Stagecoach technology - sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? But several questions came to mind one day while sitting on my porch - smoking a cigar, watching the birds at my wife's feeders, listening to some Blues - related to the technology of things that were in our past.
Questions like, how four-wheeled wagons turn, and in particular, how did stagecoaches turn? How did they turn without the front wheels impacting the side of the frame? How did the pinion, the pivot point between the front wheels, attached to their carriage, rotate without sheering the pinion? How did they stop them? How did they soften the ride for the passengers? How did they attach wheels to the axles?
I expect all of us know they turned by the front set of wheels which rotated left or right, and the rear wheels followed, like a child's little red pull-wagon (do we still have those?). That pull-wagon is a great example of what I'm describing; the front wheels are mounted on a metal frame (a carriage) that supports the axle, connected to the wheels, and is attached to the metal wagon bottom. A child pulling, then moving left or right will cause the wheels to swivel as a unit, turning on the pinion, with the rear wheels following. Simple enough!
But a stagecoach...it's made of wood. The connection between the carriage and the wooden frame of the stagecoach – the pinion - how did it take the stress of rutted dirt roads? How did it rotate without sheering from the stresses?
I'm sure there are plenty of answers to this on Google, but I wanted to see a stagecoach up close so I could do my own analysis. However, a quick search on Google did inform me that we have a wonderful western museum close by, in Cartersville, GA – the Booth Western Art Museum – and they have an actual period stagecoach! Perfect! http://www.boothmuseum.org/
A quick day-trip was in store for me and my wife. We headed over to Cartersville (about 50 miles from Alpharetta), studied the stagecoach, taking plenty of pictures (Booth allows pictures of their exhibits for private, non-commercial use – the picture I've placed here is from their web site). Afterward, we had a nice lunch at the Appalachian Grill, another interesting place!
In addition to the stagecoach, the Booth Western Art Museum has other interesting western displays. We had a great time touring the museum and having lunch at the Appalachian Grill. We plan on heading back soon to view more of the museum and try another lunch spot, and take in some of the antique stores.
The museum would be a wonderful day trip for a family!
More details on this topic on my blog at: http://bbqandbanjos.blogspot.com/2011/08/banjo-researching-stagecoach-technology.html