Really, I do research. Not PhD dissertation level research. Or peer-reviewed professional journal research. But more than two Wikipedia articles research. Unless they are really well written articles.

Why? Because of you. You people know stuff. You have proven that time and again. I don’t mind being thought an idiot but I don’t need to be proven one. In writing. By my own words.

That and I like learning new things. I see something I don’t know or don’t understand and I want to know and understand. It bothers me not to know something. Not enough to lose sleep but enough to waste invest some time

While in St. Louis for my brother’s wedding, we decided to go visit the Gateway Arch. My last visit was about 20 years ago, my first in 1983. Major reconstruction in going on around the Arch so the ticket/visitors center is in the nearby Old Courthouse. The Courthouse itself is quite an interesting place. Built between 1839 and 1862, it was where Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom and Virginia Minor fought for women’s right to vote. During construction, the Museum of Western Expansion is closed. Some of the exhibits have been set up at the Old Courthouse. More on the Courthouse tomorrow.

One of the displays was this covered wagon that turned out to be more interesting that I thought:

A covered wagon.

A covered wagon.

Also known as a Prarie Schooner.

Also called a Prairie Schooner.

Commonly used during the westward expansion.

Commonly used during the westward expansion.

Rear view.

Rear view.

And a tail gate.

And a tail gate.

And now, the research.

This is not a Conestoga wagon.

Conestoga wagons were larger, typically 18′ long by 4′ wide and 11′ high. They could carry up to six tons. These larger freight wagons were mostly used in the East where roads were better. (Note: Better does not necessarily mean good.)

A Conestoga wagon.

A Conestoga wagon.

Prairie schooners (see images above) were smaller, 10′ by 3.5′. They could carry up to a ton and a half although less was better considering the lack of roads they encountered.

The undercarriage of covered wagons are not like this:

Not a covered wagon.

Not a covered wagon.

The undercarriage or running gear of a covered wagon was much more valuable than the bed. Some farmers had interchangeable, specialized beds they could mount on the running gear.

Typical running gear looked something like this:

This is the running gear of a covered wagon.

This is the running gear of a covered wagon.

And another view of the rear axle.

And another view of the rear axle.

You see the rear axle. Above it is the bolster to which the bed is attached. The pole running down the center of the running gear is the reach. The reach’s main function was to attach the front to the rear axles.

Coming off either side of the reach to the axles are the hounds, a horizontal bar or brace, usually one of a pair, for strengthening the running gear of a horse-drawn wagon or the like. The reach is clamped between the bolster and the axle. The rear ends of the hounds are bolted between the axle and the bolster.

On some of these wagons, the rear axle assembly could be moved forward and back allowing for various wheel bases. Useful when changing out the beds.

Front Axle – like the rear only different:

The front axle.

The front axle.

Unlike the rear axle, the front axle is connected to the bolster and the reach by the king pin allowing it to do that whole turning thing. Apparently, turning was important. The front axle hounds continue on through beyond the axle and are connected well behind the axle by the sway bar:

On the left, the front axle hounds are joined via the sway bar.

On the left, the front axle hounds are joined via the sway bar.

While not furniture, I think the wagon is and interesting piece of applied woodworking and history. That’s almost as good as furniture.

Here are a couple of wheel images for good measure:

A view of the hub and spokes. Named for the way airlines now run their routes.

A view of the hub and spokes. Named for the way airlines now run their routes.

A closeup of the hub and axle nut.

A closeup of the hub and axle nut.

Did I mention this is near the Gateway Arch?

Yep, over yonder is the Arch.

Yep, over yonder is the Arch.