The wheel was invented in the early stone age period. The history of the motor car begins in the 19th century. Thousands of years lie between the two. Why this should be and all the developments in vehicle construction in the meantime is shown in an astonishing survey to be found in the Axle, Wheel and Wagon Museum in Wiehl. The largest area of the museum is devoted to coaches from the 17th to the 20th century, most of them parked in the museum courtyard in their own stylish replica coach-houses. These include the classical landau and the sophisticated berlin, a sporting dog-cart for elegant gentlemen and a five-horse mail coach complete with a refrigerator and bar for a pleasant picnic in the countryside. In stark contrast there are down-to-earth agricultural wagons and carts which were the only means of transporting goods before the invention of the railways. Going right back to the ancient past there are clay and bronze models of antique vehicles and casts of stone age finds including a wooden axe and two disk wheels. The museum also has its own workshop. Here blacksmiths and cartwrights give demonstrations of their traditional skills several times a year. Vehicle construction was very dependent on supplies. In the case of coaches the suppliers were saddlers, locksmiths, makers of brass ornaments and paint shops. Industrialisation at the start of the 19th century led to a certain amount of rationalisation but the tempo of work was still determined by traditional handiwork. Mass production only really took root with the introduction of the motor-car.
The museum dates back to 1933 when an old-established company named BPW Bergische Achsen KG, a worldwide manufacturer of axles and truck systems, began to collect historic vehicles and related objects. This resulted in a works museum in 1952, which has since been extended on several occasions. Now the museum covers more than 1,000 square metres and presents a fascinating panorama of vehicle construction from the stone age to the present day.