A friend sent me a link to this story on Popular Mechanics about the migration of technology into Amish buggies.
Despite what you heard, the Amish aren't against technology. Communities adopt new gadgets such as fax machines and business-use cell phones all the time—so long as the local church approves each one ahead of time, determining that it won't drastically change their way of life.Central Florida is a long way from Amish country, and I've never met any Amish people, so I'm sure I'm just full of stereotypes that are all wrong. Consequently, I found the article interesting and think it's worth your time to read the whole thing. As I always do, let me drop some teasers here to encourage you.
So it is with the Amish horse-drawn buggy. You might have thought the technology inside this 1800s method of transportation stopped progressing right around then. Instead, buggy tech keeps advancing, and buggy makers have become electricians and metalworkers to build in all the new tech you can't see under the traditional black paint.
Even if you skip luxury options such as a propane-powered heater, cupholders, and speedometer, a buggy is an expensive thing.
Buggy brakes are automotive-style, non-powered drum or disc brakes mounted to two wheels. When a driver wants to stop, he or she halts the horse using the reins and halts the buggy by stepping on the brake pedal so that it doesn't run into the horse.
"Back in the '60s, a local Amish man started going through junkyards and getting the old seven-inch VW brakes," our builder says, "salvaging them, repairing them, and cleaning them up, and retrofitting them to buggies. After a while he started getting good castings made. Now all the buggy brakes are manufactured by buggy shops."
"Ninety-nine percent of buggies are built with a dash—a console on the front panel—and in that switch box is all the switches you need," says our builder. "We have headlights, taillights, interior lights, and a turn signal switch."
To power these lights, batteries are all over the place.
"Average cost of a buggy is, I'm gonna say, $8,000," says our builder. Families usually have several types at once, for different uses, and each one they buy outright with cash. "We actually looked into doing financing through the banks," he says, "but we don't have titles for buggies, so the banks are squeamish about it." If somebody needs it, though, builders will finance them a buggy without the banks.
"A lot of people will get 20 or 30 years out of a buggy before they do any major rebuilding of it. There's a strong demand for good used buggies because of youth. Most people will buy their 16-year-old son a horse, a harness, and a used buggy. And then we have people who trade in their buggy every five to eight years. It's like the mainstream world. A lot of these buggies will be running 40 or 50 years, rebuilt several times."
We have lot of Amish here in Indiana and it's not unusual to see them on the backroads in their farming communities. Their harness shops are fun to visit when you need leatherwork done...and the shops smell terrific. Love the old machines they use and usually lucky to have one bare lightbulb in the shop. I have never seen them on the road at night...they tend to operate sunrise to sunset. Buggy accidents with motor vehicles do get very ugly quickly but fortunately are pretty rare. The kids are hard working a very well behaved, they usually have the task of selling home goods at roadside stands. The 6,7,and 8 year olds can give you change in a second and be right on followed by a gracious thank you. The very old buggies are usually sold off to the "English" for lawn ornaments. indyjonesouthereReplyDelete
A significant number of the roads in the Lancaster, PA area have a periodic space added to the right shoulder of the right lane to allow vehicles to safely pass the buggies.ReplyDelete
I read the PM article and I noticed the LED lighting, and the article mentioned the Amish have changed from deep cycle batteries to power tool batteries.
I was also surprised to learn the use of fiberglass in buggy construction.
Oh come on now, SiG! We have THOUSANDS of Amish right here in Central Florida. Of course, their buggies are all Cadillacs, Lincolns, or Mercedes. But they still drive them side-by-side at under twenty miles per hour on every road in the state...ReplyDelete
Only the roads that go to the KSC and then only during "rush hour".Delete
Doing some reading last night I was surprised to find there's a sizable Amish colony over by Sarasota. Apparently they started it in the 1920s, and I have to assume they rode horse buggies down here since that was the dominant mode of transport for society. I have no idea on whether or not they travel to/from the Pennsylvania Amish areas.
They have no problem using public transportation or letting someone drive them somewhere.Delete
No, the Amish are not against technology. Depending on the rules of their local Ordnung, or church, they can use electric if it's generated by them via turbine or solar panel. They choose not to be connected to the grid because they don't want to rely on outsiders. (Just don't make me explain why propane is ok but electric via powerlines isn't.)ReplyDelete
Cars are not bought because they are seen as an expression of vanity. But, I've seen some Amish with pickup trucks which are allowed because they can be used for farm work. Parked right next to the truck is the buggy used to "go to town" or church.
Each church has about 20 families and each church sets their own rules. One church can allow motors to run farm equipment as long as there are no wheels...the next church says everything must be man or horse power driven.
Trying to lump all Amish in to one big group is pretty futile.