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Celebrating Maine's BiCentennial-200 Years Of Runners & Wheels

posted Jan 19, 2020, 7:26 AM by John Sowles   [ updated Jan 19, 2020, 7:30 AM ]

Beginning Sunday, February 9th - 1-4 and each Sunday thereafter

Skyline's Winter exhibit will highlight vehicles used circa 1820 in Maine. Early carriage & sleigh makers liked to use the words Comfort & Pleasure in their vehicle names. These words would put tranquil allusions of grandeur in your head. Reality was original roads were nothing but rough, dusty widened riding or walking paths!

Today the statement “scarce as hens teeth” fits this era of horse-drawn vehicles. It is rare that a museum would have one vehicle 200 years old or older. Skyline has many; three four wheeled Pleasure and Comfort Waggons (two recently acquired), a two wheeled doctors Riding Chair used in Cornish Maine and a Boston Chaise, as well as many unusual sleighs. During this time period a large percentage of each vehicles “parts” were wood, maybe a little leather and minimal custom made steel bolts. As time went on more and more steel parts/leather straps were added for strength and durability.  Two vehicles in particular represent what would have been used in 1820.

First, our blue Comfort Waggon was built for Henry Knox (Chief Artillery Officer to General George Washington) who moved to Thomaston, District of Maine when he left the military. Knox weighed in at about 300 lbs and needed a strong/comfortable vehicle. The body of that vehicle hangs on wood thorough-braces, with an unusual curved wooden spring system, three reaches and a cantilevered seat. Knox's impressive Maine mansion was called Montpelier. It was torn down in 1871 (65 years after Knox's death) to make room for Thomaston's new Railroad line. Today an exact replica sits a few hundred feet from the original site. Tours start up again on Memorial Day, visit for more details.

Second, our lime green lime green all-purpose Pleasure Waggons was discovered in a mid-Maine coastal community. It would just as easily transport a farmer's goods to market as a family to church on Sunday. The vehicle has a cantilevered seat, straight wooden springs and wheels pinned on to wooden axles (as apposed to common steel nuts used decades later).

We will display several early sleighs including the Rudyard Kipling rattan Basket Sleigh and early Albany & Portland styles along with some more "modern", but unusual, sleighs that carried the mail, school children, the dead, doctors, and the wealthy.