From some accounts the slide carr or drag cart was one of the earliest known forms of transport. These were certainly in use in Europe, Ireland, Scotland & Wales from roughly the 16th century to the early 20th century. These carts or carrs could be drawn by horse, dog or by people.
I have reached that stage where I am not as sure on my feet anymore, & carrying a pack of any weight just adds to my difficulty if I should trip! So I decided to make myself a drag cart. My Mother was Welsh, so it seems only fitting that I should make a woodland version of the Welsh drag cart.
Drags & Slide Cars
The slide car was a wooden framework that was dragged at an angle with one end on the ground and was pulled by a horse between the shafts: it was normally used for transporting hay.
Jenkins, J Geraint, Agricultural Transport in Wales, (1962), pp. 13-19
1732, Ireland and comparison with Wales
There are no Carts or Waggons here [in Ireland], they have Carrs, which are a kind of Sledges, set on two solid wooden Wheels straked with Iron, & drawn by a single horse; they carry great Burthens, some 600 Weight. They differ from the Welsh Carriages only in This, as They have no Wheels. These carriages are undoubtedly the Best for preserving the Road.
Loveday, John, (1711-1789), Diary of a tour in 1732 through parts of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, made by John Loveday of Caversham … Printed from a manuscript in the possession of his great-grandson J. E. T. Loveday, with an introduction and an itinerary, (Edinburgh: 1890), 31st May,1732
Most of their draughts are performed by one horse in such a sledge as this [drawing of a drag cart lettered a to d] aa the shafts like those of a waggon or cart which slide on the ground on the ends bb. C is a semicircular hoop from shaft to shaft, to keep in the sacks or bundles of hay or wood etc., which is laid on the cross bars dd. The machine is light and much preferable to carrying the weight on the back.
Young, Arthur, (F.R.S., Secretary to the Board of Agriculture), A Six Weeks Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales, 1stedition, London, 1768, pp. 110-111
1767 between Edwinsford and Hay
[They use a] car which I believe is the oldest and simplest construction of a carriage, that is in use anywhere. It is composed of two shafts, in length, about 11 feet, upon which are nailed 5 or 6 cross bars, in length 3½, which serve to support the weight which is to be carried, which is hindered from slipping off behind, either by three half hoops interlaced and fastened into holes in the last bar, or by two prongs of wood fastening in the shafts, with cross pieces between them ; the ends of the shafts are sloped off ; and trailing upon the ground serve instead of wheels : the harness consists of a saddle, with a niche across the middle, into which a wythe twisted and fastened into the fore part of the shafts, hitches : the horse has also a collar of straw, and another of wood over it, into which are fastened two rings of iron, long enough to receive the end of the shaft , which being put through the ring, is hindered from returning by a small peg of wood, which fastens into a hole made for that purpose. [Drawing (loose) and two little sketches of the car included in the text.]
Banks, Joseph, Journal of a Tour in Wales, 1767-1768. “The copy of a Journal of an Excursion to Wales, &c., by S.S. Banks began August 13th, 1767, ended January 29th, 1768”, NLW MS 147C (transcribed by his sister S. S. Banks from the original now in the University Library, Cambridge MS Add 6294 (2), p. 51
1775 near Newport, Monmouthshire
Hitherto there is very little appearance of either different manners or language. Very few of the people speaking Welsh. We saw a few slide carrs such as are used in Ireland but these are not uncommon in Gloucestershire.
Grose, Francis, [Journey to South Wales, 1775], British Library, Add. MS. 17398, f. 67
It is enclosed on the land side by a steep and high mountain, to be ascended only by narrow paths traversing its sides, by which the inhabitants convey their fuel of turf on slide cars composed of two poles, fastened by rungs in the hinder part, of which is placed a wicker creel, about a yard square; having no wheels, it does not press on the ponies which draw it downwards, and it is so light as to be easily drawn up when empty.
The type of traffic on the turnpike roads was also a major factor in their condition. In 1729, at the beginning of the turnpike era, the vehicles which were normally used for the transport of goods could be categorised into three types, the slide cart, the truckle cart and the wheel car. The Irish slide cart was a wheel-less vehicle, it had two long straight posts which were drawn or dragged by the drawing horse. At the bottom of each post, the wearing end, was a replaceable shoe. Containers were attached to the posts into which the load which was to be transported was placed. These vehicles were most suitable for use on the land or in mountainous areas as the posts caused a lot of damage to the road surfaces.
The modern Irish name for this wheelless cart is the same
as the old Gaelic name, Carr Sliunain. Dr. Sullivan J states
that there is no reason to suppose that the Irish Carr is a
loan-word from the Latin Carrus, the stem Car being prob-
ably common to the Latin, the Germanic, and the Celtic
the Kintail Highlanders, if they used wheeled carts
to do the work they require of their wheelless carts. Indeed,
they could not so use them, except by putting the drag on hard
and fast — being first at the trouble of getting wheels, and then at
the trouble of preventing them from turning."
