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Maythe
03-20-2016, 05:41 PM
I'm setting a story in a city that is formed on the lower slopes of a mountain. Cliffs divide the city into districts and great ramps have been built that run up these cliffs, many of the roads are quite steep and some narrow back alleys are stepped. Most people navigate the city on foot or horseback, sedan chairs are used by some but there are also horse drawn vehicles for freight and high-status individuals. I need to know how steep a slope can be before horse drawn vehicles are unable to travel on it. There will be a variety of carriages and wagons in the city - from heavy four wheeled freight wagons, to light two wheeled, one-horse carriages. The roads are largely cobbled with flat topped sets of the black stone of the mountain although scrap stone is used in a rougher fashion in the poor districts.

Alessandra Kelley
03-20-2016, 06:34 PM
I'm no expert, but poking around a bit it seems like people tried to keep wagon roads within a gradient of no more than about 3% (i.e. a 3-foot rise or fall every 100 linear feet).

CindyGirl
03-20-2016, 06:38 PM
You could also consider using mules or oxen to pull wagons, for their strength. Also, smaller loads could be moved by donkey's with paniers. They would be able to climb steeper or less smooth slopes.

Maythe
03-20-2016, 06:44 PM
Oh dear that probably makes my ramps up the cliff face impassable or ridiculously long... Damn. I think it's rethink time. Thanks for your help.

Maythe
03-20-2016, 06:46 PM
I hadn't considered oxen. That would be a good idea for the freight. Thanks for your help.

CindyGirl
03-20-2016, 06:50 PM
How technologically advanced is your city? Could they have developed an elevator type system for moving goods up the mountain? One where an ox or two, at the top, turns a wheel connected to a winch and pulley system, that lifts load of goods?

mirandashell
03-20-2016, 07:22 PM
Most ancient cities, especially in the Med, had slaves so would use human power for the steep bits.

King Neptune
03-20-2016, 10:34 PM
I agree with Mirandashell. Slaves for the hard work is always a good idea. There's no reason to destroy an ox or other animal, when you have slaves available.

snafu1056
03-20-2016, 11:52 PM
And if slavery is too unsavory for you, just make them manual laborers, which many medieval cities were crawling with and which always came cheap.

Mules and donkeys are another transport possibility for a mountainous setting. Not as elegant (or strong) as a horse, but practical.

I would think a nearly vertical city would develop some kind of pulley or elevator network to move goods and people through steeper areas. Or maybe something along the lines of a cable car, something like Angels Flight (http://www.theotherdisneys.com/angel.htm) in Los Angeles or other similar systems.

Maythe
03-21-2016, 12:01 AM
There are no slaves but a very hierarchical society where the unranked and lowest rank (peasants) are pretty downtrodden. This is the sort of work they'd have to do for very little money. I already had in mind a system where hefty types assisted by pushing/pulling the heavier vehicles up the ramps. To give some more background the port (naturally at the lowest level) does not bring in the heaviest loads. A canalised section of river comes into the central area of the city and so loads of stone and other heavy goods usually come in here.

frimble3
03-21-2016, 12:17 AM
Break the load into smaller loads, and do it all by manpower. Look at South America: no large draught animals, and yet they built cities, temple, monuments and other major projects. You could still have donkeys for solo riders, or litters, or small carts. (Donkeys chosen because of their nimbleness. Even without a heavy load, I suspect a large horse or ox would be awkward on steep, narrow streets. Especially if they turn into stepped streets.)
You could have guilds of stevedores and the like, because while some of the loads are just straight muscle jobs, there's skill in moving things. How to lift, how to share the weight, how to walk together when you've got a few men moving something big, etc.

AW Admin
03-21-2016, 12:55 AM
Llammas can carry over 100 lbs of weight, and can be great pack animals.

If it's mountainous, why is stone coming in at a port?

Why is the city in this place? Historically, civilizations don't build in a difficult area unless there's some super natural resource.

People arrive to exploit the resource (often mines in mountainous areas) and then supporting merchants and service providers/craftsmen follow.

In the mountainous regions of Europe and South America, roads were built to spiral around mountains/large hills, rather than go straight up.

If a modern truck can get up an incline, a team can. Use oxen for freight; four or six-horse hitches for carrying wealthy folk (carriages) and passengers (coaches).

Mules are killer pack animals. They can carry anywhere from 100 to 150 pounds, depending on the mule, the terrain and the cargo.

mirandashell
03-21-2016, 12:58 AM
Stone can be imported because of rarity value. It's a way of showing off how rich your city is.

