Chapter: Innovation

Red River Cart (replica)

"This ride has no cup holders"
1800s Red River cart (half-size replica) Red River Cart replica


The Red River cart was a true transportation workhorse of the prairies in the days before the railway crossed the country.

Usually an ox would be used to pull the cart. It was designed with two tall, dished wheels that stabilized the cart making it easier to pull it through mud or a marshy area. It was constructed entirely of wood, this meant if anything broke you could use any nearby tree to make repairs. Also, because of its wood construction the cart was buoyant and could be floated across waterways and it was also strong enough to carry loads weighing as much as 450 kg (over 900 pounds).

Red River carts became infamous for the noise they made. The cart axle had to remain ungreased to prevent the accumulation of dust and this resulted in a loud noise that could be heard for kilometers!

The M├ętis first used the cart to transport supplies and meat during their buffalo hunts and it could also be turned into a shelter. The cart was adapted for use on farms, but its main role was to transport goods over long distances. Sometimes multiple carts would be connected to form trains. This allowed commerce to further develop in the west long before the railway did.
As Manitoba formed into a province goods were more likely to be transported by rail or steamboats so the reliable Red River cart was eventually retired.