Sunday, July 22, 2012

History of The Coach

Kocs Coat-Of-Arms
Kocs is a village in Hungary from which the word "coach" is derived, and are pronounced the same. The village is the birthplace of the horse-drawn vehicle called a coach in the 15th century. To be more precise, the name is kocsi szekér and means 'wagon from Kocs'. It was built with one main thing in mind--speed. That, and it needed to carry several people and their supplies, in comfort for both the passengers and the horses. Built entirely of wood, no iron wheels or parts with the exception of fasteners, chains, and springs, the vehicle was light and easy for the team of horses that pulled it, usually two with a third on the side for when extra speed or strength was needed.

Kocs, with its meaning of "ram", has a population of about 2700 people, lies about 40 miles (65 km) west of Budapest and is located in NW Hungary in the county of Komárom-Esztergom. The coat-of-arms above depicts the ram on a green field representing the first settlement and name of the town, the bottom left the Árpád stripes, and on the right on a gold field the first kocsi szekér. For centuries the town had been renowned for its wagon building, and in the mid-late 15th century, during the later years of King Mátyás's reign, the design of the light wagon, the kocsi szekér, the coach, had been constructed, and soon the Hungarian light wagon was in demand. It is credited with being the first horse-drawn vehicle to use steel-spring suspension, though these may not have come into use until the 16th century. When the kingdom of Hungary was at its zenith in size and power by 1485 when the king had captured Vienna and moved his capitol there, he needed wagons that could move swiftly and comfortably upon harsh roads. With the king's health deteriorating during the final years of his life and unable to ride a horse as he had due to gout, comfort during travel must have also played a role in the design in the kocsi szekér, as it is said that it was so comfortable passengers could even sleep in it while moving.

A reconstruction of a kocsi szekér. Source
This blog article goes into greater depth of the coach than what I'm willing to write here, though I have to mention the brilliant third horse hitch that attaches to the back wheel. As the blog mentions, the wagon is pulled by two horses while a third tags along beside them on its own hitch attached to the back wheel, and when it is needed, the third horse can act as auxiliary horsepower, for use as "over-drive", "4-wheel drive", or "turbo-charge".

As shown in this little diagram, from the blog linked above.
 Another piece of Eastern European history brought to you by yours truly.


Greg Reid said...

That's cool, never realized they had 4wd & turbo "horse power" in this form.

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