How to Build a Small Conestoga Wagon

Written by brian adler
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How to Build a Small Conestoga Wagon
Conestoga Wagon (

The Conestoga Wagon was the "prairie schooner" that helped settle the West. Conestoga Wagons carried pioneer families and all their worldly possessions to new homes on the frontier. Simple, but sturdy, they consisted of a wooden wagon bed with an arched canvas cover. Pulled by teams of horses or mules, they offered both shelter and transportation. A small scale model of one of these wagons can be made out of ordinary materials.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Shallow cardboard or wooden box without the top
  • Wire or strong flexible cardboard (like laundries use in shirt collars)
  • White handkerchief, scarf, or other spare cloth
  • 2 Very thin pencils or wooden sticks
  • Toothpicks
  • Metal nut
  • Popsicle stick
  • Staples
  • Glue
  • Utility Knife
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters (optional)

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  1. 1

    Bend the wire into four or 5 arches of equal size. If using cardboard, cut the cardboard into narrower strips, if necessary. Place the arches on the inside of the box, or wagon bed. Staple in place. The ends should touch the inner sides of the wagon.

  2. 2

    Place 1 staple near each of the 4 corners of the underside of the box. Do not to let the staples go all the way in. Let them stick out a little bit.

  3. 3

    Place a thin wooden stick through each opposite pair of staples. These are your the axles of your Conestoga Wagon.

  4. 4

    Glue together 2 toothpicks in the shape of a cross. Make another toothpick cross and glue it over the middle of the first cross, but turned slightly to one side. These are the spokes of the wheel.

  5. 5

    Cut down the outer ends of the toothpicks to get a wheel that matches the size of your wagon. Build a wheel rim by gluing strips of cardboard to the outside of the toothpicks.

  6. 6

    Make 3 more identical heels. Glue a small metal nut to the inside centre of each wheel. Use the nut to attach each wheel to the outside of an axle. It just has to sit there and be able to turn.

  7. 7

    Cut enough white cloth to fit over the top of your Conestoga wagon. Drape the cloth over the arches. Gather and staple at the bottom along the outer sides of the wagon. Trim any excess.

  8. 8

    Glue or staple a Popsicle stick to the underside of the wagon. It should stick out in front of the wagon and be about 1/3 of the length of the wagon. This is where you would hitch your model horses or mules.

Tips and warnings

  • Adjust your materials to the size of your small Conestoga Wagon. Ideally the wagon bed should consist of walls that slope slightly outward. You can use large buttons instead of actually making the wheels. They just won't have spokes.
  • Use a wagon box that is light enough to be supported by your wheels.

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