From Waler Data Base @FaceBook. Image: ‘Horse team hauling wool – Warialda, NSW.’ State Library NSW
They said “Australia rides on the sheep’s back” but they forgot everything depended on the horse, including moving wool to sell. The horse market was giant too.
Some wool wagons had a short trip to town, to the railways or merchant store. Others spent days on the road and were accompanied by a cook in his little covered wagon, with swags for the horsemen and supplies.
Camels, donkeys, bullocks and mules also pulled our wool wagons. Just as those animals did not need reins – going on voice commands – so often did the horses of wool bale teams, the teamster often riding beside them on another horse or walking beside them, reins hooked to the harness.
Image: Table Top Wool Wagon. State Library of QLD.
Loading the bales was a huge task. Several ingenious methods were employed (some in photos). There was of course still a lot of hard work involved. Unloading was faster, rolling the bales down a gangway, and often the horses would pull up right beside a flat bed railway truck to be loaded directly on.
One of the biggest problems was getting bogged (usually in sand, in the black soil, sometimes mud) – as all that weight was concentrated on slim wheel rims which sunk easily. Another problem was the top-heavy wagon tipping over if the going was uneven, or one side of the wagon sank, or a turn was taken too sharply. The bales were always tied on exceedingly well, so the loaded wagon could be righted or pulled out intact. It was only unloaded in extreme circumstances, as there was no loading gear out on the road. The horsemen were very skilled. They always stopped to help each other.
Images (left to right): Capsized loaded wool wagon, Blackall, Queensland. State Library QLD
Horse drawn wool wagon, Barcaldine, Queensland, ca. 1905. State Library QLD
Horses Pulling a Wagon Laden With Wool Bales on ‘Portland Downs’ Station, Isisford District, Queensland, circa 1915. Museums Victoria
Righting a capsized wool wagon from Tuppal – Tamararg. State Library NSW.
Unloading horse drawn wool wagon at Quirindi Railway Station – Quirindi, NSW. State Library NSW
Horse drawn wagon loaded with bales of wool, Canowie Station, South Australia, approx. 1878.’ National Archives Australia