The DVC’s replica Twenty Mule Team Borax wagons first appeared in public in 2016. Like any other vehicle that you wish to preserve, they require regular maintenance like greasing the axles, oiling the wood and tightening hundreds of bolts and nuts that work themselves loose as the wagons roll over uneven ground.
Since their debut 6 years ago, the wooden wheels have dried and the iron tire has compressed the felloes and spokes into the hubs. To keep the wheels stable and strong, they needed to be refurbished. That meant returning them to their “birthplace”, Engel’s Coach Shop, where Dave Engel constructed the replica wagon set.
The first step in refurbishing the wheels was to temporarily remove the wagons from their exhibit barn at the Laws Museum and bring them to a local workshop to jack up the wagons and remove the wheels, one at a time. The photo above shows the temporary jacks and the greasy axle from one of the rear wheels.
Each front wheel is about five feet in diameter and weighs about 780 pounds; each rear wheel is about seven feet in diameter and weighs 1,080 pounds – far too heavy to manage manually. So, we slid a pipe through the hub to let us lift the wheels, one at a time.