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Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Outdoor Attractions & Events > Build Your Own Haywagon

Build Your Own Haywagon
By Link Moser

To purchase a hay wagon, large enough for a hayride, you will spend around $2,000 per wagon and most hayrides run three or four wagons. This can be a budget buster if you are just starting out. You may wish to strike a deal with a local farmer to use his wagons. Most farmers will not be using their wagons during October and would be more than willing to rent or lease you one or more of their wagons for a reasonable fee. If you cannot find a willing farmer, and your budget will not support buying the wagons, you might consider building your own.

Before you decide to build a hay wagon, make sure you have enough space, and the proper tools and skills to complete the job. The finished wagon will be 6 feet wide and 20 feet long, tail to tongue and if you build it inside, do not forget that you need a door wide enough to get it out. The actual construction of the wagon is not extremely difficult, but it does require both metal and woodworking skills. You'll need to know how to weld and cut metal using an arc welder and oxy-acetylene torch in order to build the metal frame of your wagon. If you do not know how to weld or have the equipment, find a shop that can do this for you. The deck and side rails will be constructed out of wood. A good circular saw and a pair of sawhorses are indispensable.

The first step in building the wagon is to gather some essential components. Check out the local auto savage yard for two truck axles, complete with wheels and tires. You should be able to purchase a pair of axles for around $200. The wagon will carry about 25 people, so be sure that the axles have at least a half-ton capacity.

Axle Assembly
Place the two truck axles parallel to one another, with the tires 6 inches apart. Cut two 2 x 4 inch heavy gage steel tube to span across the axles, about 40 inches long each. Weld these tubes upright at the leaf spring locations on both sides of the differential. Use large U-bolts to wrap around the axle and strengthen this connection. Both axles must be exactly parallel and the assembly should now roll in a straight line. If you are using a front axle from a four wheel drive truck, be sure to weld the steering linkage straight so the wheels will not steer.

Now cut out four, 4 inch wide by 8 inch tall rectangular pieces of 3/8 inch plate steel. Then cut a 1 inch diameter hole in each one, 11Ú2 inch down from the top and from both sides. Weld these pieces on both sides of the center of each 2 x 4 inch steel tubes connecting the axles, about 2 inches down. Make sure that all four holes line up.

The Frame Rails
The frame rails can be made from an old pickup truck frame or two pieces of 6 inch steel channel. The frame rails need not run the entire length, but they should be at least 50 percent of the length of the wagon, 8 to 10 feet long. The advantage to using the truck frame is that it will be less costly to obtain, however, you have to work around all the bends of the frame. The steel channel is straight, but more expensive.

Now cut two 9 inch long pieces of the 2 x 4 inch steel tube, and then cut a 1 inch hole in the center of each one. Weld these two steel tube sections to the bottom of the frame rails in about the middle of the frame. Be sure that they line up with each other. You can now position the axle assembly below the frame rails and slide the 9 inch sections of box beam into place between the two upright pieces of 3/8 inch plate steel. Some grease here is helpful. Bolt the frame rails to the axle assembly; with 3Ú4 inch grade 8 (hardened) steel bolts with washers and double nuts. It may take a little extra time to get everything lined up, but if you made all your measurements properly then it should fit together nicely.

The frame rails should now pivot on the axle assembly. The next step, is to bolt a 16 foot long 2 x 12 inch main support beam to the outside of each frame rail. It is important for there to be more weight in front of the axles, to push down on the tongue and provide traction to the tractor. The weight distribution should be about 55 percent in front of the pivot point and 45 percent behind. The pivot point on the frame rail should be 8 foot 9 1Ú2 inches from the front edge of the 2 x 12s. Bolt the main support beam to the frame rails with 1Ú2 inch carriage bolts 2 1Ú2 inches long. Use large washers on the wood side to keep the bolts from pulling through. Place a bolt every 15 inches along the frame rails. You'll want to pre-cut the holes in the frame rails if none are present before placing the 2 x 12 in position. Make sure that the main support beams line up and are level to each other.

With the main support beams in place, the tongue can now be attached to the wagon frame. Start by welding a section of 6 inch steel channel across the two frame rails, about 20 inches in front of the first axle. Use 2 x 4 inch heavy gage steel tube laid flat for the tongue and weld it to the center of the 6 inch channel. The length of the tongue should be about 95 inches or at least 45 inches past the front edge of the main support beams. To assure that the wagon sits level when it is hooked up to the tractor's drawbar, the tongue needs to slant at an angle toward the ground from where it is attached. The degree of angle will depend on the height of your tractor's drawbar, about 18 inches off the ground.