Maythe
03-21-2016, 01:12 AM
Stone isn't coming in at a port. Sorry if that was confusing. There are the stone wharves which bring in stone from the quarries and other heavy goods along the canalised river - those wharves are on the largest middle level of the city, at the level of the surrounding land. The port brings in lighter goods and people.

Maythe
03-21-2016, 01:19 AM
As for why the city is here - the town started as a fishing village on the sea level section of land which is a good natural bay and was a pretty good place to set up back then. Then the royal family set up there on the cliffside above the village/small town and then the city grew up because the royal family set up there. This isn't the biggest town/city from a commerce point of view but it is the political centre of the nation. It is a very old city - the fishing village which spawned the whole thing first came into existence about three millennia ago.

snafu1056
03-21-2016, 01:48 AM
Mules are killer pack animals. They can carry anywhere from 100 to 150 pounds, depending on the mule, the terrain and the cargo.

Yes! I was reading about ancient merchant caravans recently and the make-up of them, and even though the animal most people associate with caravans is camels, mules were just as heavily utilized.

snafu1056
03-21-2016, 01:57 AM
As for why the city is here - the town started as a fishing village on the sea level section of land which is a good natural bay and was a pretty good place to set up back then. Then the royal family set up there on the cliffside above the village/small town and then the city grew up because the royal family set up there. This isn't the biggest town/city from a commerce point of view but it is the political centre of the nation. It is a very old city - the fishing village which spawned the whole thing first came into existence about three millennia ago.

This is the first thing I thought of when I read your description. Just a tiny village, (http://forum.china.org.cn/redirect.php?tid=109528&goto=lastpost) not a city, but similar idea.
http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y67/snafu1056/F201403060836381661914780_zpsj1injvch.jpg

Maythe
03-21-2016, 02:00 AM
Wow thanks for the picture. That's certainly got some things in common.

mirandashell
03-21-2016, 02:05 AM
Have you read any PTerry? Cos I was picturing Ephebe.

Maythe
03-21-2016, 02:20 AM
Yes but it was a while ago and I don't recall Ephebe. There's definitively a dash of Minas Tirith in the mix plus I lived in Bangor where the university looks over the city, and I've liked other fairly vertical cities and towns (Whitby comes to mind). Blackstone City is steep in places, with cliffs dividing up the city but because of the cliffs it's almost terraced, so it tends to be steep close to the cliff bases and with fairly flat areas in between, if that makes sense. I feel like describing it in nuggets like this isn't working very well - maybe I need to whip out a quick pen portrait tomorrow!

jclarkdawe
03-21-2016, 05:00 AM
Mules, donkeys, and horses can compete with Big Horn Sheep. They can climb grades without packs that would scare you. With packs, they can climb better than 10% and can probably climb 30% for short periods. Here's a trail that mule's transport over -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bright_Angel_Trail

If you know what you're doing, you can pack a lot of strange things on pack animals. For example, I've transported a canoe and a twenty foot bridge pre-made. (A pack horse in each corner of the bridge, the canoe was easy.) But given a choice, you transport longer and lower grades. You can fit a lot onto a freight wagon.

Mules come in different sizes, from mine mules (Shetland pony size) to large draft mules. For this, you'd probably want something in the mid-range size. Same with horses.

Remember that this sort of transport is expensive in resources.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Roxxsmom
03-21-2016, 05:33 AM
Oh dear that probably makes my ramps up the cliff face impassable or ridiculously long... Damn. I think it's rethink time. Thanks for your help.

You could have them set up with a sort of back and forth switchback style along the cliff faces or along the edges of the terraces. You wouldn't want the slopes too steep if you have animals pulling carts. San Francisco has some pretty steep hills (http://www.7x7.com/culture/real-top-10-list-steepest-streets-san-francisco), and there were problems in the old days of horse-drawn streetcars where horses would sometimes slip and go down. Crashes could result, and sometimes the animal was killed (or lamed to where it had to be killed).I think that's why they went to cable cars. Horses just couldn't handle the steepest streets.

https://books.google.com/books?id=t6TmAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA398&lpg=PA398&dq=what+is+the+steepest+grade+a+horse+can+pull+a+c art&source=bl&ots=h9_R77tQqe&sig=3UITn6G5Ca7mdg4_pWFGFtKSdFM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjsibrUztDLAhVM3WMKHUUCCs8Q6AEIHDAA#v=on epage&q=what%20is%20the%20steepest%20grade%20a%20horse%2 0can%20pull%20a%20cart&f=false

http://www.bihcarriages.com/resource/weight/



Here's a link on the history of horse cars, which are a particular kind of conveyance found in cities in the 1800s through early 1900s. The limitations and issues would likely apply to other animal-drawn conveyances too.

http://www.cable-car-guy.com/html/cchorse.html

An alternative design would be to have stairs cut into the cliff face and use winches, pullies etc. to get heavy loads up the cliff.

