PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - Long before cars became our mode of transportation, people used wagons and carriages. Today, those old forms of transportation are usually just used for special events, parades and weddings.
Dollywood's Valley Carriage Works is one of the few shops that still makes them.
At the shop, wainwright Steve Weaver demonstrates how to make a wheel by hand.
"I grew up on little farm outside Chattanooga and we had wagons, and when we needed to repair them we repaired them," he said.
Weaver is still working with wagons. Even today, they share similarities with carriages dating back countless years.
"They have found chariots with the basic some structure of the wheel," he noted.
Signs hanging inside Valley Carriage Works help map out each step of the wheel-making process.
The main components of the wagon wheel are the hub, spokes, wooden rims, and a metal tire.
Weaver says the processes to make a wheel are intricate.
"The way a wheel works is everything is held from the outside," he explained.
Attaching the tire and securing the wheel is an essential step. At Dollywood, they do that using a cold forge method. A device uses compression to shrink a slightly larger tire around the wooden wheel.
It is also a method used for repairing old or damaged wheels.
"With the cold method, you bring it in, take it off," he said. "Put it in the machine and in fifteen minutes you are done. It was kind of the beginning of modern service station."
Only about a dozen full wagons are produced at Dollywood in a year, but the theme park is still considered one of the largest producers in the United States.
"There are probably only four shops that build wagons on the scale that we build," Weaver pointed out.
The wagons at Dollywood sell from between $2800 and $7000.