the harness, but I'm not sure just how. It would give you the opportunity to distribute the stress of drawing the cart around various parts of the horse. I seem to recall that considerable care must be exercised in harness design so as not to injure the horse.


Personal logo x42brown Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2017 11:07 p.m. PST

The solid wheels would be wrong for most periods..Getting the wheel round and shrinking on the iron tyre would be almost as much trouble as constructing it properly with spokes. Iron tyred spoked wheels would be the norm for most wheels expected to last from the Iron Age in Europe onward.


The poles connect to the harness just behind the front legs and would be level with the harness cast on at this point. The poles are for turning the cart rather than taking pulling forces.

The important part of the harness for pulling is the collar which gets the horses full weight and strength through it.


Cacique Caribe05 Dec 2017 12:00 a.m. PST

Very cool!


M C MonkeyDew05 Dec 2017 2:44 p.m. PST

Solid wheeled carts were in use in Mexico until the late 1800's at least. Depending on where your pirates operate they might be fine.

Musketier06 Dec 2017 10:21 a.m. PST

Just to second that, building spoked wheels is a skilled craft and requires a minimum of specialised tools. Either or both may not be available on every island. Knocking together solid wood replacements, on the other hand, should be no problem for a ship's carpenter (or cooper, at a stretch).

miniMo06 Dec 2017 3:07 p.m. PST

The poles are generally called 'shaves' (or shafts, or even sometimes poles) and are part of the weight-distribution for pulling.

They are hitched to the harness alongside the horse, but right along the body, not slung as low as shown in the photo above. Slung that low, the cart would bounce quite a bit. It's not unusual for them to angle upward towards the horse. Passenger rigs tend to be constructed to allow the shaves to run higher up and more parallel to the ground so as not to tip the seats.

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