I'm having trouble finding links that give the maximum weight a horse or other animal can pull up grades of varying steepness, but the information might be out there if you look. There may be some help from groups that foster recreational driving with horses today.

jclarkdawe
03-21-2016, 07:12 AM
I'm having trouble finding links that give the maximum weight a horse or other animal can pull up grades of varying steepness, but the information might be out there if you look. There may be some help from groups that foster recreational driving with horses today.

Actually, I'd be inclined to doubt it. Horses and mules range in size from about 800 pounds to about 2,000 pounds. Now, in general, the larger the animal, the more it can pull. But it also needs more food. Result is the heavier horses and mules were used in construction work, with machines such as scrapers. These horses and mules didn't tend to travel far. Lighter horses and mules were used for things like carriages.

Net result is most of the horses and mules used in freighting were between 1200 - 1600 pounds. If they had to leave civilized areas, they tended to go lighter. Heavier animals tend to work shorter routes as they use more energy in just moving. But you didn't think of how much it was possible to carry. You tended to think how much your team could carry.

Next you have to factor in terrain. Are the roads paved, cobblestone, or dirt. How much mud and manure on them? Stones can be a big factor. Steel or iron rims are better than wood, but not as good as pneumatic.

Then factor in how big a deal it was to lose a horse or a mule. If you were fifty miles from civilization, and lost a horse or mule, you didn't want to dump freight to get back to civilization. So you didn't haul at the maximum. Also, for short efforts, you might double or triple team a slope. Even worse than going up a steep slope is going down it. Wagons don't have very good brakes and you had a lot of work stopping a heavy wagon from going out of control.

One of the worse slopes I'm aware of was Big Hill in Idaho on the Oregon Trail. Here is a video clip on it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA9me6vtPzg and a brief description http://idahoptv.org/outdoors/shows/pathwaysofpioneers/bighill.cfm

In the end, most people back then could judge this in a fairly accurate way.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Maythe
03-21-2016, 10:23 AM
Thanks for all the great info. I'll have a chance to assimilate it properly tonight but I'm getting a much clearer idea of how my city transport can function.

Roxxsmom
03-21-2016, 10:33 AM
Also consider that keeping large numbers of working animals in populous and dense cities creates special challenges too. A horse produces about 35 pounds of manure a day, drinks about 5 gal of water a day (and pees out almost as much), and needs lots of food. Horses require a lot of daily care and so are expensive to keep too. Manure has some uses, like fertilizer, manufacture of saltpeter (for gunpowder) etc., but it has to be hauled off. It's very possible a city such as you describe would tend to keep most animals in the outer or lower levels of a city for this reason (imagine the manure building up on the upper tiers and the steady stream of urine running down the streets).

The invention of automobiles actually solved a very serious issue in large cities like London and New York, which had very large populations by the early 20th century--they had these vast piles of manure they couldn't keep up with (and the associated smells and a ton of flies, I imagine), and there were numerous dead horses to haul off every day.

Of course, cars have caused other issues in the long term...

dirtsider
03-21-2016, 05:46 PM
You might want to consider ponies rather than horses. Haflingers were a draft breed created for use in Italy and Austria, for use in the mountains. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haflinger

Maythe
03-22-2016, 12:08 AM
I hadn't really considered the muck in bulk although moving it is probably the bread and butter of the underclass. The poor buggers always get the shitty end of the stick. The upper levels of the city are occupied by the higher status members of society - they don't much care if their horse piss rains down on the lower city.

This discussion has highlighted that horses and other beasts of burden would probably be kept to a minimum - maybe carriages would be hired rather than owned by all but the most high status families. Stevedores, hand carts, sedan chairs and litters would be more useful day-to-day. Thanks for all your help, it has been very useful. It's brought the city into a greater focus.

mirandashell
03-22-2016, 12:20 AM
Ephebe is the city based on Classical Athens. White buildings where one man's balcony is another man's roof.

