In migration and military settings, wagons were often found in large groups called wagon trains.
A common form found throughout Europe is the leiterwagen ("ladder wagon"), a large wagon where the sides often consist of ladders strapped in place to hold in hay or grain, though these could be removed to serve other needs. A common type of farm wagon particular to North America is the buckboard.
A delivery wagon is a wagon used to deliver merchandise such as milk, bread, or produce to houses or markets, as well as to commercial customers, often in urban settings. The concept of express wagons and of paneled delivery vans developed in the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, delivery wagons were often finely painted, lettered and varnished, so as to serve as advertisement for the particular business through the quality of the wagon. Special forms of delivery wagon include an ice wagon and a milk wagon.
In the United States and Canada, the Conestoga wagon was a predominant form of wagon used for hauling freight in the late 18th and 19th centuries, often used for hauling goods on the Great Wagon Road in the Appalachian Valley and across the Appalachian Mountains.
In warfare, large groups of supply wagons were used to support traveling armies with food and munitions, forming "baggage trains". During the American Civil War, these wagon trains would often be accompanied by the wagons of private merchants, known as sutlers, who sold goods to soldiers, as well as the wagons of photographers and news reporters. Special purpose-built support wagons existed for blacksmithing, telegraphy and even observation ballooning.
In migration settings, such as the emigrant trails of the American West and the Great Trek of South Africa, wagons would travel together for support, navigation and protection. A group of wagons may be used to create an improvised fort called a laager, made by circling them to form an enclosure. In these settings, a chuckwagon is a small wagon used for providing food and cooking, essentially a portable kitchen.
A wagon brake has a handle which, when pushed down, extends a steel rod down and onto the stage. When fully extended, the steel rod actually lifts a section of the wagon slightly off the stage floor. The bottom end of the rod has a threaded cavity that will accept an extension spindle, which in turn can be used to adjust the height of the wagon above the stage. The brake is released by raising its handle, thereby retracting the steel rod away from the stage.
Wagon brakes provide a very fast means of locking and unlocking wagons, but the brakes and stage can be damaged if the running crew attempts to move a wagon while its brakes are engaged. Damage to the stage can be mitigated by using extension spindles with compliant (e.g., polyurethane) tips. Toggle clamps, which are functionally similar to wagon brakes, are sometimes used in lieu of theatrical wagon brakes due to their higher load ratings and more durable construction.
The Brush or fen wagon as it was also known, consists of a standard Romani vardo, with straight sides and the wheels located outside the body. The Brush was similar in construction to the Reading vardo, but unlike other styles, the brush wagon had two distinct features: a half-door with glazed shutters, located at the back of the vardo, with a set of steps, both set around the opposite way from other wagons and lacked the mollycroft (skylight) on the roof. The exterior is equipped with racks and cases fitted on the outside frame and chase of the wagon allowing the owner to carry trade items like brushes, brooms, wicker chairs, and baskets. Additionally, three light iron rails ran around the entire roof, used for stowing bulkier goods, and sometimes trade-name boards. The wagons were elaborately and colorfully painted.
From 1939, wagons were developed primarily from a military point of view and were known as wartime classes (Kriegsbauart). After the war, in East Germany, some pre-war goods wagon classes were given a new lease of life as ‘reconstructed goods wagons’ (Reko-Güterwagen) and continued in service for several more decades.
In Europe, the first agreements were struck very early on between the national state railways (Länderbahnen) and private companies for the mutual use of each other’s goods wagons. Around 1850, the Union of German Railway Administrations (Verein Deutscher Eisenbahnverwaltungen) drew up regulations for the standardisation of dimensions and fittings. The formation of the Prussian State Railway Union in 1881 encouraged the emergence of wagon classes built to standard norms.
Popular with Romanis, as well as Showmen families, and circus people, the Burton wagon is the oldest example of a wagon used as home in Britain. Originally undecorated, the Burton wagon evolved into an elaborate Romani vardo, but due to its smaller wheels it was not suited for off-road use.
The characteristic design of the ledge or cottage shaped wagon incorporated a more robust frame and living area that extended over the large rear wheels of the wagon. Brass brackets supported the frame of the wagon and solid arched roof usually 12 feet high, extended over the length of the wagon to form porches at either end and panelled with tongue in groove boards. The porch roof was further supported by iron brackets, and the walls were highly decorated with ornate scrollwork and carvings across the length of the wagon.
The Reading or kite wagon is so named due to its straight sides that slope outwards towards the eaves, high arched wheels, and relative light weight; there is no other vardo that epitomizes the golden age of Romani horse travel. It dates from 1870 and is synonymous with the original builder Dunton and Sons of Reading from where the vardo takes its name. The wagon was highly prized by the Romanies for its aesthetic design, beauty and practicality to cross fords, pull off road and over rough ground, something smaller-wheeled wagons like the Burton were unable to do. The Reading wagon is 10 feet long, with a porch on the front and back. The rear wheels were 18 inches larger than the ones on the front. At the start of the 20th century the design incorporated raised skylights.
Since 1922, the agreement for the mutual use of goods wagons in international traffic (RIV) has regulated the exchange of goods wagons in Europe and the Middle East. In addition, international goods wagon fleets were created in 1953 in Western Europe with the Europ-Verband and in 1965 in Eastern Europe with the Common Goods Wagon Park (OPW). During the second half of the 20th century, national goods wagon classes in Europe were increasingly replaced by Union internationale des chemins de fer (UIC) standard wagons. Since 1964, all goods wagons in Germany, for example, have had to be classified using the UIC goods wagon classification system.
One further European milestone was the formation of the German State Railway Wagon Association on 1 April 1909. With the participation of all the German state railways, it created a common pool of goods wagons, which by the end of 1911 had no less than 560,000 wagons. In addition, they all had standardised inscriptions and red-brown livery. In order to standardise future procurements, a total of 11 wagon classes were defined (Sheet nos. A1 to A11). These wagons of the so-called standard class (Verbandsbauart) and subsequent developments from them (the Austauschbauart class with interchangeable parts) dominated goods traffic in Germany up to the Second World War and had a significant impact in many other countries which acquired these wagons either through war reparations or simply because they were left behind by the Germans after the two world wars.
Since the Union of Private Goods Wagon Companies (Vereinigung der Privatgüterwagen-Interessenten (VPI)) was founded in 1921, the interests of private transport organisations in Germany (including wagon hire firms, goods wagon builders and repair firms, and owners of private sidings) has been jointly represented. The Union has around 100 members who own 50,000 goods wagons. In 2007, they transported 361000000 t of goods. Other countries have similar organisations.
The numerous types of goods wagon are categorised here based on their main design features and in accordance with the international UIC classification system:
In December 2000, the Japanese-spec model was renamed Wagon R-Solio, and this was available both in the bottom-of-the-line X trim level and in a more sports-oriented trim level known as the 1.3. In June 2002, the 1.0 E trim level was added to the Wagon R-Solio lineup. In August 2003, a mid-facelift Wagon R-Solio was released. In April 2004, the Wagon R-Solio was renamed Solio, losing the Wagon R moniker entirely. In August 2005, a facelifted Solio was launched.
However, the original Wagon R+ was still offered in Europe after December 2000, but made by Magyar Suzuki in Esztergom, Hungary. This was because it was too difficult for either the Wagon R-Solio or Solio to meet with Euro NCAP crash safety ratings. As a result, the Wagon R+ continued in Europe until late 2008, when replaced by the Splash.