Vardo Plans: Reading Caravan

Many considerations concerning floor plans and general layout have come my way over the years.  I am compiling as many as possible to post here.  To start things off, here is the iconic Reading Waggon by Dunton’s (note: two “g’s” in the older British spelling).

ReadingExtThis design is truly the classic.  When one sees this, it cries of the open road and Gypsy Wagons.  It is Henry David Thoreau’s Walden cabin on wheels.  The wide rear axle and narrow front carriage was the best of compromise for agility, weight, and worthiness on and off road.  This design is worth a potential builder scrutinizing in detail for it’s perfection of design.  A mollycroft roof, high clearance, well-proportioned windows, and solid design make this ideal for the rolling home.

DSC_0197On the downside, kite walls (out-sloping) add some difficulty when working on interior shelves and cabinets.  Also, as noted for over a hundred years, the mollycroft can weaken the roof and ultimately increase the chance of leaks.  A small price to pay maybe but something to keep in consideration.

ReadingFloorThe classic caravan at this period included a full chest of drawers and a fairly large stove, limiting seating to a largish space on the stove side and a small dressing seat next to the dresser.  Although we read of dozens of children being born and raise in this design, the real layout seems to be based on the couple.  Kids will make due.

All images above are taken from The English Gypsy Caravan, currently out of print.

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About George Crawford

archaeologist, archer, primitive technologist, and wannabee musician ... mostly
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6 Responses to Vardo Plans: Reading Caravan

  1. Glenn says:

    Hi I’m building a horse drawn Vardo based on a 1890’s Reading and with regard to the mollycroft weakening the roof: these were only introduced after 1900, early wagons had plain curved roofs. I am using honeycomb polycarbonate for mine much lighter, leakproof and cold bends. The walls are SIP (Structural insulated panels) 38mm thick aluminium skins over polyurethane. For the decorative external finish Art nouvau pressed aluminum dado panels. Hopefully it will be as decorative and colourful as a top line Reading but lighter stronger and better insulated, still will only have one horsepower though!

    • Paleotool says:

      Sounds great. 21st century technology and 19th century style. Are you documenting the build anywhere?

      • Glenn says:

        Unfortunately I am particularly bad at documenting the process, I prefer to build it then show the finished project. So far I have built the wheels (steel), brakes ( car drum) suspension ( rubber torsion fully independent) front axle ( ball slew bearing) and am currently welding the steel chassis. I love the whole old style/new tech design philosophy. Check out my last project, a modern version of British 70’s style motorcycle at the gallery of “thenorley.com” (Glenns Commando) or facebook “Horton Commando”. With the Vardo I have already bought period correct China dinner service so I can design the china display cabinet. It’s important with these projects to hit all the critical design points, like the gargoyles on the gutter ends and the cut glass knobs on the shutters. For instance you can tell how much the vardo originally cost by how many knobs are on the shutters, cheap is 2 knobs per shutter,mid 4, top range 6. I’ll send you a picture in 3 years or so when it’s finished!

      • Paleotool says:

        It sounds like it will truly be a work of art. Good luck!

    • Webster says:

      Glenn, I too am designing a Vardo style wagon, except that I want to transform it into a working RV. I am looking at using either the aluminum as you suggest, or fiberglass with frame and blown insulation inside. I am also planning to do the fancy carvings on the ends, the Lions and the side slats by first sculpting and then molding them in a plastic that can either be glued on or screwed from the inside.

      Good to see a craftsman revisiting these fun wagons. It should be fun to travel with one, too. Greg

      • Glenn says:

        Hi Greg I recently bought my lions heads and gargoyles from Heartwood in Oregon they have heaps of decorative mouldings and appliques. One of the advantages of using SIP construction and the polycarbonate roof panels is that they are architectural systems that come with tested wind ratings. For instance the Danpalon roof I am using is good for 140km’s/h (90mph aprox) My facebook page is Horton Commando it has some pics of the wagon. Good luck.

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