The same argument can be applied to Ireland. In a very
hilly country half the time one is going up-hill and the
other half down-hill; when going up-hill there is no load,
and consequently the slide-car, being so very light, is prac-
tically of no weight for a horse. Coming down-hill with a
load a rigid vehicle has to be employed in any case, and so
the slide-car is equally efficient, the chief drawback being
that it can carry so little, but this is not of much account in
small holdings. The slide-car has, further, the great recom-
mendation of being made easily and cheaply without requir-
ing the services of a skilled carpenter or wheelwright. It is
also as easily, repaired, and all the materials are ready to
It is also interesting to note that these very primitive
carts can be constructed entirely of wood and thongs, or
ropes, and there is no necessity for any metal to be em-
THE STUDY OF MAN
The slide car was a wooden framework that was dragged at an angle with one end on the ground and was pulled by a horse between the shafts. It was used for transporting hay.
Jenkins, J Geraint, (1962), Agricultural Transport in Wales, 13-19
A G Prys-Jones, The Story of Carmarthenshire, Volume 2, From the C16 to 1832 (Llandybie, 1972), illustration 17
Thomas Martyn 'machines without wheels, and drawn by one horse'.
Martyn, T., A Tour of South Wales, , NLW MS 1340C, p. 67
A meadow ... produced a little crop of grass that the inhabitants were busied getting in. This labour was performed by men, women and children, all actively employed; some of whom carried it home on their shoulders, others in hand barrows whilst a third party filled and drove the sleds made use of in Wales, which drag upon the ground without wheels, and are drawn by a little pony.
Warner, Second Walk, p. 171
In those roadless days certain primitive vehicles also had been developed, how far back one cannot tell. Sledges were made of two sapling trunks. The thinner ends were fastened to the horse on each side like shafts, while the thicker ends dragged along the ground and slats or boards were fastened between them upon which the load rested. They were so suitable for use on steep slopes that in Kintail and the Gairloch districts they had only just gone out of use about thirty years ago (late 1800s) when I was enquiring about them. In earlier times they were also made with a sort of frame for carrying peats, but as roads penetrated the country these sledges went out of use. When Hugh Miller took the newly made road to the west to work in Gairloch in 1823 he noticed two abandoned Highland carts lying beside it. In Theatrum Scotiae by John Slezer (1694) there are illustrations of sled-carts (Arbroath) and there is also an illustration of a sled in Burt’s Letters from the North of Scotland as related by Edmund Burt.
Grant, I.F., Highland Folk Ways, (1961)
The range, evolution, and historical sequence of farm transport on the Island from the seventeenth to the twentieth century is discussed in this paper, in the context of the development of the road system and capacity of horse power. Human power resources included the use of the creel; thereafter the sledge and various forms of early cart, specifically the slide carr and the Irish carr, Island variations on the Celtic diaspora of such vehicles. The influence of the spread of the ‘Scotch cart’ is considered, and the evolution of the hay bogey and especially the ‘stiff cart’, a distinct type of cart (or at least a distinct nomenclature) associated with the Isle of Man.
At the time of this survey: 1971-1981, it was still possible to see in everyday use in Tuscany a most remarkable variety of archaic forms of rural transport, especially in districts where peasants have been tenacious enough to resist emigration. These vehicles range from the simplest plough-carrying slide-car
I have often counted seven or eight slide-cars and carts in a single farmyard; a situation certainly uncommon anywhere else in Europe today.
The above-said section of the Apennines, from Colle di Cadibona to Montefeltro, constitutes the land of the Italian slide-car.
Where opinions may vary, there seems to be general agreement on some aspects of the problem: all researchers seem to agree that 'A' framed slide-cars, or 'travois' types of vehicles, must have played an important role in the evolution and development of carts and waggons in ancient Eurasia (Piggott, 1968).
In the Italian dictionary the slide-car is generally called with the Tuscan word TREGGIA
In almost all Indo-European languages, however, we find the same roots: Tuscan =TREGGIA or TRAINO; French = TRAINEAU; Portuguese = TRENO; Spanish = TRINEO; English = DRAY or DRAG; Norse = TREKKE; Danish =TRAEKKE; Dutch = DREGGEN; but in German SCHLITTEN.
Slide-cars are made of two beams, which can only be pulled at a tilt by animals or persons from one end. When the two poles are joined together at one end to form a “A” shape, and attached to the yoke two animals are used. The other type has instead parallel beams kept apart by means crossbars and drag along the ground at one end, pulled either by an animal or person from the other end. The first 6 I refer to as the “A” framed slide-car, second I refer to as the “H” framed slide-car.
Whereas slide-cars are easily maneuvered in hill country, the sledge with its rigid structure is a ponderous vehicle with a very large turning-circle, and is better suitable on plains or open areas (Piggott, 1968).
When one horse, or only one cow, is harnessed on account of the narrowness of some mountain tracks, the sledge becomes a slide-car. This version of the vehicle is almost identical to the slide-cars of Wales and Ireland (Thompson, 1958 – Jenkins, 1962). (Picture 44) This particular slide-car, unique in Italy, is made of two poles kept parallel by means of crossbars and, it has a built-up structure, which carries the load. Furthermore, the two poles are specially chosen from naturally or artificially bent trees which are adapted in such a way as to making the platform as little tilted as possible, as one would best appreciate by looking at the drawing.
Rural transport in Tuscany and the Northern Apennines A contribution to the ethnography of vehicles.