What’s the story behind this buggy?

Wide Load Amish Buggy
A reader writes:

I took this picture about a month ago in Shipshewana. The surrey buggy on the right is totally different than others in the community. It was a new buggy. I showed the picture to an Amish friend and he said something to the effect of “once and a while you see things like that. Seems like it’s usually new people moving into the community who go to the buggy shop and order things the way the want.” I’m not totally sure what he was insinuating, but that’s what he said.

The surrey was extra wide with extra windows. The extra width would have required custom axles, or at least axles that were longer than the ones normally used in our community. I wondered if he checked with his bishop before he ordered that buggy.

I have never seen an Amish buggy that looks quite like this. The one on the left is in line with the standard designs you see in northern Indiana.

odd-amish-buggyA few things crossed my mind here. One thought I had was that perhaps this is a special vehicle for a handicapped person with a wheelchair. However that doesn’t seem to explain the unusual twin rear and side windows (and I’m not sure the rest of the design makes sense).  Or is this a tourist buggy-ride carriage, making a stop at the local medical clinic for some reason?  Maybe, but odd.

The Ordnung of an individual Amish church will delineate buggy design and appearance. So it would seem a pretty bold step to order a buggy in such contrast to established church standards.

Perhaps standards have simply changed, significantly, in a church in this community.  Or maybe we should just take the Amishman’s explanation above for what it is–which could mean this buggy will get permanently parked at some point.  Any ideas?

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    1. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Rumspringa buggy

      Could it be a young person’s Rumspringa buggy built to suit a teenager out to have a good time with a lot of friends in one buggy? There was an article posted a little while ago about the extravagance a young Amish person put into his ride on the inside, could this be an extension of that thinking?

    2. Lattice

      I suspect it’s a buggy designed for someone requiring wheelchair access.

      1. That’s kind of where I was leaning when I saw this, though the wheelchair-friendly buggies I’ve seen have had the apparatus to carry the folded wheelchair on the back. Though I believe I read in a previous post from someone that some can take a wheelchair inside. Maybe that entrance is wide enough for just that. Maybe the extra windows are for visibility with the chair inside?

    3. Alice Aber


      Perhaps it is not even Amish owned. I know a few people who are not Amish who have decided to live more of the lifestyle of the Amish. Some have even traded in their cars to own buggies. I think an outsider might opt for a more lavish buggy still trying to hang on to some of the creature comforts we are so used to while still trying to simplify. I have a friend in Northern Californa who has done this so I am sure there are others.

      Blessings, Alice

    4. Jennifer

      I got idea

      Could it be for a person in a wheel chair who also has family that goes with them places i wld imagine u wld need room for them to when u deal with a disability ..

    5. Forest

      I think it’s pretty obvious. It’s an Amish Hummer. I’m pretty sure I see the 4WD gear underneath…..

      1. AmyJo

        Forest and his Hummer-buggy!

        What a hoot Forest! Actually did make me lol – and DH had to know what it was all about!

    6. Buggy Shop

      There’s a buggy shop just south of Shipshe – I’ll see if they can tell me about it.

      1. That would be great if you can Keith.

    7. Lester Graber

      It's a Wheelchair buggy

      Pretty sure it is a wheelchair buggy.

    8. Lester Graber


      It is, however, the first Amish buggy that I have seen with fenders. But then again, I have not been a part of any Amish community for 20 years now.

      1. Linda

        Many of the horses are coming off the race track these days, according to one source. They go faster than they did 50 years ago, so now the buggies need fenders. I never saw fenders on a buggy before either. Fenders would help to keep the buggy clean. If it would be a tourist buggy, it would probably have open sides.

      2. Buggy fenders

        Lester they caught my eye when I saw them in northern Indiana a couple years ago. Not sure how long they have been in use, but they are not rare in that community (though still on a minority of buggies). Have I seen them in Holmes County? Not sure. Have never noticed them in Lancaster.

    9. TOM-GA

      odd buggy

      Could it be a funeral home buggy? It looks like it could hold several people and some could enter from the rear.
      A funeral home service for the bereaved.

    10. Mary Yoder

      Whats the story behind the buggy?

      Erik and others,
      This is a new concept for me also, but expect it to be a wheelchair buggy and they have more family to haul. The questions about the Bishop, may I remind you that this buggy is with the ‘ordnung’ and should not even be an issue with the bishop. ( it is the same make and made to fit the needs.)The fenders are often used. The windows would be great for the one in the chair, expect it has a folding ramp, my dad rode like this for quite a few years but in a smaller version.

      The comment about the rumspringa, no, not a chance for that. I hope I helped out.

      1. Thanks, Mary. The more I’ve thought about it, the wheelchair makes more sense than a rogue design being ordered in an Amish buggy shop (have just never seen one before for comparison), and now I can see how the fold-down ramp might work. It also just seemed like it would be a too-tight fit to wheel a chair in there but may be hard to judge the dimensions from the photo.

        I can see how the side windows would be nice for someone in a chair but the back ones confused me as I didn’t know how someone facing forward in a wheelchair would be able to use them easily. Unless it was rather for the driver visibility (say if the person in the chair were blocking the back window). But yes it looks on the surface like an Indiana Ordnung-friendly buggy in other regards. Thanks for the help 🙂

    11. Carolyn B

      Wheelchair Buggy?

      Erik, if this turns out to be a wheelchair accessible buggy, you and your anonymous reader/photographer are getting virtual hugs from me. Thank you for tolerating my obsession with wheelchair access.

      Shom’s Rumschspringa thought makes me very impressed with anyone designing such a wonderfully big buggy. I also like Alice Aber’s thought re: a copy-cat “Englisher’s” buggy. Jennifer’s thought made me think that there may be seating left & right for able-bodied small children. I had to laugh at Forest’s Hummer — I like that. I hope Keith James can find out more about this particular buggy style.

      I for one am going “buggy” over today’s post. Thanks. 🙂

      1. Carolyn, I remember you were asking about this in a previous comment. Still no official confirmation but maybe we have inadvertently provided a photo 🙂

    12. Wills Kitchen

      First Class

      That’s the 2013 ELX edition. It even has anti-lock brakes.

    13. Nancee

      I love the "Amish Hummer" comment!

      I spend a lot of time in the Shipshewana area, being only 2 hours away, and I’ve never seen a buggy like this, but you can bet that I’m going to be on the lookout for this one the next time I head down there! I love this entertaining newsletter. Very educational and with an added humor factor!
      Grand Rapids, MI

    14. Al in Ky.

      I wondered if it could be a buggy from some Old Order Mennonites
      from Elkhart County, but that would be quite a long drive
      to Shipshewana.

    15. Margreat Cole

      Fancy Buggy

      Several years ago I was in Shipshewana during their auction to raise money to help the fire department. An Amishman that I know took me into one of the buildings where there were three buggies for sale. Two were plain and one had red crushed velvet seats and was a lot fancier than the other two. He said that one was for an Englisher who wanted it to use to give tourists rides. It certainly was a beautiful buggy. I don’t recall if it had fenders or not. They were also holding a bake sale….oh my, what glorious food!!!

    16. Osiah Horst

      I was going to suggest it could be a Mennonite buggy. It looks similar to some Ontario Mennonite buggies. Is it really that far from the eastern parts of the Elkhart community to Shipshewana? I have never travelled it with horses but it did not seem far by car.
      It certainly would not be a rumspringa buggy; they have other ways of making the buggies unconventional.