The Conestoga wagon was the articulated lorry of its day. It first appeared in the early eighteenth century in Pennsylvania, and for the next century or so it carried freight of perhaps five tonnes or more until being superseded by canals and then railways.
This set from IMEX contains parts for two identical models, each with a driver and six-horse team. The body or bed of the wagon is 50mm (4 metres) in length, and is a good size for this type of vehicle. The distinctive curve of the bed helped to minimise shifting of the load, and the characteristic curve was echoed in the bonnet, which protruded well over both ends, helping to protect the contents from rain and dust. All these features are faithfully recreated here, with good detail on all parts. The undercarriage is also faithfully recreated, with wheels that will spin and a front axle that pivots to allow better maneuvering. The bonnet is a separate part and fits on the bed using a number of pegs, so in theory the wagon could be shown without the covering, although the exposed holes for the pegs and the lack of hoops would mean this is not advisable.
It is particularly pleasing to see a full six-horse team provided as this was the most common arrangement. As with other IMEX sets, however, the horses have holes in their sides into which pegs from the pole fit, so while this makes for easy assembly, purists may feel this gives the model a toy-like quality. However the effort has been made to provide six different poses for the team, which is to be applauded. They also give the impression of big, sturdy animals, which is fitting for their task here.
Drivers did not sit in the wagon, but rather they either walked beside it, sat on the left wheel horse (the left-hand horse nearest the vehicle) or on a board that pulled out from the left side of the wagon called a lazy board. This set has chosen to provide a mounted driver, which is a good choice in our view. He is well clothed for his dirty work and correctly done, although he rides bareback when some sort of saddle would have been used. The kit does not include any traces or a whip.
Putting the kit together was a joy, with all the parts fitting together perfectly and no need for trimming or other work. What is more there was no gluing as all joins are very secure apart from the driver himself, who balances precariously on his mount and will require cement to stay on board. Instructions are to be found in the lid of the box, and as with the stagecoach there is an error in that the front axle is drawn upside down, but otherwise assembly is straight forward.
The only item missing which we would have liked to have seen is the brake handle, but a number of other accessories could have been included such as a jockey box for tools. The recent IMEX habit of providing very tall figures continues here, but this set is well engineered, has no flash, good detail and is mostly very accurate. The Conestoga was not a vehicle used for migration westward, and rarely used by armies on campaign, so it does not have a particularly broad range of uses for modellers, but its distinctive shape makes for an attractive model which has been very well produced.