Twick
03-22-2016, 12:32 AM
Something that might be cool is an elevator system to the higher city powered by animals (or humans) on a treadmill.

CindyGirl
03-22-2016, 01:36 AM
Another thing to remember about horses and ponies...if they are shod, you need blacksmiths and farriers.

Maythe
03-22-2016, 01:58 AM
Yep the city certainly has smithies, especially since the roads are mostly paved with stone so they'd really need to be shod.

Maythe
03-22-2016, 01:59 AM
I'm clearly going to have to reread my Pratchett books!

AW Admin
03-22-2016, 02:08 AM
You could have them set up with a sort of back and forth switchback style along the cliff faces or along the edges of the terraces. You wouldn't want the slopes too steep if you have animals pulling carts. San Francisco has some pretty steep hills (http://www.7x7.com/culture/real-top-10-list-steepest-streets-san-francisco), and there were problems in the old days of horse-drawn streetcars where horses would sometimes slip and go down. Crashes could result, and sometimes the animal was killed (or lamed to where it had to be killed).I think that's why they went to cable cars. Horses just couldn't handle the steepest streets.

The problem wasn't the horses per se; it was the design of the cars, which were modeled after train cars, and pulled on tracks.

And the expectation that the same teams would work without a lot of rest; like trains do.


I'm having trouble finding links that give the maximum weight a horse or other animal can pull up grades of varying steepness, but the information might be out there if you look. There may be some help from groups that foster recreational driving with horses today.

That's not the way to figure it out. It depends on the team and the load and the terrain.

This is a super group:

The Washington Draft Horse and Mule Association (http://wdhma.org/)

Roxxsmom
03-22-2016, 02:29 AM
The problem wasn't the horses per se; it was the design of the cars, which were modeled after train cars, and pulled on tracks.

And the expectation that the same teams would work without a lot of rest; like trains do.



That's not the way to figure it out. It depends on the team and the load and the terrain.

This is a super group:

The Washington Draft Horse and Mule Association (http://wdhma.org/)

Thanks for the info and links.

I'm guessing most of the details wouldn't be needed in a typical fantasy story anyway, unless the main character is a driver or something. If a trail angling back and forth up a cliff face is just something that exists in the background, acknowledging the issues that arise in passing (manure and mud, an occasional animal that has fallen because it was overloaded) would likely be enough.

King Neptune
03-22-2016, 02:39 AM
Something that might be cool is an elevator system to the higher city powered by animals (or humans) on a treadmill.

Punishment for some crimes would be so many hours on it.

Orianna2000
03-22-2016, 02:50 AM
I read somewhere that Minas Tirith had elevators. I'm not sure if that's canon, or if it was from a fic, but either way, it made a lot of sense. You have a very steep city built into a mountain, so instead of trudging back and forth on switchback roads to get out of the city, which would take hours if you lived high up, just take a lift all the way to the gates! There could be small public lifts for people and small loads, and much larger industrial lifts for cargo and heavy loads. You'd have to figure out how to work the elevators without electricity, but it should be doable.

Oh! I just remembered, there was an episode of The 100 recently that showed a skyscraper left over from before the war (post-apocalyptic), and it was the center of civilization, so the leaders lived there. It was a very tall building, so get to the upper levels, they used the old elevators. I don't know how it worked precisely, but since there was no power, they had several hefty men walk around a turnstile, sort of like how mules would turn a millstone. I assume it's something some brilliant engineers could work out, given time.

Maythe
03-22-2016, 10:27 AM
I definitely don't remember elevators in minas tirith. Now I need to reread LOTR (yet again) just to be sure.

Roxxsmom
03-22-2016, 11:22 AM
I'm pretty sure I don't remember elevators in Minis Tirith either, though it seems like something they'd have been clever enough to invent.

I think I remember reading a reference somewhere that mentioned rudimentary elevator type things invented by Archimedes or someone. They were powered by animals or water wheels if I remember correctly.

Oh, here's a link.

http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/who-invented-the-elevator

http://www.akayasansor.com.tr/english/asansor_tarihcesi.html

benbenberi
03-23-2016, 12:55 AM
You may want a funicular for at least some of the hillside traffic. The oldest ones date back at least to the 16c. As usual, Wikipedia is a good place to start looking. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funicular)

Orianna2000
03-23-2016, 08:28 PM
It must have been a fanfic, then, that mentioned the elevators. Still, it's plausible. They're an old enough society, and I assume they've plenty of engineers and laborers to build a network of lifts throughout the city.