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Wagon trains

October 24th, 2005

[Wagon train]

Wagon trains, groups of covered wagons, were used to convey people and supplies to the West before the coming of the railroad. Wagon trains were used by pioneers traveling to new territories, or by professional wagoners carrying goods between the cities and the settlements.

A typical covered wagon was the Conestoga, large enough to transport up to seven metric tons, and drawn by four to eight horses. On the prairies of the Middle West and on the Great Plains, the Prairie Schooner was the preferred wagon. It was much lighter and about half the size of a Conestoga, and rarely needed more than two or four horses.

Wagon trains were organized with an almost military discipline: the order of wagons both on the trail and in camp was strictly regulated. At night the wagons were drawn into a circular corral, and a guard was kept to prevent possible surprise attacks.

The image shows the “Wagon Train” oil painting by Dustin Lyon.

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