View Full Version : horse-drawn transport

10-23-2013, 06:10 AM
Here's some questions I had problems finding out the answers to online. No doubt there are some period logistics manuals somewhere that have all this in tabular form, but I couldn't find them anywhere myself, and most horse-FAQ sorts of sites talk mainly about riding horses, not cargo and transport.

Say I want to transport 200 tons of cargo across 200 miles as quickly as possible using horse-drawn vehicles. The terrain is generally level with dirt roads, the weather is fair so the roads haven't turned to mud, and ample fodder and water is available on the way.

Much of the cargo can be broken down into arbitrarily small pieces, but among other items, the cargo includes 32 WWI-era biplanes, which weighed about 1500 pounds apiece and were 20' long, so presumably 32 large drays would be required just for the biplanes alone.

1. What's the ideal dray or wagon to use for this kind of freight? How many horses per wagon?

2a. Assuming no spare horses, how long will it take them to travel the distance? How many hours a day can a team work without breaking down? How many total horses would be required?

2b. Assume plenty of spare horses. How long will it take now? And how many horses would be required?

Even if you don't actually have these answers at hand (I would be shocked if anyone did) perhaps someone with some experience with horse transport could make some educated guesses?

Thanks in advance....

10-23-2013, 06:44 AM
I don't have a complete answer for you, but you may want to start by researching Draught horses, they are bigger and usually used for work, not so much for riding, and definitely not racing. I do see Amish people using teams of 4+ when they are working the fields, some aren't horses either, they are mules.

Its your story, but I will say, I thought it odd that you were towing WW planes with horses and not an engine, even a train engine.

RN Hill
10-23-2013, 06:52 AM
Um . . . it will depend, first, on what kind of horses you're using. Drafts that are built for pulling will, generally speaking, be able to pull more weight than lighter riding horses. It will also depend on if the horses are in good condition, the time of year (a lot of horses don't work as well in the heat), etc. There's a lot of variables beyond the weight distribution. To give you an idea, a good day on the Oregon trail (or any of the Old West trails) was between 8 - 20 miles, depending on conditions.

You might want to check this site: http://www.ruralheritage.com/index.htm to see what you can find there.

10-23-2013, 06:54 AM
Its your story, but I will say, I thought it odd that you were towing WW planes with horses and not an engine, even a train engine.

Rest assured there is a good reason for this.

10-23-2013, 06:57 AM
Naturally all the horses are draught horses. This is not a spur of the moment convoy, but is carefully planned. Please just take it on faith that no lorries or railroads can be used to transport the cargo, and no pilots are available to fly the aeroplanes directly to the destination. In any event, 90% of the cargo is fuel, ammo, tools, and various other supplies; I mentioned the biplanes to give a bound on the minimum dray size required to transport them.

10-23-2013, 06:59 AM
You'd probably want something like a Conestoga wagon, or something similar. Freight capacity is in the range of 5 to 6 tons. You'd want six to eight horses a wagon.

I'm not sure what you mean by plenty of spare horses.

Figure 5 tons a wagon, and you need 240 - 320 horses. 320 horses times ten pounds of grain a day (not figuring hay) is 3,200 pounds of grain a day you need. 320 horses is a large horse herd to manage. You'll need about 6,400 gallons of water a day (that's 51,200 pounds of water a day).

Considering you're describing ideal conditions (which ain't likely), you're looking at about 20 miles a day or about ten days.

If I had unlimited funds and horses, I'd swap teams and drivers every 15 miles and go 24/7. In that case, you could figure less then four days. This would take you something like 3,120 horses.

More likely, you should be figuring fifteen to twenty days. Remember to shoe your horses before you start.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

10-23-2013, 07:41 AM
... Remember to shoe your horses before you start.

Thanks for the information! Perhaps I should fall back to 10 miles a day given the realities of such a large expedition, even in fair weather with plenty of resources.

For that quoted reminder, I can always ask Mac :)

10-23-2013, 04:22 PM
There are a lot of variables here that effect things. Settlers in the US averaged between 8 - 12 miles a day. Freighters were around 20 - 30 miles a day, and stagecoaches were better then 50 miles a day.

The first thing I'd look at is security. Do I need a large group to be secure? That's why the settlers traveled in wagon trains. But if security isn't an issue, I'd find the ten loads that I need on the other end first. Load them, shoe their horses, grease the wagons, and get them moving. Then do the same thing with the next loads. If a wagon breaks down for a long repair, it waits for the next group.

You want an axle and three or four spare wheels per ten wagons. And a bucket of grease for every ten wagons.

Horses would not be draft horses. You want something heavy-set in the 1200 pound range. For obstacles where more power is required, you double or triple team the horses, getting one wagon through at a time.

Rain days are not necessarily bad days. This gives the teamsters a chance to fix both their wagons and personal belongings.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe