Finding information on general and specific questions about America’s early transportation industry can be difficult. While our archives contain information on many of the more significant western vehicle makers, many gaps on individual firms still exist. With tens of thousands of companies spanning the better part of two centuries, the industry was enormous and vital records often have not survived.
1) What factors determine the value of a vintage wagon?
Like most any antique vehicle, values of wagons and western vehicles can vary greatly depending on vehicle type, condition, quality of craftsmanship, scarcity, degree of originality, and brand desirability.
2) Is it possible to identify a wagon that has lost all of its paint?
Correctly identifying a wagon with no discernable markings can be very difficult and often impossible. However, close scrutiny of construction styles and individual parts can sometimes lend important clues to the maker.
3) I can't find any markings on my wagon, but the brake is marked with a name. Is that the maker of my vehicle?
Most likely, the name on the brake ratchet is that of the brake manufacturer only. Most wagon makers purchased the brake hardware from independent makers and then installed them on their wagons.
4) I have a wagon gear in which all four wheels are the same size. Is that an original feature?
Generally, the rear wheels of wagon gears were always larger than the front. However, some--such as log and lumber gears--did utilize same size wheels on each axle.
5) Are wagon wheels interchangeable between different wagons?
The skein or metal thimble that the wheel hub fits onto is of a specific size. Generally, the larger the size the more weight the wagon can carry. Wheels are only interchangeable if the hub boxing is the same size as the skeins.
6) Is it possible to determine the age of my horse drawn vehicle?
Without a documented history of ownership, a vehicle's age can be very hard to pinpoint. However, since manufacturers changed hardware, paint styles, and other features from time to time, it is possible that patient research can help narrow down the time period.
7) I have a wagon with hex (six-sided) nuts used in a few places. They look original, but my buddy says that only square nuts were used on early wagons. What does your research show?
While square nuts were used heavily, hex nuts were also promoted in Wagon & Carriage Hardware Catalogs at least as early as the 1870's. Careful inspection by experienced consultants can help determine a vehicle's orginality.
8) I have an Army Escort Wagon. Each of the metal wheel hubs has a different maker stamped into it. Is that normal?
The U.S. Army purchased vehicles from a number of approved contractors. Part of the government specifications included the need for interchangeable parts. Combined with the fact that vehicles were often shipped from the manufacturer in a disassembled or "knocked down" form and reassembled later, it was inevitable that wheels from multiple makers could be found on a single wagon.
9) My wagon has the name of a hardware store on the side. Is that the local maker?
Hardware stores were among the early retail outlets for wagon makers. The modern automotive industry has taken numerous cues from the early wagon and carriage makers. As a result... today, you can still find the name of the vehicle retailer on the automobile.
10) If I re-paint my wagon, will it devalue it?
To paint or not to paint... it's a difficult question and the answer is often hard to give without a first hand inspection of the vehicle. First rate restorations by qualified experts can often be beneficial on some vehicles, but most collectors and vehicle enthusiasts will concur that the practice of taking a brush to a rig should be approached with great caution. Many vehicles have been irreparably harmed by well meaning individuals wanting to "spruce up" a family heirloom.
11) My old wagon is missing a few parts. I would like to find original matching pieces to put back on it. Can you help me?
It is possible that we may be able to help you directly or point you to another source.
12) My buddy has a wagon of the same brand as mine, but it's built differently and has a different paint pattern. Did manufacturers do that?
Manufacturers had numerous styles of wagons that were suited to different regions of the country as well as different end-user purposes. Combined with the practice of continually upgrading construction styles and paint/striping patterns, vehicles from the same manufacturer can very easily look different.
13) My wagon doesn't have brakes. Is that normal?
Vintage wagons were made with and without brakes, depending on the region and purpose for which it was used.
14) Why doesn't my wagon have a footboard or folding endgate like I've seen on other wagons?
Footboards, folding endgates, brakes, spring seats, feed boxes, and other items were often considered "options" and not included on every wagon.
15) I've heard that linseed oil is a good preservative for vintage wagons. Should I apply it to mine?
Changing any part of a potentially collectable vehicle can damage resale values. Qualified experts should be consulted before applying any materials to a vintage vehicle.
16) How can I best care for my vintage western vehicle?
Light, humidity, dirt/dust, and even oils from hands touching the vehicle can be harmful. The Carriage Association of America can help with many specifics. There are also several books with specific information on this subject.
17) Can I obtain more information from the Wheels That Won The West® archives about my vehicle?
Inquiries are welcome and there is a fee for research. However, due to a shortage of staffing, the "Wheels" archives are currently available on a very limited basis. It may be difficult to uncover information for every request. We are working to open our files to more requests.