Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Wagon Load of Missing Parts

This week’s blog is the first of a two-part story covering transient parts of old wagons.  Webster defines transient as being of ‘a brief or temporary existence’ as well as including references to ‘something passing quickly into and out of existence.’  When it comes to wagons, it’s a polished way of referring to parts that can become alienated from the vehicle over time. 

A few weeks ago, we published a blog focused on the topic of ‘originality’ in early wood-wheeled vehicles.  As I’d mentioned then, there are a number of things that can affect originality levels in an old wagon.  One of the more common enemies of originality is the issue of transient parts.  As mentioned above, by transient, I’m referring to any number of elements that started out with the wagon only to end up lost or separated from the vehicle.  

In many cases, it’s simple to understand how these pieces are so easily and frequently misplaced.  They may have been deliberately taken off or some may have simply fallen off.  In either case, today, we see countless examples of wagons that have lost some portion of their original structure.  It’s part of the history of a set of wheels.  Even so, those losses do not always negatively impact the resale value of the piece.

Ultimately, it’s good to know the kinds of things to look for if total originality and authenticity are priorities.  With that in mind, below are a few parts that have had a tendency to get lost and replaced over the years… 

Box rods – Some of the more commonly replaced elements of a vintage wagon seem to have been box rods.  It’s understandable since the rods were often taken out so endgates could be removed and the wagon dumped, longer cargo added, or the sideboards may have been detached for a particular need.  Some rods never made it back to their rightful place and some were taken to be used for other needs - like fireplace pokers!  (I've seen that a number of times)  

Nuts, nails, & screws – These smaller pieces are regular 'no-shows' when it comes to evaluation of surviving, original components on early wagons.   

Even small parts like nails, screws, box rod washers, and nuts can all become separated from a wagon over the decades.

Tongues – Most of these lengthy pieces were made to be easily removed.  Many were also broken in accidents.  As a result, it’s not unusual to find wagons fitted with non-original tongues today.

Doubletrees/singletrees – Similarly, these pieces were moved from place to place during use with a wagon and sometimes became separated from the vehicle.  Broken or heavily damaged doubletrees and/or singletrees could also result in a non-original substitute.

Neck yoke – One of the most susceptible pieces to wandering off is the neck yoke.  By its nature, this piece of hickory was not typically a permanent attachment to the tongue.  As a result, when a team was unhitched, the neck yoke could get set aside and eventually separated from the wagon and tongue.  It became an even more frequent occurrence as wagons began to be used as trailers behind tractors.  Suddenly, there was no need for the neck yoke (and doubletree/singletrees) and it was cast aside. 

If you have a vehicle with missing pieces or non-authentic replacements, there are outlets that can help with either new old stock or even modern reproductions made to original maker specs.  Next week, I’ll cover at least a dozen more wagon parts with an equal tendency to wind up missing over the course of time.

Please Note:  As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved.  The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives.