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#150720 - 10/02/08 03:33 PM Horse-Based Urban Delivery
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2148
Loc: Bucks County PA
OK, maybe I should not be posting here, but I don't know where else I can find a group of people who might be able to provide some input here.

In the grand history of the world, the horse as a work animal has long been a staple of civilizations large and small. Few animals elicit such an emotional attachment as a horse.

Almost as a joke, I suggested recently that a good business to go into would be horse-drawn delivery services, and for fun, I had a look at what modern horse-drawn carts look like.

Here are some examples of what I found:

Interesting, in that the construction is still
Wood, exceedingly heavy and styled exactly as virtually every other wagon of it's kind.

I did some further research into the modern state of affairs for local delivery vehicles, looking at things like the Dodge Sprinter and the funn stuff they did over at Auto Week.

Shifting gears, as it were, I then took a look at some of the technology used in human powered surreys as well as Cargo Trikes:

Suffice it to say that I did a lot of digging, and after a while, I was reminded of a pretty "old fashioned" industry that was shaken up when modern materials and construction techniques came up with a new way of doing an old thing:

As far as I can tell, there's nothing out there that's really taking advantage of modern materials like high-strength aluminum alloys, regenerative braking/electric boost system (makes your horse last longer!), open-cell polymers and other similar technologies. A modern float wagon, built with an aluminum frame and constructed with road wheels similar to those used on racing bicycles would weigh in at 1/3 that of a similarly constructed wood wagon, without loss of carrying capacity or basic durability. What's more, adding an axle electric boost/brake would also allow the top of the wagon to be covered in solar cells to reduce the power drain of the wagon's on-board electrics.

For some reason, I see the increasing "localization" of the economy and a certain "greening" movement as a possibility for the novelty of a return, in high-tech form, of the horse-drawn delivery wagon. Maybe I'm nuts, maybe not, but imagine the press a company like Whole Foods could get if it did local deliveries by horse - and fed the horses right there at the store with a mix of leftover greens and such and regular horse feed.

Have i blown a neuron here?

#150726 - 10/02/08 03:56 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: MartinFocazio]
BobS Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/08/08
Posts: 924
Loc: Toledo Ohio
The horse was replaced because it was not able to deliver the workload of newer delivery technology.

Also it eats and gets rid of that food in a most unpleasant way.

Having been to an island several times that has no autos, (except one ambulance) even UPS uses a horse drawn wagon I can attest to the unpleasant remains in the streets, and the slow pace of the animals. And to the support network needed to care for and clean up after them.

I would bet that the support network (stalls, food delivery, doctors, and on & on) would far exceed that of even a small delivery truck (a pickup truck as small as it is could do what a horse can)

Romance gives us a vision of a horse drawn wagon delivering goods to people in a personal and less fast passed life, but itís a thing of the past for a good part of the world.

I would guess that the present made horse drawn wagons look like those of years past is because the technology of a horse is from years past and looked at as a novelty or reminder of what was. No need to update, if you update, buy a truck and do more work with less upkeep then a horse needs.


You can run, but you'll only die tired.

#150727 - 10/02/08 04:04 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: MartinFocazio]
Stu Offline
I am not a P.P.o.W.
Old Hand

Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 1058
Loc: Finger Lakes of NY State
Think of the Amish in PA. They have some very interesting delivery wagons.

Better start looking at the way they power tools and live without electricity.
Our most important survival tool is our brain, and for many, that tool is way underused! SBRaider
Head Cat Herder

#150731 - 10/02/08 04:59 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: MartinFocazio]
Blast Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 3561
Loc: Spring, Texas

You haven't completely blown a fuse, but I think horse-drawn wagon won't be the answer. The input/output problems are too much of an issue in modern cities. Your idea of a high-tech wagon is intreuging and I think construction would pretty straigh-forward.

Looking at human-powered vehicles seem to me to be a much better solution. While in China I watch in amazement as people bicycled past carrying things like five medium pigs or a large fridge.

Amazing Cargo Bikes

The Buscycle

The downside is a lot of cities have rules against such devices, especially home-built ones. They fear someone might get hurt by them. mad I suspect the same thing would apply to wagons.

Blogging the Borderlands
Wild Edibles Blog
I miss OBG.

#150732 - 10/02/08 06:00 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: Blast]
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2148
Loc: Bucks County PA
I think I am pondering the fact that
a) There's plenty of horses in NYC, the poop problem, while predictable, is manageable.
b) $9.00 a gallon gas will change a lot of things.

#150735 - 10/02/08 06:31 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: Blast]
Paul810 Offline

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1428
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Blast

Looking at human-powered vehicles seem to me to be a much better solution. While in China I watch in amazement as people bicycled past carrying things like five medium pigs or a large fridge.

Blast, if you've ever been to Long Beach Island in NJ there are a bunch of places there that rent pedal-powered cars. Normally they fit four people, who each have a set of pedals to power it. We used to rent them all the time (it was a fun way to get around town, but quite a bit of work since they don't have adjustable gears).

#150736 - 10/02/08 06:51 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: Paul810]
Henry_Porter Offline

Registered: 03/24/07
Posts: 111
No need to limit oneself to mere transportation from point A to B. Behold, the conference bike:


#150746 - 10/02/08 08:46 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: MartinFocazio]
nursemike Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 11/09/06
Posts: 813
Loc: wellington, fl
Horses are bulky, temperamental bordering on psychotic, and primarily useful currently as components for high end dog food. I don't like horses. I had to hold horses while the old man did unspeakable things to them. The horses in turn attempted to do unspeakable things to me. Don't like horses. The cowboy carried a handgun, I would assert, so that he could shoot the horse on which he was mounted when it started acting psychotic. Don't like 'em.
Dogs, on the other hand, are useful critters, capable of hauling carts.
The food and poo issues are easier to manage. Dog cartage can use sidewalks rather than roadways.

Goats, too.

Horses are over-rated. Tho I would admit that the Preakness would lose something if the contestants were goats hauling sulkies.
Dance like you have never been hurt, work like no one is watching,love like you don't need the money.

#150750 - 10/02/08 09:24 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: MartinFocazio]
ironraven Offline
Cranky Geek
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 4642
Loc: Vermont
Wagon based, I'm not sure. But a single dispatch rider on horseback, with good saddle bags and maybe a backpack, could put bike messengers to shame in terms of payload. Not sure if it would be faster, but it might be faster for those midsized loads than a car based courier would be in certain municipal areas.


When a man dare not speak without malice for fear of giving insult, that is when truth starts to die. Truth is the truest freedom.

#150755 - 10/02/08 09:55 PM Re: Horse-Based Urban Delivery [Re: Henry_Porter]
Yuccahead Offline

Registered: 07/24/08
Posts: 199
Loc: W. Texas
My $0.02: If something like this were to thrive, it would be because your potential customers liked the idea of having something delivered to them via this nostalgic vision and would pay a premium for it. Though it might be built of the lightest newest materials, it would still have to look like an old milk wagon (or whatever example you choose).

I can't imagine that even at $9.00 a gallon, a horse drawn cart would be more cost effective than a modern delivery van.

Each requires a person to operate it and workers are expensive. One reason modern vehicles make sense is because they save lots of manpower.

Yesterday, in the WSJ, I read a story about the effect of carbon taxes and how Norwegians already pay around $10/gallon and they are driving more than ever.

Edited by Yuccahead (10/02/08 09:57 PM)
Edit Reason: grammar
-- David.

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