Friday, March 19, 2010

Horse-Drawn Rides

One of the nicest "activities" to do at Greenfield Village is to take a guided tour around the open-air museum in one of the omnibuses on hand.

Omnibuses were most often large, enclosed horse-drawn vehicles used for public transportation and for general utilities in 19th century cities.

However, Greenfield Village uses a smaller style omnibus that was sometimes referred to as an 'opera' or 'private' bus. These smaller 'buses had comfortable, roomy seating, easily accommodating four to six passengers. It made an ideal carriage for family shopping excursions during the day, and a convenient carry-all for evening when, perhaps, several members of the family went to supper or to the opera. Because of their rear door entry it was usually backed up to a curb for entry and exit.

The drivers of the omnibuses at Greenfield Village are a wonderful source of information, telling historical facts about many of the numerous structures you will see on your horse-drawn 'journey.' There are numerous stopping points throughout the Village where the visitor can exit as they like or continue their ride.
The drivers will also introduce the visitor to the horses pulling the carriage and will explain the type of horse they, are as well as the animals' age and how long they have been at the Village.

The drivers are more than willing to answer to the best of their ability any questions the visitor may have. I, myself, wondered what it took to become an omnibus driver. Well, besides knowing how to handle the horses - dominating the animals and knowing when to discipline them - I was told their test was very similar to that of an automobile driving test: they must know how to drive the horse and carriage forward (of course), but, as part of their final test the driver must be able to back up in a straight line without hitting any curbs, turn into a parking space, and trot the horses with and without a riding crop, (among other things). All in all, the drivers train a total of about 50 hours before they are tested. And only if they ace the test are they allowed to actually drive the omnibus for visitors.

From what I've been told, although these are original omnibuses, they have been reconfigured so often that they lost whatever historical value they may have held.
I plan to return one day soon to delve deeper and hopefully learn more about the individual omnibuses being used in the Village

I put the photos in groups by omnibus - - - enjoy...

Note the rear entry and exit door in the picture above.

I did find a little about this 'bus: it was built between 1890 to 1905 by Brewster and Company in New York. The body is suspended on two elliptical springs in the front and in the rear. There is a whip socket on the right side of the driver's seat, and the brakes are operated by a hand lever, also from the driver's seat.

I took this photo as we rode past the Sarah Jordan Boarding House from the inside of the above omnibus.


From what I have been told, the above 'bus was originally a hearse. Sure does look like one!

I must say, my favorite part of my ride when on one of the Village omnibuses is when we cross over the Ackley Covered Bridge. As the 'bus enters the darkness of the bridge, the clatter made by the wheels and the clip-clopping of the horse's hooves upon the uneven boards reverberates off the wood walls of the ancient structure, and one can just imagine exactly what it was like - in sight and sound - back in the 19th century when both bridge and carriage were common. It literally sends one back to another time.


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