The Amish Buggy is High-Tech, Why Can’t Our Victoria’s Be The Same?

I recently came across a very interesting article on Popular Mechanics about the Amish Buggy. The Amish (not Tripathi) are a group of traditionalist Christians who practically reject the use of electricity, telecommunications and automobiles. They use a traditional Horse and Buggy to travel.

Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA.
Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA. Image copyright TheCadExpert, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Commons.

Why can’t our Victoria carriages be similar?

The article: The Amish Horse-Drawn Buggy Is More Tech-Forward Than You Think

The Amish Buggy has the following “high-tech” components:

Brakes

The Amish Buggy uses drum or disk brakes, that are similar to modern automobiles but not powered. There is a brake pedal that is connected to this, mainly to prevent the buggy from hitting the horse.

Electrical Components

Since states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania require vehicles to have lights, some buggies come with a dashboard of switches for brake lights, external lights, headlamps, turn indicators, et al, most of which are LEDs. They use a 20V/6A battery that usually powers an electric drill. Back home in India, nobody gives two hoots about lights and indicators.

The Body

The Body of the buggy is quite interesting. These days, they’re made of fibreglass. Yes, that’s right, fibreglass. Aluminium components are also used, while the whole thing is coating with white oak or ash wood with fabric and polyester donning the upholstery.

Modern buggies also use Thermally Modified Wood, which is basially wood that is dried up and then “baked” to take the moisture completely out of it. This gives it a long life and makes it difficult to rot.

Tyres and Wheels

The buggies normally use either Steel or Solid Rubber tyres, with Steel being preferred since it isn’t compressible like rubber which is quieter. Those with Rubber tyres, have rear mounted brakes while those with Steel tyres have front mounted brakes. The wheel is made of Steel, Wood, Aluminium or Fibreglass.

Yes, the Amish Buggy is quite an interesting thing, although it might seem silly to abstain from modern technology. I’d like to ride on one some day, but one only hopes that the Victorias in Bombay made some similar modifications. It would certainly spruce them up, even if they are being banned.

 

 

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The Bygone era of Victoria Carriages

Victoria Carriages, while not exactly a form of transport, are seen on the roads of Bombay, especially in and around Colaba, where they are used as tourist vehicles.

Usually Silver or Golden in colour, they are mostly seen in and around the Gateway of India, ferrying foreigners around the area. Some of them are lit up, with psychedelic or neon lights, that are turned on in the late evening. They are horse drawn, mostly by white-coloured or brown-coloured horses.

A Golden Victoria pulled by a Brown and White horse on BEST Marg in Colaba.
A Golden Victoria pulled by a Brown and White horse on BEST Marg in Colaba. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Victorias, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Tangas or Tongas, have existed in Mumbai since the times of the British. They have been an integral part of the city’s culture, much like the Double Decker buses that BEST operates, and today exist, solely as a reminder that they once were a premium product.

In 2015, the situation changed completely. A division bench of the Bombay High Court, after hearing a petition by a city-based NGO “Animals and Birds Charitable Trust” along with the globally vocal “People For the Ethnic Treatment of Animals [PETA]”, deemed the use of these Horse-Driven Victorias for joyrides as completely illegal. It gave the State Government a year to phase them out of the city and also directed them to find suitable rehabilitation for these horses. The ruling also mandated the closure of stables within the city where these horses were housed. Maintaining that using horse-driven carriages for joyrides solely for human enjoyment was avoidable and punishable under Section 3 and 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the bench directed the Government of Maharashtra to come up with a solution by December 2015 and submit a compliance report by January 2016.

The reaction to the ban has been mixed.
Half of the reactions are averse. People claim that the ban will affect livelihoods as well as horses. Interestingly, these include a lot of the people who were vocally against the decision of the government to ban Cow-Slaughter, but at the same time protested the killing of Dogs at the Yulin Festival.
The other half of the crowd is happy that the horses can now lead a dignified life rather than be forced to pull around carts around the city. The perception is that if Cycle-Rickshaws can be banned for being a Nuisance, so can Horse-pulled carriages.

Now, what can be done?

Granted, one more part of the city’s rich heritage is also going, but perhaps there can be a workaround.

The tacky model.
If you’ve ever been to Bangalore, you’d see in parts of the city that there exist Victoria-like carriages built on top of a car, complete with an array of Horses fixed to the front. They are commonly seen at weddings and other social functions. A bit tacky if you ask me, especially for the poshness of South Bombay.

The jugaad model.
Horseless tangas and carts do exist in Gujarat. A visit to the Somnath temple would show how the innovative locals replaced the horse with a motorcycle. Not as tacky as a horse, but hey, it’s closer to the solution, and with some sprucing up, might be able to keep up with South Bombay.

All said and done, I am for the ban, solely on the grounds that horses should not be used for pulling around heavy carriages and fat humans on them. Yes, I call them fat, because well, the average human is fat. But, as visible from the above two points, I’m all for innovation of something new to keep the Victorias running, albeit without the horse. Maybe the Japanese can help us with a Robotic Horse, seeing that they are experts at building Robotic Animals and are helping us build our Bullet Train.

A Victoria carriage, all lit up at night.
A Victoria carriage, all lit up at night. Image copyright Karan Dudeja (WiKD), CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The future of these Victorias, while indeed bleak for the immediate part, can be a bright one, provided the manufacturers and operators are willing to come together and invest some time, and thought and come up with an  innovative solution, and not sit down as if it is a lost cause. There is hope. When BEST has not phased out its Double Deckers because of the Heritage value that they posses, then Victorias too, can stay.

Victorias on the Streets of Mumbai will soon be history. Click To Tweet

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Section 3 lists the Duties of persons having charge of animals, while Section 11 talks about Treating animals cruelly.

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