Covered Wagon (prairie schooner)

/wagons/

Covered wagons significantly impacted the United States’ westward expansion during the 18th and 19th centuries. These wagons, often called “prairie schooners,” were designed to transport goods and settlers across the North American continent.

Family & covered wagon (prairie schooner)

Key features and uses of covered wagons included:

  1. Design: Covered wagons typically had a wooden frame with a canvas cover. This cover protected the contents from weather elements like rain and sun. The wagon bed was usually made of wood and was about four feet wide by ten feet long.
  2. Cover: The cover was made of canvas or similar durable cloth, stretched over hooped frames, providing shelter and goods for the occupants.
  3. Wheels: The wheels were often large and designed to handle rough terrain. The front wheels were usually smaller than the rear wheels, allowing easier turning.
  4. Draft Animals: Oxen, mules, or horses were commonly used to pull these wagons. Oxen were preferred for their strength and endurance, especially over long distances.
  5. Role in Expansion: Covered wagons were essential for westward migration in the U.S. They carried settlers’ belongings, including tools, food, and sometimes even passengers. These wagons were a vital part of the movement to settle the American West and were commonly seen on trails like the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and the California Trail.
  6. Living Quarters: The covered wagon was a temporary home for many settlers traveling west. Families would cook, eat, sleep, and spend much of their time in or around the wagon during their journey.
  7. Historical Significance: The image of a covered wagon crossing the plains has become an iconic symbol of American frontier life, representing the pioneer spirit, exploration, and the challenges of frontier life.

The use of covered wagons declined with the advent of railroads, which offered a faster and more efficient means of transporting goods and people across the country. However, their legacy remains an integral part of American history and folklore.

Odometer

Are we there yet?

An odometer was an instrument used by American pioneers, particularly during the westward expansion in the 19th century, to measure the distance traveled. These devices were vital for journeys along routes like the Old Spanish Trail, as they helped travelers gauge their progress, estimate their arrival times, and manage their resources more effectively.

Wagon odometer – Courtesy LDS Church

The basic principle of the odometer dates back to ancient times, with variations used by the Romans and Chinese. However, the version used on covered wagons was adapted to the needs of the pioneers. It typically involved a mechanism that counted the revolutions of a wagon wheel. Since the wheel’s circumference was known, each revolution corresponded to a specific distance traveled. This count was then converted into miles or another distance unit and displayed.

This simple but effective device was crucial for pioneers who had to navigate vast, often unmarked territories. Knowing how far they had traveled, they could make informed decisions about when to rest, resupply, or seek shelter, especially as they faced the weather, terrain, and other uncertainties of frontier travel.

Railroads in Cajon Pass

/cajon-pass/railroad/

The Cajon Pass is a significant mountain pass in Southern California, USA, and it has a rich history when it comes to railroads. It is a crucial transportation route for both freight and passenger trains.

Courtesy Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Blue Cut- 1941 (colorized)

Here’s some information about railroads in the Cajon Pass:

  1. History: The history of railroads in the Cajon Pass dates back to the 19th century. The first railroad line through the pass was the California Southern Railroad, completed in the 1880s. It was later acquired by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF).
  2. Santa Fe Railway: The ATSF (Santa Fe) significantly developed the Cajon Pass as a major transportation route. They constructed numerous tracks, tunnels, and bridges to facilitate the passage of trains through the rugged terrain of the pass.
  3. Union Pacific: Union Pacific (UP) also operates through the Cajon Pass. UP and BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) are two major freight railroads that use this pass for transporting goods between the West Coast and the rest of the United States.
  4. Passenger Rail: Besides freight, passenger trains use the Cajon Pass. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink commuter trains provide passenger services in the region, connecting cities like Los Angeles and San Bernardino.
  5. Cajon Pass Railfan Locations: The Cajon Pass is a popular spot for rail enthusiasts (railfans) to watch and photograph trains. There are various well-known locations, such as Sullivan’s Curve and the Hill 582 Overlook, where railfans gather to enjoy the sight of trains traversing the pass.
  6. Modern Operations: The Cajon Pass remains a vital artery for transporting goods between Southern California and the rest of the country. Freight trains of various lengths and configurations, including long double-stack container trains, can frequently pass through the area.
  7. Upgrades and Maintenance: Railroads invest in upgrading and maintaining the tracks and infrastructure in the Cajon Pass to ensure safe and efficient rail transportation.
Courtesy Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad – 1941 photo (colorized)

Please note that while this information provides an overview of railroads in the Cajon Pass, there may have been developments or changes in the area after my last knowledge update in January 2022. It’s always a good idea to check with local authorities or rail companies for the most up-to-date information on rail operations in the Cajon Pass.