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Wheel And Wagon Shop Preserves Western Legacy
Doug Hansen has 35 years of experience as a wheelright, blacksmith, and carriage maker. “There are only a few people and businesses in the country who practice this trade,” Hansen says. “We’re the premier builder and restorer of authentic horse-drawn vehicles, including coaches, wagons and buggies.”
  Hansen owns and operates Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop on his ranch north of Mitchell, S. Dak. It’s a scenic western setting that overlooks the James River, adding to the company’s western aura. “We’re a self-sufficient company that’s grown by employing skilled and dedicated craftsmen and having a passion for producing authentic and historically accurate vehicles, wheels and hitch equipment,” he says.
  Hansen started his wagon and wheel repair business in 1978 after he finished welding training. His grandfather suggested that he hang out a shingle and see if he could make a go of it. “I’d fixed a few buggies on our ranch and done work for our neighbors, and over the years that reputation spread and business continued to roll in.” Today he employs 12 people building a wide range of authentic horse-drawn vehicles, restoring historical coaches and wagons, designing and building wood wheels, and producing chuck wagons. It’s a passion that extends to his wife Holly and daughters, Leah and Emily.
  “In this business I learned early that I had to teach myself or it wouldn’t get taught,” Hansen says. “I learned by observing work of old time craftsmen and then figuring out how to do the work myself. Now we’ve got people who are highly skilled blacksmiths, wheelrights, coach trimmers, painting and finishing experts – all true craftsmen.”
  The company has a 44 page color catalog and a sophisticated website, assembled by his wife Holly. Both resemble a carefully illustrated history book. Photographs show hundreds of projects that Hansen and his craftsmen have produced over the years, from forging authentic hardware to historical carriage renovations to building new coaches like the nationally recognized Wells Fargo corporate coach and the historic coaches for Yosemite and Yellowstone Parks. “Projects like those require about 2,000 hrs. or more for completion,” Hansen says.
  “Our work has evolved as word of our expertise has spread,” says Hansen. “Now we work on vehicles for corporate identity, tourism vehicles for Disney and Dollywood, movie props, museum restoration projects, heavy horse show wagons, and special projects for private collectors.” The shop also has wagons, buggies, wheels and a big inventory of parts for sale. Most projects, however, are one-of-a-kind and require special attention.
  “Many of our designs have been influenced by historical vehicles that we have documented over the years,” Hansen says. “We’ve done this with a tape measure and making detailed measurements of intricate pieces. We take a lot of pictures, look at old drawings and make very careful notes,” he adds. “Then we come back to the shop and get busy.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Doug Hansen, Hansen Wheel & Wagon, 40979 245th St., Letcher, S. Dak. 57359 (ph 605 996-8754; dwhansen@hansenwheel.com; www.hansenwheel.com).


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2012 - Volume #36, Issue #6