As you ride around the upper Midwest and see the simple folk who ride around in horse drawn carriages with their simple dress and lifestyle you might think the Amish are completely against technology. The reality is the communities of Amish in the country have added some technology to their lives with work use cell phones and fax machines but their buggies look like something out of the 1800s to the untrained eyes. In reality, these buggies have advanced a great deal even though it’s hard to see with the naked eye.
Brakes – Did you know the Amish buggies have brakes on them? Brakes have been developed over the years from reused VW brakes that were found in the 1960s by some Amish residents. Now these are cast and typically an Amish buggy has to stop before it hits the horse when the horse is stopped. This is done with a brake pedal and mostly the use of drum style brakes that can give the driver the control they need.
Electrical – Laws now require Amish buggies to have lights on them so they can be seen easier as it gets dark and at night. These buggies are now built with a dashboard that has the switches and components needed for turn signals, head and taillights. If the headlights and taillights on one side of the buggy are brighter than the other side the buggy is about to turn in that direction with the use of LED bulbs. These buggies even have interior lights that are also controlled on the dash panel.
Body – Similar to automobiles the Amish buggies are built lighter by using fiberglass instead of being made strictly from wood or metal. The areas that do need metal are lined with aluminum which is light and the area that need wood use white oak or ash. The entire build of these buggies is meant to help save weight and keep from wearing down the horses as they pull the buggies where they need to go. The wood used is actually thermally modified which pulls all the moisture out of the wood making it more stable and helps to prevent rotting of the wood at all.
Tires and Wheels – There are two types of tires used, steel and solid rubber. The steel tires are typically used because they offer the least amount of friction and allow for an easier time pulling for the horse. The rubber tires are quieter but do cause more stress to the horse and the buggy. If the buggy has rubber tires the brakes are put on the rear wheels while steel tire buggies use front wheel brakes to stop moving. Some buggies even have a traditional leave spring suspension added to them.
Amish buggies that are pulled by a horse have grown and developed in technology over the years to become more efficient and more advanced than ever before to keep a traditional feel the Amish need.