The tongue needs to be very secure to handle not only the forward forces of pulling the loaded wagon, but also the lateral forces that are exerted of the tongue when it turns. Use 10 x 10 inch triangular shaped pieces of 3/8 inch plate steel to reinforce and support the welds of the tongue to the cross channel. Additional bracing is provided by 1 1Ú2 inch steel tubing running diagonally from the main support beams to the tongue in two places. Bolt the tubing to the main support beams, and weld it to the tongue.

You can build a hitch at the end of the tongue by welding two 4 x 8 inch pieces of 3/8 inch plate steel to the top and bottom of the box beam and cutting a 11Ú2 inch hole in both pieces for the hitch pin. Make sure the plate steel extends far enough away from the tongue to allow the tractor's drawbar to pivot during turns and without binding.

The deck supports are 6 foot long, 2 x 6 inch joists running across the main support beams at 16 inches on center for the length of the wagon. The joists are secured to the main support beams by placing a 2 inch long section of 2 x 2 inch angle iron at each point where the stud sets on the main support beams. You will need two pieces of angle iron for each stud. Use 1Ú4 inch lag screws to attach the angle iron to the studs and the main support beams.

The 2 x 6 joists are covered with 3 sheets of 3Ú4 inch CDX plywood decking. Lay the plywood with the 8 foot side running the length of the wagon. The third sheet of plywood will have to be ripped into two 2 x 8 foot pieces to finish out the 6 x 16 foot deck.

The railing uprights are 2 x 4 inch studs cut 36 inches long. There are a total of sixteen required, seven on each of the long sides of the wagon, and one in the middle of the two ends. The deck plywood will have to be notched at each location where the railing uprights attach to the 2 x 6 inch joists under the deck. Secure the uprights to the joists with two 5/16 inch carriage bolts, 4 inch long.

The horizontal side railings are 1 x 6 inch rough cut hemlock (a less expensive wood). One horizontal is attached flush with the top of the uprights. A second horizontal is attached right on top of the deck, and the third half way between the other two. Use the 16 foot boards for the long side.

The seating arrangement could be described as a double-U, dividing the deck into two 6 x 8 foot sections. Three additional horizontals are placed across the middle of the wagon to separate the two sections. An average hay bale measures about 3 feet long and 18 inches wide; each seating section will need six bales. Place these in a "U" around the three sides with the railings. This lay out will seat twenty to thirty patrons per wagon trip.

One side of the wagon is left open for loading and unloading the wagon. On this side of the wagon, run lengths of chain between the uprights and attach them with 1Ú4 inch eyebolts. Leave one or more lengths of chain in each seating section detachable for ease of loading.

When your hay wagon is completed, it is a good idea to sand all surfaces that patrons could come in contact with. Paint all metal exposed to the weather and finish all wooden parts of the wagon with a good coat of water sealer. Now you can hook it to a tractor and try it out. Before loading it with patrons, be sure to test your wagon by pulling it around the trail loaded with 25 of your closest friends. Then go back and check all welds and re-torque all bolts. Check each wagon for these items before the night's operation as a regularly scheduled maintenance procedure.

Link Moser is the co-owner/operator of Windhill Farm Haunted Halloween Hayrides in Loudon, New Hampshire. hayrides@windhill.com his website is at http:/www.windhill.com/hay



  • 2 axles with wheels & tires (1Ú2 ton capacity or greater)
  • 17 ft. of 2" x 4" x 3/16" box beam steel (axle assembly and tongue)
  • 4 large U-bolts (axle assembly)
  • 4 ft. of 4" x 3/8" plate steel (hitch & axle assembly)
  • 2 &endash; 10" x 10" 3/8" plate steel triangular (tongue brace)
  • 2 &endash; 3/4" x 3" Grade 8 bolts with double nuts and washers
  • 20 ft. of 6" x 3/8" channel steel or truck frame (frame rails )
  • 5 ft. of 2" x 2" x 3/16" angle iron (to attach joists to main support beams)
  • 18 ft of 1 1Ú2" steel tubing (tongue brace)
  • 2 &endash; 2" x 12" x 16' boards (main support beams)
  • 2 lbs. of 2" drywall screws
  • 3 &endash; 4' x 8' sheets of 3Ú4" CDX exterior-grade plywood (deck)
  • 6 &endash; 2" x 6" x 12' joists (deck)
  • 28 - 4.5" x 5/16" carriage bolts with washers & nuts (main support beams)
  • 8 &endash; 2" x 4" 6' studs (rail uprights)
  • 3 &endash; 1" x 6" x 16' rough hemlock (railing sides)
  • 7 &endash; 1" x 6" x 12' rough hemlock (railing sides)
  • 16 ft. of chain (with 3Ú4" wide links)
  • 7 &endash; 1 3/8" eye hooks large enough for chain above

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