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1880s style wagon building, Borax wagons

The 1880s style wagon building of the 20 mule team Borax wagons has come back to life. Perhaps you witnessed big dreams, big hitches and big wagons as they met together to commemorate a big legend at the world’s largest New Years Day parade; the 2017 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA.  You can also watch the wagons as they were built.

The dream of bringing back the legendary 20 Mule Team Borax wagons began to take momentum in 2009 when the Death Valley Conservancy began raising funds to build an exact replica of the 1880 Borax wagons. Once a household name, the original mammoth Borax wagons now sit idle in the Death Valley heat at the Harmony mine, just a memory of years gone by.

During the winter of 2015 I began drafting the plans. Huge oak trees turned into massive hubs, and the 8300-pound wagons began to emerge. With the help of many donors, and with the Rio Tinto Mine tipping the scales, February 1st of 2016 began the start of the race to the Rose Parade finish line. Designed to haul 10 tons of borax and having wheels over 1000# each, these were built completely from scratch, just like the original wagons.

In the mid 1880’s the original wagons traveled desolate miles across the Mojave sand, traveling from camp to camp, to feed and water. Borax was hauled out of Death Valley to the town of Mojave while hay and water were hauled back to restock the camps for the return trips. Two men and 20 mules made this trip every 10 days, covering 165 miles each way.

In their memory, on January 2, 2017, the 20-mule team hitch of Bobby Tanner was hitched to the brand new Borax wagons for their debut voyage down Colorado Boulevard. On pavement instead of sand, but just as grand, millions looked on, seeing first hand the pinnacle of what is known as “the big hitch era”, as it really looked.  When

test driving the new wagons—–courtesy photo, Merilee Mitchell

they watched the 20 Mule Team Borax hitch roll by, big dreams, big hitches, big wagons and big legends came to life before their very eyes.

You can now experience 1880s style wagon building, first hand, at Watch these huge wagons take shape as wood and steel come together. You can also see these wagons up close when they are housed at the Laws Museum, just outside Bishop, CA