There is something important that every Carriage Barn needs in order to become a Carriage Barn…a Carriage, of course! Thankfully, the Historical Museum in Heritage Park of Santa Fe Springs has one. A carriage is a four-wheeled passenger vehicle pulled by two or more lightweight, fast horses. Before the invention of the automobile, almost everyone owned a horse.
The type of carriage in the museum is a large, black, family size surrey. It has a front seat and a backseat, 2 headlights, 4 wheels, and a parasol holder for umbrellas, and on top is a leather cover to protect from rain or sun. This horse-drawn wooden surrey is very well-maintained and luxurious, with cushioned seats, but it didn’t come to the museum that way. It was falling apart and several parts had to be sent to the Amish in order to be fixed properly and maintain the surrey’s history. A drawback to travelling this way was that there is no windshield, so anything the horses kicked up (such as dirt, mud, or rocks) could get into the passengers’ faces. The surrey on display has a big black barrier – called a dashboard – right in front in order to minimize debris. Another drawback were the headlights. The lights did not shine very far, and a horse doesn’t have excellent night vision. Not only that, but the lights were on the side. They were more used as a signal to other drivers that something was there. On modern cars the headlights are more powerful and in the front of the vehicle.
When automobiles started to become more popular, people called them horseless carriages because they did not need any animal assistance. Cars could be fairly hard to get used to; they required a lot of maintenance and could break down more easily. They were smelly and scared the other horses on the road and they didn’t go as fast as cars do today. However, as they improved and came with features such as seatbelts, air conditioning, and windshields, the surrey and other carriages were pushed into history for good. But if you wish to ride in one, it is possible to take tours in carriages in certain areas, so definitely look into that after you visit the one in Santa Fe Springs’ very own…Carriage Barn!