Local News

March 5, 2014

Do you know what this is?


This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a skid-shoe rough brake.

No one ventured a guess this week as to the identity of the artifact.

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “Skid-Shoe Rough Brake

This heavy iron brace is a skid-shoe rough brake for a wagon wheel. A rough brake was used in steep muddy terrain, when there was too much mud on the wheels for a regular friction-type wagon wheel brake to work. In use, the rough brake kept the wheel from turning.

Some wagons were manufactured with friction brakes, but brakes were not standard issue. However, friction brakes were not effective on a steep downward slope or muddy road. Teamsters came up with several innovative ways to slow a wagon.

The most available and least expensive choice was a drag. The downward impetus was checked by a large log or broken tree top, tied with a rope to the back of the wagon and dragged along the ground. This could slow the loaded wagon, but after a few wagons passed down the same slope, the logs would have created a chute, becoming slicker with each passage.

A pole brake was another inexpensive way to slow the wagon. Long thick wood poles were place through the spokes rear wheels and braced against the base of the wagon. This effectively locked the wheels but often broke the wheels and bed.

Rough locking the wheels stopped the wheels from rolling. This skid-show rough brake was attached to the bottom of the back wheels. The chain brake stopped the wheels from turning by chaining them to the wagon bed, but this too could break spokes if too much stress was placed on the wheels.

No method of slowing a heavy wagon on a slippery steep slope was one-hundred percent effective. It often took a combination of brakes to effectively get a wagon down the trail.”

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